06.03.2017

Code for Victoria reboot: calling women coders


Female coders and designers eager to use technology for the public good are being given the opportunity to work with Victorian government agencies under the second round of the Code for Victoria program.

The Women in Tech initiative is part of an effort to increase the representation of women in the technology industry, which currently sits around 20-30% — compared to 46% for the broader Victorian workforce — and even lower for management roles in the industry.

It builds on the first installment of Code for Victoria, which resulted in a SMS reminder system for Victoria Legal Aid clients that has helped dramatically reduce missed appointments. Also developed was an improved referral system that’s saving VLA up to 30 hours a week on phone calls, an updated Victorian biodiversity atlas app for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and a contracts dashboard for the Department of Treasury and Finance.

Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings, announced funding of $450,000 for Code for Australia to place female fellowship teams with three new government department and agency hosts on Friday. It is funded under the $11 million public sector fund, a grants program designed to drive new and more effective solutions to policy and service delivery challenges.

“The Code for Victoria II — Women in Tech program will ensure the brightest and best women coders and technologists get their chance to work alongside our public servants to improve government services,” said Jennings.

Studies show companies with different points of view and different approaches to problem-solving have much higher sales, noted Margaret Selianakis, head of operations at global not-for-profit Girls in Tech.

“The great thing about having female teams is that they’ll be the catalyst, they’ll be the example for Victorian government departments and businesses all over Victoria. They’ll stop the conversation being theoretical, and they’ll actually demonstrate the real benefits of working with women in technology,” she explained.

Code for Victoria attained a productive working relationship with host agencies and convinced them adopt innovative approaches that would have seemed impossible only a few months ago, said Code for Australia managing director Alvaro Maz at Friday’s launch event.

“In the last eight months we’ve seen what our remarkable community of public servants and talented technologists is capable of. Which is why we’re raising the bar to ensure a greater diversity of people become involved in civic life to solve critical public issues.”

It’s hoped such initiatives will help make government more amenable to open source code. The Victoria Legal Aid referral system redesign repurposed code from an earlier piece of work done by the Government Digital Service in the UK. “If it already exists we don’t need to code it,” Maz points out.

Prospective fellows and government departments and agencies can apply to the Code for Victoria II program at www.codeforvictoria.org.