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News & Analysis

Humanitix, auticon and UTS lead the way in the ACS Digital Disruptors Awards

- February 25, 2022 6 MIN READ
The winning auticon team at the ACS Digital Disruptors Awards
The annual ACS Digital Disruptors Awards made a long-awaited return this week after a two year Covid-induced hiatus, to celebrate the best in tech.

The recognise the achievements and talent of individual ICT professionals and groups in nine categories

There were 28 finalists. ACS President Dr Nick Tate said all the entries were impressive.

“The high quality of entrants this year showed how the Australian technology sector adapted well and thrived despite the impact of the pandemic and shows we are well placed as a global tech hotspot with the finalists showing the way we can lead the world,” he said.

Among the winners were the social impact ticketing platform Humanitix, named best new tech platform, and auticon, a social enterprise and IT consulting firm that only employs neurodiverse people.

Auticon worked with Woolworths on how best to support autistic workers and a six-month pilot program has seen auticon consultants embedded into the Supply Chain IT Quality Assurance and Testing team.

Auticon CEO Bodo Mann said the intent of the pilot was to reduce testing times and improve  software, but Woolworths got a lot more than they expected when the consultants were able to automate a large part of the bar code scanning process.

“This program demonstrated the real strength of thinking differently, the team look at the problems wholistically and uncover every opportunity to enhance the solution,” he said.

“This project was a great example of our team working with an organisation like Woolworths to create an autism friendly environment that enhanced the skills and strengths of people on the spectrum.”

Woolworths has now signing a 12-month agreement with auticon.

Mann paid tribute to all involved in helping the company to win the ACS Digital Disruptors Award.

“It’s fantastic to receive this award, but it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of our Job Coaches, Consultants and of course Woolworths,” he said.

“I’d really like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that made this possible and look forward to building our continued relationship together.”

The nine category winners of the ACS Digital Disruptors Awards are:

Best New Tech Platform: Humanitix

What makes Humanitix special is that it not only takes out the frustration for a customer when booking a ticket for an event, the founders made it their mission to bring people together to inspire and invest in humanity. Humanitix is the world’s first not-for-profit ticketing platform. 

Through the use of smart tech and agile innovation, Humanitix redesigned both the experience for the buyer and seller by removing inefficient processes and making the ticketing process enjoyable. On the plus side all profits go to helping disadvantaged kids all around the world.

Emerging ICT Professionals of the Year: Chelsea Abel and Siddhant Shrestha

Chelsea is an automation, data and Artificial Intelligence professional with over 5 years’ multidisciplinary experience, including in IT consulting and now as Senior Solution Consultant with ServiceNow. Degree-qualified in psychology, after an early career in Human Resources, Chelsea transitioned to the IT sector in early 2019, levering selftaught technical skills. In her relatively short journey in tech, she has demonstrated many achievements. 

With a passion for promoting gender diversity in technology, Chelsea is a member of the ACS, Women In ICT, and the Australian Academy of Science’s STEM Women Database. Chelsea also volunteers as a mentor for various programs that aim to build women’s and girls’ programming and digital skills, encourage them into roles in the industry, and help them to advance their careers.

Siddhant is an ICT entrepreneur who has worked in the industry for 10 years, founding two Australian start-ups — Bodhi Tech and Varicon, a VC-backed construction tech company where he is the Chief Product Officer. 

Siddhant describes “a humble background” in Nepal, where he began his IT journey in consulting and then founded his own fashion eCommerce business as well as a non-profit, The Rose Foundation Nepal, before moving to Australia to pursue a Master’s degree, graduating in 2018. Siddhant volunteers as an Innovation Bootcamp mentor with the Melbourne Business School, and also mentors graduates seeking their first role in the IT sector. 

Over his career to date he has demonstrated a strong industry consultation approach, entrepreneurial drive and significant business achievements, and a sustained contribution to the industry and community.

ICT Professional of the Year: Dr Mahendra Samarawickrama

Dr Mahendra Samarawickrama (GAICD, MBA, SMIEEE, ACS(CP)) is a senior leader in the AI and data science sector with rich experience across a wide range of people, cultures, technologies and governance. 

He is an author, inventor, mentor and regular speaker in various tech forums, conferences and events worldwide. In the Australian Red Cross, he leads AI and data science strategy while building capabilities for social justice and sustainability with diversity, equity and inclusion in AI and data science by mobilising the power of humanity. He helps education as an honorary visiting scholar at UTS and an industry mentor at UNSW.

CXO Disruptor of the Year: Bob Sharon

There are no limits to what we can do or achieve, except for the ones we place in our own minds”. Bob Sharon is a passionate and tenacious ‘disruptor’ and innovator. Bob had the privilege of conducting the first NABERS Data Centre Energy rating back in 2013. 

Bob was an honorary member of the company that supplied and implemented ‘Checkpoint FireWall 1 ver. 1.0’, the first commercial firewall in Australia, in 1994. He has delivered speeches at numerous reputable conferences across Asia. He is an eminently qualified global data centre judge since 2015

ICT Research Project of the Year: University of Technology, Sydney

The team from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) are world leaders in the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based solutions for industry. The UTS team partnered with American multinational e-commerce corporation – eBay. One of eBay’s business priorities is increasing Gen Z engagement with their products. This project developed cutting-edge social media monitoring technology to help eBay understand trending topics in social media, including from influencers and via hashtags by undertaking content analysis and trend discovery. 

The project incorporated cuttingedge AI technologies to deal with multi-modal data using graph neural

networks and deep mining. In addition to high-quality academic outputs and international recognition, this tool provides eBay with new capabilities to deliver targeted marketing strategies for their Gen Z customers. It illustrates the significant importance of translating research from universities to deliver real benefits to industry.

ICT Service Transformation for the Digital Consumer (Corporate): Openly

Openly turns your smart phone into a remote medical monitoring device. It does this by understanding who you are by a wellness review, then it allows clinic remote monitoring through utilising the phones sensor and advanced AI algorithm. It allows better information to the clinician which ultimately enables better service to the customer. This is what innovation is about.

ICT Service Transformation for the Digital Consumer (Government): East Metropolitan Health Service – Data & Digital Innovation

COVID brought many challenges, none so more evident than in the medical sector and hospitals. The team at EMHS were given a problem, how to respond and respond quickly to an event that no-one had responded to before. 

There was no physical clinic or existing workflow to use as the basis, so interactive role-playing and what-if scenarios were the basis for the initial concepts. These were validated throughout the three days of MVP development, and nimbly updated as new information became available.

ICT Service Transformation for the Digital Consumer (NFP/NGO): Missions Connect

Missions Connect is the first immersive and interactive technological tool of its kind in Australia that is effective as a tool for truth-telling and raising awareness about a significant period of Australian Aboriginal history. 

Missions Connect creates a VR model as a digital record of at-risk heritage sites which can serve as a digital repository for storytelling and personal narratives documenting times, places and individuals that are fading from collective memory. Missions Connect serves to tell the history of the Stolen Generations in partnership with the Survivors who are not only sharing their stories but also determining how these are told. 

Missions Connect provides important visual context and connection between the stories and places. It seeks to document, interpret and disseminate tangible and intangible heritage assets simultaneously in collaboration with the Stolen Generations Survivors themselves.

Skills Transformation of Work Teams (under 100): auticon

auticon is a global social enterprise on a mission to provide equal employment opportunities for autistic people. A large Australian retailer engaged auticon to explore the impacts of neurodiversity in its IT project teams. auticon’s autistic IT consultants were onboarded to work alongside the retailer’s staff on a key software project. This model enabled the retailer’s staff to understand the benefits of neurodiversity and the best way to support autistic colleagues in the workplace, while the blended team achieved greater innovation and more effective project outcomes. 

The judges noted the positive impacts for the retailer, whose staff embraced different thinking and problem-solving skills, and together with auticon consultants achieve measurable business benefit and sustainable innovation practices. Judges commended auticon for achieving “significant outcomes for the industry and society in general” through its neurodiversity skills transformation program.