Digital Civics pioneer joins Monash University

Monash University welcomes world-renowned human-computer interaction expert Professor Patrick Olivier to the Faculty of Information Technology (FIT).

Professor Patrick Oliver

Monash University welcomes world-renowned human-computer interaction expert Professor Patrick Olivier to the Faculty of Information Technology (FIT).

He joins FIT to work alongside Monash University’s leading experts in social informatics and human-centered computing to expand research and amplify the University’s vision to enhance the power of information technology to have a positive impact on the world.

Professor Olivier coined the term Digital Civics and is a leader in this emerging field, a cross-disciplinary area of research that explores ways technology can promote new forms of participation in the design and delivery of local services including education, public health and social care and town planning.

He joins the Societal Informatics research group in FIT to develop new cross-faculty collaborations in Digital Civics that will engage industry, the not-for-profit sector and government.

An example of his Digital Civics work is the App Movement Platform a new kind of service that allows anyone to campaign for, design, and generate location-based review systems for topics of concern to them. With 60K users it has been used to generate a wide range of location review apps, from helping people with food allergies find safe restaurants to eat, to recommending where the best places are to fly a drone.

Professor Olivier says App Movement is an example of how technology can be used not just to highlight issues, but how citizens themselves can create and maintain a trusted information source on issues that are important to them.

“Digital Civics can leverage technology to bridge the gap between local government and its citizens where they take an active role in shaping agendas, making decisions about service provision, and play a central role in making such provisions sustainable and resilient.”

Another key element of Professor Olivier's work is the creation of open source software and hardware. Notable examples include his OpenMovement AX3 accelerometer which was designed for the largest study of physical activity ever conducted - over 100K participants and is used by clinical researchers at Monash.

Another is Intake24, an online 24-hour dietary recall system which was developed for Food Standards Scotland. Initially aimed at a UK population, Intake24 now has Danish, Portuguese, New Zealand and Arabic versions, and Monash academics Tracy McCaffery and Helen Truby are adapting it for use in diet and nutrition studies in Australia.

Before joining Monash, he was Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the School of Computing, Newcastle University, United Kingdom.

Professor Olivier founded and leads Open Lab, Newcastle University’s centre for cross-disciplinary research in digital technologies. He is director of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics (55 cross-disciplinary PhD students) and the EPSRC Digital Economy Research Centre a multidisciplinary five-year project involving 25 postdoctoral researchers.