Digital transformation powers world-leading online news service at the Blind Foundation

When the Blind Foundation outsourced its IT infrastructure service and management to CodeBlue in 2015, it did so as part of a digital transformation strategy that is paying off ahead of the Blind Foundation’s most optimistic expectations.

Digital transformation powers world-leading online news service at the Blind Foundation

“Trust is the most important element in any relationship. CodeBlue’s track record of delivery has been crucial to building trust – most recently, they moved our entire infrastructure to a 24x7 cloud environment virtually overnight, without problems.”

Bruce Walton

Head of IT, Blind Foundation

 

The most highly visible achievement so far is a free online news service serving up an audio feed of more than 100 New Zealand daily newspapers to the blind, or those with low vision or reading disabilities.

Via an Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod touch – or by dialling in using a standard telephone – a user-friendly voice interface selects and plays audio files from an extensive news database. This database includes all daily newspapers published by media giants Fairfax and NZME. Synthetic speech technology reads the selected article aloud.

This world-leading news service is the outcome of a major in-house enhancement to the Blind Foundation’s BookLink app. BookLink already serves up a catalogue of 12,000 books to blind or low-vision subscribers.

Later this year a range of magazines will be added, and there are plans to develop support for Android as well as Apple devices. The Blind Foundation is also working with public libraries around the country to make BookLink audio services available to those with reading disabilities. The service is potentially life changing for sighted people with dyslexia or other print disabilities. They will get access to an audio environment that provides them with information on demand, and at the same time as it’s available to other New Zealanders.

Blind Foundation Head of IT, Bruce Walton, says that with CodeBlue taking care of the Blind Foundation’s infrastructure, the internal ICT team can focus on new IT-based services – such as BookLink – which add significant value to the lives of the Blind Foundation’s clients.

He says that underpinning the BookLink development has been CodeBlue’s planning and execution of a cloud migration strategy. This has seen the Blind Foundation’s entire server infrastructure, networking and telephone systems moved to the cloud.

“While moving to the cloud has major benefits in terms of operational costs, security, and future-proofing, it also provides the mobile platform to support transformational developments, including BookLink and other service improvement projects planned or already underway,” Walton says.

“What we’re finding with the CodeBlue relationship is a new synergy between our internal capabilities and CodeBlue’s expertise. This is helping us get and maintain a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure and CodeBlue’s CIO Services are contributing to our wider digital transformation strategy, which touches every part of our operations."

“Trust is the most important element in any relationship. CodeBlue’s track record of delivery has been crucial to building trust – most recently, they moved our entire infrastructure to a 24x7 cloud environment virtually overnight, without problems,” Walton says.

“This was a strong follow up to CodeBlue’s initial challenge last year, when we signed the outsourcing agreement. In just four weeks, CodeBlue on boarded the 320 seat Blind Foundation IT infrastructure. They seamlessly implemented a service desk and integrated remote monitoring service to achieve a service desk resolution rate of better than 85 percent in the first month of operation.

“Now that our infrastructure is rock solid, it’s been enormously satisfying for the whole internal IT team to really accelerate new service delivery to our clients. User feedback from the news feed extension to BookLink has been particularly enthusiastic,” Walton says.

Blind Foundation Contact Centre Specialist Ivan Dodds, who is blind, has been closely involved with the news feed development and is responsible for BookLink telephone training and support for BookLink users. He says the addition of a news service is valued highly by BookLink users.

 

Blind Foundation Contact Centre Specialist Ivan Dodds (left) and Library Manager Dave Klassen demonstrate the BookLink app.
Blind Foundation Contact Centre Specialist Ivan Dodds (left) and Library Manager Dave Klassen demonstrate the BookLink app.

 

“The most enthusiastic user segment is those who were once sighted. They have grown up accustomed to being in touch with the news on daily basis. It’s particularly difficult for those users no longer being able to ‘get the paper’. Now they can. That’s a great thing,” Dodds says.

“The other really important advantage is that users have complete control and choice about what they read. That’s a powerful advantage of the whole BookLink service. Instead of receiving CDs, where content choice is more limited, BookLink gives the user complete control of what to download and listen to.”

Bruce Walton says the ongoing enhancements to BookLink are highly strategic to the Blind Foundation’s service mix and cost model. The Blind Foundation currently has 4,000 library clients, with 600 currently registered for the digital service. By 2020 the plan is that online media will completely replace single-use CDs and single-purpose CD players.

“The exciting thing is that technology is both enriching the services we can offer to our clients, while at the same time reducing the time and costs involved. That frees up more resources to fund and operate further service improvements,” Walton concludes.


More information

In 2015 CodeBlue on-boarded the 320-seat Blind Foundation infrastructure, seamlessly implementing a service desk and integrated remote monitoring service, in just four weeks. Read the case study 

 
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