Are robots the solution to our future care crisis?

| 13 Nov 2018

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Technological advances have changed the way we work, shop and pay the bills, but do they also have a role to play in Australia’s impending care crisis? 

In a new project, UNSW Canberra’s Associate Professor Helen Dickinson explores the role of robots in care services and whether they are potentially changing the landscape.

“While robots may be able to do a lot of good things, and Australia is going to have a care crisis because of things like our ageing population, greater levels of disability and chronic illness, just to name a few, there are potentials dangers that aren’t being considered at a policy level,” Associate Professor Dickinson.

“Robots increasingly feature in our care services. The area of greatest application for robotic technologies is in facilitating social interaction and we are asking the hard question such as ‘are we happy for robots to replace social interaction in our socially isolated populations?’”

Associate Professor Dickinson explains that one of the important roles for government to play in robotic technologies is in regulation and leadership.

“What surprised us to some extent is that there’s no thinking about these issues going on in government,” she says.

“For example, in aged care there’s no strategic direction so suppliers are driving the technology.”

This research explores the role that government can play in determining what robots should and, even more critically, should not be doing in care delivery.

Overwhelmingly the research suggested that there a strong stewardship role for government in these technologies. Involvement of different levels of government is seen as being essential to the success of robots in care services.

The report concludes that there is a need to:

  1. Develop clearer definitions of robotic technologies that are more nuanced and can guide effective legislative and regulatory frameworks.
  2. Develop capability and capacity within governments regarding the potentials and challenges of different forms of technologies.
  3. Develop responsive regulatory responses to robotic technologies that engage a wide range of stakeholders.
  4. Develop stewardship frameworks more broadly, whereby governments assist in the collation and dissemination of evidence, identify opportunities and potential harms and ensure appropriate governance.


This research has been generously funded by the Australian and New Zealand School of Government.

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