MARGARET LIM
July 26, 2016

GovHack just gets bigger and better

Hackathon

GovHack just gets bigger and better

Arthur Sinodinos: Speaking at the GovHack's Red Carpet Awards in 2015

Bigger and better – that’s what this year’s GovHack organisers are gunning for. From humble beginnings as a small data mashup event in 2009, GovHack is now the world’s biggest annual open data hackathon.

The event gathers open data enthusiasts together to innovate, collaborate and apply their creative skills to open government data.

This year, organisers anticipate the likes of digital entrepreneurs, app developers, game makers, data custodians, data analysts, engineers, designers, digital media creators, filmmakers, storytellers, academics and researchers of all ages from across Australia and New Zealand to this huge annual international competition.

GovHack National Director Richard Tubb attributes the success and popularity of the hackathon to its ability to bring together creative, technical and artistic people from different walks of life – not just to explore and have fun with data, but also to figure out practical outcomes for the community.

“GovHack is about encouraging and celebrating our technical and creative capacity and connecting citizens with government for great outcomes. It’s about unlocking the social and economic value of open data, estimated to be worth around $25 billion a year in Australia alone,” Mr Tubb said.

“GovHack is not only the biggest annual open data hackathon in the world, it’s also a vision for a more participatory and effective democracy and public service,” he said.

“We’re expecting up to 2,000 participants to unleash their talents on a record number of open data sets provided by government departments and agencies.”

GovHack is the closing act of the Australian Public Service’ Innovation Month, which runs throughout July.

During this month, various events centred on innovation in the APS are being staged. The focus is on mobilising the public service to be more innovative in how the sector delivers services to citizens.

Conference producer Web Directions ran the first GovHack in 2009 which was funded by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce as part of their MashUp Australia initiative. The hackathon has grown from a tiny single-location event in 2009 to a volunteer-run and community-driven annual event.

It then grew from a two-city event in 2012, to one spreading over 31 locations across both Australia and New Zealand in 2015.

The organisers continued to up the ante this year. The free, 46-hour event, run entirely by volunteers, will take place at over 40 locations across the two nations from 7 pm Friday until 5 pm Sunday.

The competition includes both a national and local component. Everyone can compete in the national competition, while each location also has a local competition that participants in that location can compete for.

Participants need only register and bring their own devices to explore, mash up, ideate and communicate their concepts using open government data.

They are free to form their own teams and work together to transform data to tell a story or create apps, visualisations, websites and more. By 5pm Sunday, teams have to submit a team page, three-minute video of their concept and any code/source materials.

Some interesting previous years entries have included, art, jewellery, a digital sign, a board game, historic film pieces, a virtual reality game, a 3D model, a visualisation of data, an informed article and of course some amazing web apps.

According to GovHack, the best teams have a mix of talents including cool geeky stuff, computer know-how, storytelling, digital or social media dabblers, graphics and art peeps, problem solvers and go-getters, while the best entries show screenshots of how an idea actually works.

Winning teams stand to receive some cool prizes or prize money, in addition to glory and fame. A couple of prizes and announcements will be made at the end of the GovHack weekend, including the Local Spirit of GovHack prize at official locations, which is all about the teams showcasing the best ethos, collaboration and sense of civic duty.

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