Reflections From my First GovHack

Last weekend I participated in GovHack 2016 in Melbourne, and I’m glad I did. As the name implies, GovHack is a space for making life better! Participants suggest solutions for the problems and challenges facing government and local communities.

This was my first GovHack experience, so I’m sharing with you here my reflections on some of the key takeaways and snippets from this inspiring weekend:

It’s Huge!

I frequently participate in hackathons as a participant, mentor or judge, but this is the biggest one I’ve been to so far.  Over 2,000 hackers participated in 41 locations across Australia and New Zealand. In Thoughtworks – Melbourne where I participated, there was around 100 participants (as I recall!). I can imagine how challenging this was for the organizers but the 3 days went smoothly with adherence to the announced schedule.

Our team

Our “Skip Work” team. From left to right: Lulian, Sabi, Yunato, James, Michael, Ibrahim (me) and Kate

The projects were diverse and inspiring

When we formed our team, we immediately started the ideation process, and within less than an hour we had around 15 ideas posted on the wall! They were “problems needed to be fixed”, problems we encountered in our daily life in Melbourne & Australia. Our team was diversified and rich of experiences, and so were the ideas.

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Michael posting more ideas on our ideation wall!

And I later found out that was the case for the rest of the teams. Around mid-day Saturday, all teams pitched their projects ideas – and that was one of my favorite moments of GovHack. It was both amusing and inspiring. While some teams tapped into country-wide issues, there are teams who decided to focus on solving problems they encounter in their local communities. One project for example aimed at helping people find small pockets of land in urban areas in Melbourne that are uninhabitable so that they can be used for farming and food production.  You can enjoy going through the full list of projects for some inspiration!

And here’s the video of our project: “Skip Work“:

Open Government Data

It goes without saying that GovHack is all about using the open government data to build solutions. But it was really helpful to have datasets available for the hackers from various levels: federal, state and local in addition to some domain specific datasets. In our project for example, we needed the Australian Statistical Geography Standard dataset from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Tertiary Admissions dataset for Victoria among others.

In addition to the availability of good number of datasets, we had the chance to reflect our ideas with Simon De Sousa – from Data Victoria team who was one of the competition mentors. I think this was – (in addition to the speeches of government representatives at the opening – a sign of government support and commitment not only towards GovHack but towards the entrepreneurs community as a whole.

I believe there is a chance to build on this and to have a dialogue between data publishers from the government side and the participants on how both sides can work together to create greater value and make bigger impact.

I’m looking forward to see the outcome of GovHack, to see how these 400+ projects (or at least the winning ones) actually flourish and be a reality in our lives as envisioned by their teams.  This will be something interesting to follow over the coming months (the winners will be announced on October 22nd in the National Red Carpet Award in Adelaide). I went through the list of GovHack 2015 Winners to find out more about last year projects but all the pages I checked for the individual projects were “not found”.

Thank You! The organizers of GovHack 2016 for this opportunity, and my creative team for the good time.

I leave you with the event video, and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below:


About The Author

An entrepreneur based in Australia and focusing on helping governments shift from Chrysler era to Tesla era! Founder of The Open Data Institute - Dubai Node and a Registered Open Data Trainer. Creating things around Data, IoT and Drones.

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