Data-driven hackathon challenges innovative minds

GovHack SA 2017. Image courtesy GovHack Australia. COMMUNITY

From apps to help people find their closest dog-friendly park to programs to rehome refugees, a hackathon has generated more than 45 ideas for making data more accessible to the public in meaningful ways.

More than 200 creative minds converged at UniSA’s City West campus last month for the annual GovHack challenge, hacking their way through hundreds newly available government data sets to try and find the ideal mix of innovation and utility.

GovHack SA 2017. Image courtesy GovHack Australia.GovHack SA 2017. Image courtesy GovHack Australia.

GovHack SA is the South Australian component of an international competition that showcases technical and creative capacity to deliver innovation. The overarching aim is to develop original applications from the data that add value to the community.

South Australia’s 2017 GovHack Director Hasan Anjum, a former competitor, says GovHack provides a unique forum for aspiring entrepreneurs to develop and test their ideas.

“It brings together a diverse mix of competitors – from savvy school students to seasoned business people – each contributing individual experiences and ideas to find solutions for various community problems,” Anjum says.

“This year we had 204 competitors, 52 observers and 34 mentors participate – an increase of around 40 per cent from last year – which is fantastic as it shows a growing interest in innovation and technology, key factors that are needed to help build South Australia’s economy.

“Our mentors are especially valuable. Generally, they’re data, technology, and innovation experts, giving their time to coach, guide and encourage participants.

“They’re here to help identify and support the next generation of entrepreneurs, which is lucky for us as they bring significant experience and insight to the process.”

GovHack South Australia generated 45 new ideas, from a walking trail app that encourages kids to be more active, to a digital concierge service to navigate the labyrinth of public government services.

“There were so many amazing ideas,” Anjum says.

“From initiatives that connect and support local talent start-ups, proactive recycling schemes, or re-homing refugees, to apps that can find your closest dog-friendly park, the best-fit retirement village, or even guide you around Adelaide, this year’s GovHack has really delivered incredible innovations.”

Libby Vojin’s Bizkit team took out the Spirit of GovHack award, and the Best at UniSA Prize, sponsored by the Innovation and Collaboration Centre (ICC). The team was awarded three months of “incubation support” at the ICC.

“The Bizkit team created an intuitive tool to help new and existing South Australian businesses flourish in an ever-changing business environment,” Anjum says.

By aggregating and translating key business data into useful information, the team created an app that provides insights to help businesses overcome everyday challenges. Including planning information, such as customer segmentation and future trends, as well as local data like road resurfacing, the app shares information that can immediately affect a business.

After a concept is developed, competitors must create a project page, proof of concept and a video that tells the story of how government data can be reused. From there, finalists are selected, with state winners announced at the end of September and national winners by mid-October.

Anjum says that while innovative community outcomes were the goal for GovHack SA 2017, what resulted was far more than that.

“Camaraderie and a mutual sense of appreciation and respect was felt by all participating teams,” he says.

“In today’s fast-paced technological environment, being able to foster friendships in business is still so valuable.

“And as we encourage entrepreneurship, let’s hope these are still skills we continue to value. In my experience, they really can make a difference to business success.”

GovHack SA 2017 was hosted by the Innovation and Collaboration Centre – a strategic partnership between UniSA, the South Australian Government and DXC Technology (DXC) – and held on UniSA’s City West campus.