You can make a big difference with big data. This is what a group of passionate Ipswich hackers realised over a weekend in July.
Once a year, teams across Australia and New Zealand come together to see what difference they can make with available “open data”.
Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike. – opendatahandbook.org
GovHack by the numbers
Now in its fifth year, GovHack attracts participants including entrepreneurs, developers, data analysts, engineers, designers, digital media creators, artists, film makers, story tellers, academics, researchers and youth. Thousands of these “hackers” lock themselves in rooms across the nation to create solutions to complex challenges using freely available open data.
Change happens through the sheer volume and diversity of individuals all focused on the the same goal.
GovHack at Fire Station 101
Fire Station 101 hosted the first GovHack in Ipswich, with over 25 participants coming together from diverse fields of programming, designing, nursing, farming, security, HR executives, social workers, and more. Teams described their experience as challenging and rewarding, frustrating and fun. In addition to practical outcomes for social change, we had new relationships formed and new skills learned.
Four teams emerged from the GovHack experience.
Innovation Where? set out to display where innovation is happening in Australia by combining data from IP Australia, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and Google Maps.
Team DingoPack created a prototype for emergency preparedness using data from Victorian evacuation centres, NSW live traffic cameras, Southern Grampians Neighborhood Safer Places, flood risk data, and the Queensland Resilience Index.
Here’s what Team DingoPack had to say about themselves:
Our project aims to transform the way people prepare, respond and recover from disasters. Using our app, you and your family can turn disaster preparation into a fun family activity by preparing your emergency kit, practicing evacuations using customised routes from your location, and setting reminders to update emergency kits regularly. During a disaster, the app allows you to advise emergency services that you have activated your emergency plan and register with evacuation shelters. Once the emergency has passed, you can connect with services and the community to recover in the best possible way.
Threat.end gamified conservation education using species data from the Queensland wildlife data API and the Atlas of Living Australia combined with the ABC Gateway API for topical information.
Here’s what they said about themselves:
Threat.end is a gamified flora and fauna education and citizen science mobile first web app.
Threat.end app sources data from, the National threatened animals and ecological species datasets, the Queensland Wildlife database/API, and the Atlas of Living Australia.
Threat.end seeks to educate users in local flora and fauna with a special focus on threated species. The users are rewarded for learning about their locally threatened species and recording sighting via digital capture and release. These sightings are geo-tagged and help build a geospatial map of ecosystems for researchers to further investigate and to help build trending data.
Check your uglies
The Check Your Uglies team aims to raise awareness for cervical and prostate cancer checks, utilising multiple datasets from Queensland Health, Australian Bureau of Statistics, and Cancer Australia.
Here’s their pitch in their words:
It’s July 31, 2016. So far this year, 250 women have died from Cervical Cancer and 1500 Men have died from Prostate Cancer. More than 21000 new cases will be diagnosed by the end of the year.
Accessing cancer screening services is a matter of personal choice, and sometimes it becomes the last choice. Improving cancer outcomes is dependent on the effectiveness of cancer control strategies. Monitoring of cancer control strategies provides the ability to target policy or modify activities to achieve best-practice care, reduce inequalities in cancer control, and ultimately improve cancer outcomes across the population.
Check Your Uglies is the State of Origin of Cancer Screening. A global campaign to ensure everyone is screened. This is how we save lives.
Next steps, and looking towards 2017
Hackathons and Startup Weekends are incredible and unique opportunities to create something new. A couple of the projects are going to the next step of commercialisation and new projects are expected to emerge from relationships made over the weekend.
Even as the 2016 event wrapped up, teams were already talking about how to make 2017 better. GovHack exists to open up data so that clever collaborations of individuals with diverse perspectives can address difficult issues. We can expect that the success across all the sites this year will inspire the release of more data which will attract more people to create solutions for the complex challenges facing society.
Fire Station 101 is Ipswich City Council’s innovation hub that brings together entrepreneur members with mentors, investors, commercial partners, and volunteers and interns all focused on the entrepreneur’s success. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to hear about future opportunities to make a difference hacking for change!