This week, The Fetch Perth’s Curator, Justin Strharsky spoke with Zane Prickett, one of the organisers of GovHack Perth.

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What is GovHack?

GovHack is an event where Developers can make awesomeness in a weekend of hacking and Government can come to see the potential of open data and allowing access to their data. Oh and did we mention there is over $3.5k local prizes and $40k national prizes?

We fill a room with as many web and application developers, open data & visualisation gurus, user experience folk, accessibility peeps, augmented reality-ists, mobile maesters, user experience fanatics and anyone interested in open government as we can find and set them loose on government data sets to create new mashups, data visualisations and apps. Everything needed is provided to hack to your hearts content, for glory, or money, or both!

On hand will be:

  • Data “owners” and mentors from a range of technology backgrounds
  • Facilitators to help teams focus, and move forward throughout the event
  • Copious amounts of power, wifi, food and caffeine
  • A range of developer tools and support throughout the 48 hours

Governments collect and publish enormous amounts of data, but have limited resources to get it into the hands of their citizens in engaging ways. GovHack is an event to draw together people from government, industry, academia and of course, the general public to mashup, reuse, and remix government data. GovHack is about finding new ways to do great things and encouraging open government and open data.

GovHack runs over 48 hours starting with drinks and the competition announcements on the night of Friday 31st of May. On Saturday you will need to register your team by midday and you can attend technical workshops to help with your project. Mentors in a range of areas will be on hand to help out. Teams work through the weekend and then on Sunday afternoon you’ll have 5 minutes to present your prototype to everyone, including the judges.

This years’ event takes place at Spacecubed on the 31st of May to the 2nd of Jun. We are excited have Lyn Beazley, WA’s chief scientist, as the key note speaker. And the event is free to developers. Currently there are over 70 participants and 20 observers. There are a few more participant tickets available if any developers would like to join.

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What kinds of data is the government making available?

Currently there are over 2500 sets of data that will be available for the event. Most of these are already freely available via web services such as data.gov.au. A great resource to see what data is available and to come up with ideas for the event is http://www.govpond.org.

In addition to the 2500 freely available data sets there will be some additional data made available just for this event. This includes WA Public Transport and WA Treasury digital data. These are exciting data sets and should make for some interesting outcomes.

Can people really make anything useful in a weekend?

With the right team and the right focus, Yes, developers can make awesome outcomes in one weekend. Last year one of the winning teams,www.theopenbudget.org, had a fully interactive and live web application to dive into and explore the federal government. Excellent visual outcome for only one weekends work.

In addition this year at a national level there is a push to make sure the best ideas and applications do get finished. First Amazon has jumped on as an event sponsor to host any of the winners applications for up to one year free of charge. Second at a federal prize level there are additional funds available for projects that need a bit more work to finalize. This should allow another week or two of work for the teams to finish their applications.

What is the coolest hack or product that’s come out of a GovHack?

Last year there were lots of excellent applications to come out of GovHack with http://www.theopenbudget.org being a great example. With that said my personnel favorite was “A Day in the Life”. In this web application someone types a date in the past and it searches the national archives to show interesting information such as photos, weather, government, price of a loaf of bread,…

What does government get out of the event?

The government gets to see the outcomes of open data and the potential it holds. Currently government is collecting tons and tons of data from a range of sources. In general the government understands there is lots of potential in the data but they dont have all the resources to make it happen. Govhack is a way for government to see the potential and reasons for open data and to continue to move in that direction.

In addition government gets to see the talent of the developers working in Perth throughout Australia and the potential of new technology.

Did you face any challenges in bringing this event together?

Interesting question. From the developers side it has not been too challenging getting the event up and running, basically they have been on board from the word GO. But the government side was a bit more challenging. In the beginning we faced such questions as “Why are you hosting an event to HACK the Government?”. But once all the initial questions were cleared up the government has really jumped on board and is fully behind the event

As well thanks a ton to Spacecubed. They have made the organizers life much easier with their well run and well recognized space, cheers!

Any advice for participants?

Enjoy yourselves. This event is a great chance for developers to come together for a weekend, enjoy some coding, networking, show case some awesome applications to government, and potentially win some money!

Some links: