Government is the ultimate collector and holder of big data, but governments are not great at innovating with that data. In 2009 The Australian Government established GovHack as a national competition for developers and startups to discover ideas which can best put this data to use.In 2016 the competition was held at 41 locations across Australia and New Zealandwith competitors spending 46 hours building projects from open government data and is run by Linux Australia.
Griffith University hosted the events on the Gold Coast and Logan. Griffith Enterprise Business Innovation Manager, Hunter Walkenhorst was a judge on the Gold Coast and the campuse’s student startup group, Studio 39 organised the event for the public and students.
Studio 39 member, Joshua Holmes has been an influential part of the rapidly growing student startup scene at Griffith on the Gold Coast and was a key organiser of the GC GovHack with lead sponsor, City of Gold Coast.
“In the past people have built board games, apps, websites, data visualisations, 3D models and even jewellery. The government releases thousands of datasets which you can use to build these, such as statistics, real time public transport information, endangered wildlife tracking, business databases, location of government services, public news, national heritage lists, weather data and even ice skating and water sports centres,” he said.
“GovHack invites participants from all walks of life. Whether they’re developers, designers, engineers, journalists, data scientists, students, lawyers, health professionals or just about anything else. Everyone can contribute something and teams need a wide range of skills to ensure they have the best chance of winning.”
Griffith has been keen to support the growing student entrepreneurial culture developing in Queensland as our economy gears away from careers and long-term employment toward flexible private enterprises.
“I certainly think there has been a wave developing over the last several years. What started in Silicon Valley many years ago took a little bit to get to Australia, and I can see the difference between what was happening when I started at university in 2013 to now, said Joshua.
“We have entrepreneurs courses being taught, the popularity of hackathons and similar events is growing and we have both state and federal government pushing new science and innovation agendas.
“I think it’s fantastic that Griffith is hosting events to further the tech startup community. Whether it’s hosting entrepreneur talks, donating space to student groups like Studio39 or giving us an awesome spot to hold hackathons like GovHack. This is being done by a mixture of the School of ICT, Griffith Sciences and Griffith Enterprise. I really hope it continues to grow and develop as it’s super important for the development of students into entrepreneurs, not just workers.”
The intention of GovHack is not just to support a favoured industry, its aim is building a better democracy through innovative public participation and the development of a strong community of civic hackers. It has grown from a couple of geeks in Melbourne and Sydney to a national event with thousands of participants.
Studio 39 is looking at expanding the number of events it hosts and supports, as the group struggles to meet the need and interest of campus entrepreneurs.
“The weekend was definitely a success- we didn’t run out of food, and what is more important at a hackathon?
“Our competitors certainly learned a lot of new things- whether it was coding skills, how to work better in a team, what open data is available or how to lead a team. We also had some prominent judges come in, including Aaron Birkby from River City Labs and some amazing mentors who were on hand to help our competitors out throughout the weekend,” said Joshua.
Increasingly the group is finding that top students expect more from their tertiary experience than classrooms and parties, as this can be found anywhere. They want real practical, entrepreneurial experience and institutions that support them. Whether it’s the hackathons, the student groups or curriculum.
“It really gives you a sense of achievement to be able to say, ‘I built something in just 46 hours and now it has the potential to be used by millions of people.’ That is something physical you can take and show people to get a job or something you can continue to grow into your very own startup.