5 Secret Strategies for GovHack

Monday night I attended the VIC GovHack Connections Event. No there wasn’t any pizza.. but there were a selection of cheeses, artichokes and more.

Here are my Top 5 tips

1) Do something very different

This competition has been running for a number of years and the judges are seeing some similar patterns emerging. Browse through previous year’s hacker-space pages, and look at the type of projects they’ve had before. Look at the winners.

2) Evaluate the data

This might be the main aim of your project, but we want quality data for future years, and enough evidence to remove the unnecessary, find the missing, and refresh the old.

3) Prove real-time and live data

Melbourne City have their own feeds of real-time data this year. If you want to see more of that, consider using this data.

4) Simulate data

This strengthens your assessment of missing data [2], could involve a simulated live data feeds [3] above, and would be very different [1].

5) Gather data

This is actually a bit harder than simulating data [4], but very useful. You could use computer vision, web scraping, or make an open app (like OpenSignal) that many people install to collect data.

Off the record

I’ve got a few ideas for GovHack projects in mind on the day. I’m not competing, so come and talk to me on Friday night or Saturday for ideas along these lines.

GovHack – Do we need real-time feeds?

It’s the year 2016, and we still don’t know how many minutes away the next bus is in Geelong.

Public releases of data take time and effort, and unless they are routinely refreshed, they get stale. But there’s certain types of information that can’t be more than minutes old to be useful.

Traffic information is the most time sensitive. The current state of traffic lights, whether there are any signals currently out of order, and congestion information is already collected real-time in Australia. We could clearly benefit from such information being released as it happens.

But imagine this benchmark of up-to-the-minute was applied to all datasets. First of all you won’t have any aging data. But more importantly it would force the data publication to be automated, and therefore scalable so that instead of preparing another release of data, public servants could be focusing on the next type of data to make available.

What do you think?

Participate in GovHack this year, play with the data we do have and continue the conversation with us.

(I will be publishing a series of blogs focusing on GovHack, exploring opportunities and challenges that arise and consider while I work on the committee for the Geelong GovHack which runs 29-31 July 2016)

Image courtesy Alberto Otero García licensed under Creative Commons

GovHack – What tools will you use this year?

The world is always changing, and in the world of technology it seems to change faster.

You certainly want to win some of the fantastic prizes on offer, but remember, we want world changing ideas to drive real change for real people, and we can do that best together.

So share with us and your fierce competitors, which new tools and techniques you plan to use this year.

Some new popular that I’m aware of, include Kafka and MapMe.

Both of these feed into my own personal desire to capture more data and help Governments release data real-time. Check them out, and please comment below about any tools and techniques you plan to use this year.

(I will be publishing a series of blogs focusing on GovHack, exploring opportunities and challenges that arise and consider while I work on the committee for the Geelong GovHack which runs 29-31 July 2016)

Image courtesy RightBrainPhotography licensed under Creative Commons

What data do you want to see at GovHack?

Lets forget about any privacy and national security barriers for the moment. If you could have any data from Government what would you request?

GovHack is a great initiative which puts the spotlight on Government data. All of the departments and systems collect heaps of data every day, and lucky for us they’re starting to release some of it publicly.

You can already get topological maps, drainage points, bin locations, bbq locations, council budget data and much more. But that’s certainly not all the data they have.

Comment below on what data you would think is useful. It might already be released, but it would be interesting to go to Government with a nice long shopping list of data to be ready for us to delve into next year.

(I will be publishing a series of blogs focusing on GovHack, exploring opportunities and challenges that arise and consider while I work on the committee for the Geelong GovHack which runs 29-31 July 2016)

Image courtesy Catherine, licensed under Creative Commons

GovHack – How can we collect more data?

If we had all the cancer information from around the world, any keyboard warrior could wrangle the data and find helpful new discoveries. But we struggle to even complete a state-level database let alone a national or global one.

After being dazzled by the enormous amount of data already released by Government, you soon realise how much more you really need.

For starters, there are lots of paper records not even digital. This isn’t just a Government problem of course, many private organisations also grapple with managing unstructured written information on paper. But if Governments are still printing and storing paper in hard copy form; we further delay a fully open digital utopia. At the very least storing atomic data, separate to a merged and printed version enables future access, and stops the mindless discarding into the digital blackhole.

Then consider all the new types of data which could be collected. The routes that garbage delivery trucks and buses take and the economics of their operation. If we had such data streams, we could tell citizens if a bus is running ahead or behind. We could have GovHack participants calculate more efficient routes. Could buses collect rubbish? We need data to know. More data means more opportunities for solutions and improvement for all.

When you consider the colossal task ahead of Government, we must insist on changing culture so that data releases are considered a routine part of public service. And also make further data collection an objective, not a bonus extra. Until that happens, large banks of knowledge will remain locked up in fortresses of paper.

What do you think? Do you know of any forgotten archives of paper that would be useful for improving lives?

Participate in GovHack this year, play with the data we do have and continue the conversation with us.

(I will be publishing a series of blogs focusing on GovHack, exploring opportunities and challenges that arise and consider while I work on the committee for the Geelong GovHack which runs 29-31 July 2016)

Image courtesy Fryderyk Supinski licensed under Creative Commons