118 entries, 5 judges, 3 winners

With over 100 entries for the DTA’s GovHack challenges, how did we decide the winners? Marita Baier-Gorman takes us behind the scenes of the judging process.

As the lead agency sponsor of GovHack 2018, we had the chance to set two challenges for this year’s hackers. While we can’t announce who won our challenges yet, we can say that it was an honour to see the ideas and workings behind the projects. It was a privilege not lost on us.

A ‘challenge’ is a way for competitors to push themselves in return for awards and prizes. For us it was a way to highlight the power of open data and the different and creative ways data can be used to solve problems.

Many of us who put our hands up to contribute to GovHack this year were seasoned hackers. In the past we had mentored, organised, competed, or all of the above. We brought to the competition our past experiences and our passion for open data.

Over the past few years, GovHack has revealed a lot of clever entries, from developing mobile applications to importing datasets into mapping tools so that they can be visualised.

This year, we wanted to do something different, and inspire competitors to take a step beyond just finding data or making it look good. We wanted teams to think about how the wisdom gained from data could be used by government to make decisions that improve services and society.

Our two challenges:

Mix and mashup bounty award

The best use of two or more data sets which seem to be completely unrelated to each other, but can be brought together to inform great solutions.

Help government decide with data award

Government bodies at local, state and national levels make many decisions each day. How can available data help them make evidence-based, informed decisions to deliver better services?

By the end of the weekend, we had received 118 entries for our two challenges.

Judging process

With so many entries we really had to bunker down. Each entry included a 3-minute video, open source code and a written brief to consider, and we wanted to give each entry their chance to shine.

The judges (or ‘red team’) were drawn from across the DTA, bringing with them their own areas of expertise in social research, code, data analysis, emerging technology and government policy. We looked at each entry and scored them on their originality, creativity, how data was used and how they had addressed the challenges we set.

It took us many hours over many days to narrow down our selections. Our Chief Technology Officer played the role of the ‘white team’, coming in afterward to assess entries independently. Being a long-time hacker himself, he was really excited about discovering projects that were imaginative as well as practical.

Although some of the entries did not meet our criteria and were excluded from judging, it didn’t stop us from going through them and enjoying the ideas they explored or wondering whether we should start hiring!

The rationale of the teams to put themselves in as many challenges as possible makes a lot of sense to the weekend-worn hacker; you have to be in it to win it, right? This made it important for us to have clear benchmarks for our challenges. This kept us focused during the process rather than having too much fun and getting distracted.

The dilemma

The judges’ dilemma was to make hard selections when there are so many worthy entries. A couple of themes emerged. We saw a lot of solutions to help prevent bankruptcy, and which locations in Australia most needed Tax Office shopfronts. There were also a lot of game-based entries, where a mobile app encouraged users to look for landmarks around their local area and update datasets in real time. It was great to see crowd-sourced data deliver such quality solutions.

We look forward to celebrating the incredible ingenuity of GovHack 2018 at the upcoming award ceremony. Good luck!

The GovHack Red Carpet Awards are on Saturday 10 November in Sydney. More information is on the GovHack website.

Want to join the conversation?

Read our comment moderation guidelines