Licence to hack

IT was the nerd equivalent of the Olympics. And the arena was data – vast sets of federal, state and local government data.

James Weir, Duncan Macneil and George Fong during the GovHack competition.

James Weir, Duncan Macneil and George Fong during the GovHack competition.

Over the course of the weekend, five Ballarat teams took on 203 others across the country in the national GovHack competition.

Their challenge: to draw meaning and entertaining insights from raw figures, and to produce a video presentation outlining their successes.

The 20 so-called hackers at the Ballarat Tech Park started with the digital equivalent of a clean sheet and had to design programs from scratch to analyse the data. They then had to load their entries into “Hacker Space” for judging.

Competition official George Fong said Ballarat was just one of three regional centres among the 11 places where teams were able to enter the competition.

“We have five strong projects,” Mr Fong said.

“Ballarat has earned national respect for its involvement. We’re very proud of what has been achieved.

“The City of Ballarat provided 12 data sets for the competition. We were thrilled with the council’s support.” 

Mr Fong said the pay off for the city was what was produced from the competition would be returned to the council for its own use. 

One team used the Ballarat data exclusively, producing an app for local residents to be notified of major events and services in their community. Another used data on every tree planted by government agencies in the region to produce a game which encouraged families to go out and physically visit some of those trees.

A group developed a tool to show the outcomes of inequality in different areas, while yet another worked on a platform for automatically generating graphical posters for events.

gavin.mcgrath@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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