GovHack Hackathon to take place in Ballarat for fourth year

Some of the City of Ballarat’s most obscure data will get a new lease on life this weekend when the annual GovHack Hackathon competition returns to Ballarat for a fourth year.  

Hacking for a cause: City of Ballarat's Matt Swards with Ballarat Hackerspace president Scott Weston ahead of GovHack.  Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Hacking for a cause: City of Ballarat's Matt Swards with Ballarat Hackerspace president Scott Weston ahead of GovHack. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Each year all levels of government release thousands of sets of raw data for the 46-hour test, which allows teams of competitors to turn that data into programs which can then be used by both governments and the wider community.

All up 35 competitors will take on the challenge in Ballarat, while more than 2000 competitors from across Australia and New Zealand will take part in the competition which kicks off at 7.00pm on Friday at Ballarat Tech Park. 

Matt Swards, from the City of Ballarat’s transformation office, said the competition provided tech savvy competitors with an opportunity to turn data which had already been gathered into programs which would ultimately benefit the community. 

“The data from council is usually just based around delivering a service because that’s all we have budget and time for, so it’s about opening up the data and allowing clever people to do stuff with it that we might not have known it was able to be used for,” Mr Swards said. 

Previous projects have ranged from plotting the locations of public toilets throughout a city to help people in need of a relief to formulating a disaster recovery system, which coordinated charity responses to events such as floods and bushfires. 

Competitor and Ballarat Hackerspace president Scott Weston said people with specific technology skills were often able to see how different data sets could combine to create useful programs for the community. 

“People with tech knowledge have fresh eyes (compared to those gathering the data) and they can see how it could join up with another service or set of data available on the internet to be used in a more interesting way,” Mr Weston said.  

Mr Swards said he hoped in the long term council would be able to develop a pathway for good ideas to become implemented in the day to day operations of local government.