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How Hackathons Are Changing The World

Hackathons, where a room full of talented minds use big data to come up with new ideas to improve everyday life, are a major driver of innovation in business today.



Much maligned by the media, hackers are more likely to use their coding expertise for good rather than evil. And when brought together in a room with reams of open data in hackathons, they can identify clever solutions to community problems.


The government has a lot of data on file – not only about people, but on important public services, such as how many beds are in each hospital in a particular state. An open data hackathon occurs when data is released to a group of competitors who use it to develop creative ideas.


GovHack is a good example of an open data hackathon. Over the past six years, it has grown from a small data mash-up to a huge international competition which brings together more than 1800 people to apply smart thinking to government data sets. This year’s GovHack gave teams just 46 hours to pull data from government and other sources, mash it together and present it as a compelling community application.


The winner of Best Digital Transformation Hack at this year’s GovHack was Adelaide IT consultancy Chamonix, which developed an app called Health Buddy. It uses open-source data such as mapping, local medical facility types and transport options to help people determine where to go in the case of non-threatening illnesses or injuries.

“There are a number of interesting government checklists that can help people work out if they should go to an emergency department, a GP clinic, a pharmacy or a community care centre, depending on their symptoms,” explains Ashleigh Green, consultant and capability lead, platforms and solutions at Chamonix. “We brought all those together in a single place.”

Once a person determines where they should go for help, Health Buddy also helps them locate the closest relevant health care facility, the easiest way to get there, the current waiting times in emergency departments and the availability of beds at their closest hospital.


Open data hackathons bring new thinking to existing data. “It’s a way of government getting hold of new ideas and new innovations,” says Green. “They can then use them to identify ways to improve the services they’re providing.” This way, everybody benefits.

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