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Hacking beyond GovHack

As this year’s record-breaking GovHack finally winds down, organisers are looking to the event’s future.

With a leap from two cities to 11, over 1300 participants and extraordinary media coverage, it makes sense that GovHack is looking to capitalise on its newfound popularity. Both the release of GovHack 2014 Report – A Nation of Civic Hackers and the Hack Longevity initiative look to broaden the event’s reach.

“I think next year I just want to see that it’s not an isolated event, because it’s huge now,” Brisbane organiser Anna Gerber says. “I think we need to make sure it isn’t just a one-off, that we sort of try to keep the momentum going all year.

“And what you can build in one weekend is pretty limited, you can think of a great idea but everything that gets built is pretty much thrown away because of the tight timeframe,” she says. “It would be great to see people keep working on entries by re-engineering them or even just talking to someone who can build it.

“That’s what they did with the energy rating app, where somebody had the idea at GovHack and it got completely rebuilt by someone else in consultation with the original team.”

The report details “lessons learnt” such as retaining “the core tenet of putting hackers first,” focusing more on “technical excellence and the actual hacks, and [ensuring] people don’t get carried away with just making a pretty video,” moving the event dates away from school holidays and Ramadan, and creating an expression of interest program to reduce registration issues.

Similarly, the follow-up Hack Longevity initiative is aimed at continuing valuable ideas and relationships through sharing community programs, offering procurement and showcase opportunities, and highlighting related events and programs such as Code for Australia.

“The Hack Longevity page is trying to encourage people to not just build something and then abandon it,” Gerber says. “So to keep things going there’s a series of workshop and follow up events with the startup community trying to keep people working on hacks, Microsoft ran one in Brisbane a week or so ago.

“We’ve got the QLD Premier’s Open Data Awards in as well, and we’ve certainly encouraged a lot of the local GovHack entries to consider submitting something, whether it be the same thing refined a bit or to just keep thinking about open data.”

On a local level, the event also provided Brisbane with plenty of national exposure, notably through the city’s awards success and the August’s red carpet ceremony itself.

“The ceremony was very shiny,” Gerber says. “We had speakers such as Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who gave a great talk, Minister Ray Stevens from QLD Government, and Councillor Julian Simmonds from Brisbane City Council.

“Brisbane did pretty well, we had three surprises at the national awards, and then we had the Brisbane Awards following that,” she says. “UQ in particular did really well, we won best university team at the national level.

“There was one UQ team that did seven different entries, they did a sweep of the local awards.”

About Chris Woods

Chris Woods (@tophermwoods) is the Tech Street Journal's Editor-in-Chief. He lives in Brisbane, has worked in places like Sydney and New York (State of), and will someday update his media-news blog.