Inside the judge's tent

Marita Baier-Gorman | 05 Nov 2018

We take a peek inside the GovHack 2018 judging dome. Marita Baier-Gorman ushers you inside the tent.

As the lead agency sponsor for GovHack this year, we had the chance to design two challenges. A challenge is a way for competitors to push themselves in return for awards and prizes.

Many of us who’d 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.

Over the past few years, GovHack has revealed a lot of clever entries, from developing applications for mobile 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 pretty. 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

1. 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.

2. 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. This was a significant undertaking for our 5 judges. Each entry has a 3-minute video, open source code and a written brief to consider, and we wanted to give each entry the space to shine.

Judging process

The judges (or ‘red team’) created a spreadsheet to allow them to score separately to reflect their individual areas of expertise (social research, code, data analysis, emerging technology and government policy).

Entries were checked against the challenge descriptions and GovHack's criteria?

Having ranked our top entries individually, we then bunkered down for many hours over 3 days to further narrow down our selections. A small meeting room was our big top, and 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 judge’s 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 quality solutions.

While we can’t say who won our challenges yet, we can say that it was an honour to see the ideas and workings behind their projects. This was a privilege not lost on us, and we look forward to celebrating the incredible ingenuity of GovHack 2018 at the upcoming award ceremonies.

The National Award Ceremony is on Saturday November 10 in Sydney. More information on the GovHack website.