GovHack Wellington 2015: Hack the Government – Change the world (I dare you)

govhackIt’s a tall ask, changing the world, but we shouldn’t be afraid of doing it, not trying, actually doing it. GovHack is running across two continents and multiple cities 3rd to 5th July and is open to all comers with an interest in hacking open government data in order to build new applications, push the government’s digital agenda, and just make cool stuff.

Government. It’s a funny creature. I’ve worked with it for over twenty years and it never ceases to surprise me. In Wellington alone we have 15,000 ICT workers of which I suspect, I do not actually know, the majority are engaged with government departments.

The New Zealand government is doing their level best to drag themselves up by the bootstraps into a digital government with a digital citizen at it’s core, but it’s damn hard. It’s hard because government is not naturally innovative and nor is it filled with entrepreneurs. It is a risk adverse creature that is rather like a kiwi, flightless, somewhat vulnerable, and a bit scared of coming out into the mainstream.

Don’t get me wrong, I see much innovation under the covers and “intrapreneurs” working inside government to make it better. If you are one of these people, then this weekend is for you, because it will give you an opportunity to cross-connect with other change agents, both inside the government and in the New Zealand ICT community that supports her.

This is not a government sanctioned event, and if I need to explain that “hack” is not a bad term then it may not be for you. A hackathon is something that takes and ordinary thing, and makes it extraordinary. Several agencies are already supplying data, resource, meeting rooms, and clever people to help us set this up and make it a success. Central and local.

“Pooh pooh!” you shout! “This is a waste of taxpayers money! I demand satisfaction on this count!”


This is one of the wisest uses of taxpayers in a long time and it also shows that our ICT savvy public servants are standing up and demonstrating their passion for their agencies and enhancing government digital services.

Firstly, the rapidly growing list of volunteers for that weekend are not being paid for their attendance. They are taking a weekend out of their lives, out of their families lives, and out of their social calendars to work for nothing on our behalf as taxpayers. Not just them either, but private employees of ICT companies as well.

Second, if good ideas come out of that weekend that can be implemented in the real world later, the cost savings will be in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. What one hundred to two hundred determined, engaged geeks can deliver in a weekend is likely to outstrip months of development work by traditional methods not to mention the sheer cost of development projects and the cultural & financial scaffolding that they require in a large government agency.

This weekend is about our government and local ICT people displaying passion and giving up their time to demonstrate it. For that, we should salute them.

The event requires small teams of competitors to produce any kind of “hack” using government data in around 46 hours, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. The format of a “hack” is unspecified, but the most common are web applications, mobile applications, or visualisations. Together with all source code deposited in an open source repository and open-licensed, each team is judged on a three-minute video they must produce, demonstrating what they have produced and its future potential.

2014 winners of the event, all Australian as this is the first time it has been run in New Zealand, produced some surprising results. I’m not going to repost them here, you can go and check out the list and get some ideas.

In Wellington, a large behind the scenes team is already deep in planning gathering data, people, ideas, themes, famous people to be the MC, other famous people to turn up over the weekend, and most importantly, figure out the logistics of coffee, wifi, food, and beer. The fuel of innovation. All you have to do is turn up.

We need geeks. Lots and lots of you. Developers, data wranglers, visualisation people, people who do stuff with “cubes” (showing my age there), ideas people, artists, and more. We need doers.

Here’s what you need to do right now Wellington Geeks, register your interest and join the email list so we can keep you informed.

First, join the email list. It’s hosted by Hack Miramar because it is Hack Miramar that is managing the Wellington Event.

Second, register your interest on the main site so we can keep a track of numbers. By the way, if you are NOT from Wellington, you can register here as well. A number of cities are hacking over the weekend, including Gisborne!

Tell your colleagues. The more the merrier.

Finally if you want to help with the organisation of the Wellington event in the way of sponsorship, data, logistics, or anything else, then turn up at our weekly meetings. You can meeting times and locations here.

Change the world. We spend a lot of time moaning about how we never have the chance to do anything and we are always told “no”. Defeat the dinosaurs. Make a change. Sign up now.

Extra Information

Wellington Media contacts:


The caveat:

Wellington is running its own awareness campaign, of which this is part. We don’t speak officially for GovHack nor do we speak for agencies in general. If you have questions or concerns, you can contact us anytime.

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