15 August 2016
Salsa Digital

What is GovHack?

GovHack is a two-day event that, as the GovHack website says, is: “an annual 46-hour hackathon where competitors use open data to build apps, visualisations, websites and other cool solutions.”

GovHack brings government (local, state and federal) together with industry, academics and anyone who wants to be involved, to create working prototypes that use government data.

GovHack started in 2009 as part of the MashUp Australia initiative. Since then it’s grown from a two-city event to 40 locations across Australia and New Zealand in 2016. With roughly 1,000 participants every year, GovHack is a great opportunity for ‘white hats’ to strut their stuff.

During an ABC radio segment, RN Breakfast’s Technology Editor, Peter Marks said: “Open government and open data are global movements, and they’re seen as part of the democratic philosophy, that government should be open to public scrutiny, that their data is our data…” He went on to talk about the wide range of competitors (from software designers to school kids) and some of the ins and outs of the competition.

How it works

Participants have from Friday night until Sunday afternoon to build a prototype and produce a video that shows how their technological solution works. They also give away all their source code and go in the running for the $70,000 worth of prizes.

Participants can use data from a range of government services, in fact a total of 5,600 data sets and 4,500 thousand APIs are available.

Marks talked about some of the examples from 2015, including a disaster mitigation app that combined data from social media and weather feeds; a visualisation of the patent process; and HEALTH Buddy, an app where people can get government advice on non-life threatening health issues.

GovHack 2016

This year, GovHack was held from 6pm Friday 29 July to Sunday afternoon. Simultaneously running at 40 locations across Australia and New Zealand, Salsa was a sponsor and participant at the Melbourne GovHack. Our sponsorship (and that of many other organisations) helped to ensure the event can continue and offer competitive prizes. 

Salsa Digital’s entry

We developed a site called ‘Find my Future’ that will help match job seekers to roles around Australia in their industry, or to jobs in their region. We used four main datasets — employment regions, employment service providers, employment projections and statistical data. Following different user stories, we developed the site in GovCMS so we could focus on the business problem. Lots of coding later (seven modules, 78 functions and 2,214 lines) we had a site! The homepage presents users with a few initial options:


  • I’m looking for a new career or a career change within my region
  • I’m looking for the best chance of employment in my industry  


  • Growing industries within my region
  • Industries in demand nationwide
  • Employment and education within my region

The website visually shows users where jobs are in their industry and then provides detailed info on the top five locations for their industry. This information covers things such as healthcare, recreation, schools and employment stats.

Our website was one of many (over a thousand) entries and there were lots of cool apps, sites and other digital solutions presented. You’ll find a lot of the videos in YouTube if you search on GovHack 2016.

The judges are in deliberation but we’re looking forward to blogging about the winners when they’re announced.

Salsa Digital’s take

GovHack is a great initiative that delivers the best of innovation and knowledge sharing to government agencies, while bringing together all levels of government and industry. It also creates a frenetic but fantastic environment to develop solutions that will enable digital transformation in government. Now that we’ve caught up on our sleep, we can’t wait for the next one!

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