Hackathons and open source: The ideal combination for driving innovation

Zaidul Alam delivered the first keynote for DrupalSouth 2022 looking at hackathons and open source. View the presentation or read our summary. 

About Zaidul 

Zaidul started off with a bit of information about himself. Zaidul is the current board director and national data lead of GovHack Australia. He also works at the South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet and has won many awards for his projects. 

About GovHack

GovHack is the largest open data hackathon in the southern hemisphere. It’s also known as ‘The festival of ideas’. GovHack started in 2009 but was ‘restarted’ in 2012 by Pia Andrews and has been consistently running since then. 

GovHack runs for a weekend, starting on a Friday night (46 hours in total). Every state and territory runs at the same time (local time). 

Each team must deliver three things:

  • A 3-min pitch video 
  • Project description 
  • Evidence of the work (e.g. codebase, designs, etc.) 

GovHack is sponsored by government agencies, who come to the event with a problem to solve and/or open datasets that can be used. 

State/territory winners are announced first, then there’s a national red carpet event. 

GovHack 2022 was a hybrid event, merging the traditional in-person with the COVID-19 online format. There were 147 projects and 1061 hackerspace registrations.  

Open data

Next, Zaidul spoke a little bit about open data at a general level. He mentioned how open data portals also gained traction during COVID-19 (because they were publishing COVID data). He also mentioned that CKAN is the most common open data management system.  

Hackathons and innovation

Zaidul sees hackathons as being places for ideation, creating, prototyping and sometimes even user testing! The outcome is usually a proof of concept. Projects tend to be customer-centric and hackathons also provide the chance to prove technology. Hackathons also drive a design-thinking approach. 

Open source and GovHack

Open source provides a starting point during hackathons. You don’t have time to reinvent the wheel, so you can use an open source project as the base and build on it. Open source also means you can do further development after the hackathon is finished.

Hackathon projects tend to have a strong open source community. Projects use open data, open APIs, open content, open projects and you’re sharing code. 

Diversity and innovation at hackathons

Zaidul also spoke about how diversity drives innovation, with different minds coming together. You have different ages, different skills, different cultural backgrounds, different industries, 

Zaidul also presented a slide with many of the open source tools used at GovHacks. The tools included:

  • Drupal
  • RedHat
  • WordPress
  • Angular
  • Rails
  • Figma
  • Spark 

GovHack projects

Finally, Zaidul highlighted a range of innovative GovHack projects, including: 

  • A mobile app that solves taxation challenges
  • A real-time heat website
  • Identifying the best place to generate ocean current electricity
  • SmartTrap — a tool for monitoring fruit flies
  • Flood alert and rescue tool driven by AI, machine learning and geoscience
  • Co2 emission monitoring tool
  • Citizen-controlled identity platform
  •  Patentstoi.es — searching tool for new patents (2015 hackathon project)
  • GovCMS data visualisation  project
  • DigiKey — view DigiKey video

View 2022 winners to date


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