Innovators unlock the power of government big data

27 Jul 2017

One of the world’s biggest “hackathons” is back at The University of Queensland this month and the event’s participants will be targeting Australian government data.

Open data competition GovHack has been running annually since 2009, and is hosted in more than 40 locations across Australia and New Zealand.

High school and university students, government, industry and academia representatives, local techies, engineers, graphic designers, storytellers, artists and creatives will be among those taking part.

School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering PhD student Jason Weigel is GovHack’s Queensland director and a former national winner of the competition.

“The purpose of the exercise is to ‘mash’ together open data sets provided by the government into brilliant new concepts that solve problems and create better outcomes for local communities,” Mr Weigel said.

In 2016, more than 3000 participants took part over 48 hours, forming teams to identify problems to solve, building working prototypes and publishing their code as open source.

Projects can include web, mobile or augmented reality applications, development of new apps, new analysis or even 3D printed visualisations to understand data and patterns.

“GovHack has inspired governments across Australia to improve how they deliver their data, to make it easier for the public to understand how governments use revenue, and to focus more attention on delivering services relevant to those using them,” Mr Weigel said.

Thousands of open data sources are available to the hackers, and UQ has set locally based challenges for teams. The Brisbane-based challenges will be announced at the beginning of the event.

“At GovHack at UQ in 2013, my team produced an app called ‘Historify’,” Mr Weigel said.

“We won the Data Journalism prize with our application that used the data sets available to us to help journalists and historians to search, view and curate historical stories using digitised newspaper articles.

“It was a really valuable experience, as a young researcher, to combine my software development skills with the skills of people from a range of other disciplines and to so quickly see our project develop from an idea to a finished product.”

This year’s Brisbane hackathon will be held in UQ’s Advanced Engineering Building at St Lucia. Up to 250 people are expected to take part in the event.

GovHack will be held at UQ between Friday 28 and Sunday 30 July

Media: GovHack Queensland director Jason Weigel,; Faculty Media and Communications Coordinator Genevieve Worrell,, 0408 432 213.