GovHack 2013 Report – How the beast went national

GovHack has grown from a small government funded event in 2009, to a volunteer run two city event in 2012 in 2013, to a national 8-city event with over 1000 participants! The interest and engagement from citizens, governments, industry and journalists has been incredible. We even had international observers throughout the weekend, and several countries are keen to participate in a potential international GovHack 2014!

After GovHack 2013, everyone else was left 23 years behind.

900 hackers x 48hrs hacking = 43,200hrs.
That’s 5,400 eight hour days, or 1,080 weeks.
There are 47 working weeks in a year.

Below is a short talk Pia gave to GovCamp a few days later to wrap up what GovHack is, and how the weekend went. Please note, this audience were government people, not geeks, so she had to explain hackfests from scratch 🙂

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to wrap up this year, celebrate what we did well, review some lessons learnt, focus on ways to support the many clever and awesome hacks from this year, and grow our community here in Australia.

So, without further ado, the team presents our GovHack 2013 report 🙂


GovHack is all about supporting and encouraging hacker culture in Australia with government data. By hacker culture of course, we mean the creative and clever use of tech and geek skills to solve tricky problems and do awesome.

GovHack 2013 was coordinated by volunteers across the country with national and local sponsors to cover costs such as food, bandwidth, venues and printing. Because each location was locally organised, each event had its own flavour, and is a credit to the local team. The event is run as low cost as possible with a focus on getting the best possible experience for participants and outcomes from the competition. There is also a lot of in kind support. The national team coordinated both the Canberra event, the national aspects of GovHack such as the competition, national sponsors and online tools/websites, as well as coordinating GovCamp the following week and the national prizes ceremony. The national and local teams worked very closely, with weekly meetings in the months leading up to the competition, and coordination in the weeks following.

This year we had 1000 participants with 700 competitors distributed across 130 teams in 8 cities. The other 300 included observers, volunteers, mentors and sponsors who were all there to help the teams make the most of the weekend. There were also a lot of people watching and supporting us online from around the world, so thanks to everyone to got involved across the board!

This year we asked teams to submit a video to show off their hack as a condition of the competition. Some people found this task quite daunting, and there was some good discussion afterwards about the value. We feel it was really worthwhile because it took a snapshot of a lot of ideas and made all the hacks far more accessible to judge and to show off the cleverness of the teams more broadly. Although it was a challenge, we provided a lot of advice about how to make a video and most of the teams did brilliantly well at the task.

The weekend kicked off on Friday afternoon, and we had to coordinate across 4 timezones, so thanks to everyone for working so closely together to synchronise. We had some challenges using Google Hangout to connect all the events together, but it came together in the end and it was fantastic to see all the participants across the country getting into the spirit of the weekend.

Several of the teams had special guests to speak at their launch and close events, including the Western Australian Chief Scientist Lyn Beazley.

“It is very encouraging to see State agencies collaborate on how an open government approach can benefit us all,” said Western Australian Chief Scientist Professor Lyn Beazley“The first GovHack Perth has proven to be a valuable way to tap into the tremendous skills we have in Western Australia and inspire new areas of interest from government data. The event saw Western Australian participants push the boundaries of time and technology to create exciting, relevant and cutting edge outcomes that are equally informative as they are entertaining.”

There was a lot of online chatter throughout the GovHack and GovCamp events, with 6400 #govhack tweets just that week:

The (fairly short) GovHack closing ceremony is up at:


The GovHack awards were announced June 6th, at the close of GovCamp. The 4 days between GovHack and GovCamp gave judges a chance to assess the 130 entries closely and come up with winners for all the prizes! All the winners are listed at and all GovHack teams are listed at

There was over $170k in prizes, with the bulk of that being in South Australia. We tried to keep the majority of prizes smaller than last year, with larger prizes available for continuing development, either through developer or entrepreneur prizes. We thought this might result in supporting teams to continue to build on their hacks. We also committed to do a showcase of the best of the projects to the VC and government sectors, again to help get the most from the awesome work of participants. There will be a number of showcase events around the country in August, details to come!

We’ve pulled together a video showreel of hacks from the weekend. Some incredibly creative and at times hilarious videos were submitted, check them out!

YouTube videos:

Vimeo videos:

We also had a couple of video entries on other platforms altogether:



Media & Blogs

We were really pleased to see that GovHack had such a high level of media coverage this year, both in tech and the more mainstream media. A full list of media coverage that we know of is on the GovHack 2013 in the media page and it includes The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, SBS, ABC, PSNews, Computerworld, The Global Mail, ITNews, and a variety of local papers and bloggers around the country.




The Spirit of GovHack Brisbane prize winners went on to help launch CoderDojo Brisbane with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk.

If you know of any other media do please let us know in the comments below!

It was also great to have Ministerial support from a number of jurisdictions, including the South Australian Premier who announced the Adelaide event, and the Western Australian Government who had Ministerial participation as well as the WA Chief Scientist involved.

We even got on SBS 🙂

Lessons Learnt

GovHack is an idea that’s time has come. It will grow even bigger next year so we have to learn from the challenges of this year to keep it awesome. Scaling from 2 cities to 8 was a huge leap, and it took a lot of work on the part of all volunteers and coordinators to make it work. We used a lot of online coordination tools like BaseCamp, Google Hangouts/Docs, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey and other free tools. In Canberra we were lucky enough to use the Gungahlin Library for our weekly meetings, so we had tasty NBN speeds 🙂

Some lessons learnt are below and we’d appreciate your ideas too in the comments below:

  • Always have a backup plan – for instance we found Google Hangout to be was really inconsistent and flaky which affected out ability to connect between sites for the launch and close
  • More communications with participants in the lead up to the event
  • Provide more assistance to teams around the video aspect
  • Get everyone to add their code to the same place in a consistent way
  • Improve virtual machine instructions and tech support
  • Introduce teams to the HackerSpace before the weekend
  • Do followup quicker – this year we had to take time to verify winners, but the team also was exhausted immediately after. We need to ensure we have some volunteers on standby to followup
  • Build on the documentation and artifacts of this year – we can build on the work we did for this year with all the teams. It was a little bit of model building as no one had done something of this scale before, so now we have a load of stuff in place for next year rather than making stuff on the fly
  • More documentation and support for government data custodians – to publish data and engage with the community – this can be done in collaboration with some of the open data initiatives around Australia

Where to from here?

There are a few activities planned from here:

  1. A showcase of awesome GovHack projects, particularly to the VC and government sectors to encourage uptake, support for and adoption of clever ideas from GovHack. We also hope this creates a platform for clever hackers to bootstrap new businesses and projects. The national team are looking to run two showcase events in late August in Canberra and Melbourne. Some local teams are also looking to run smaller showcase events and we will publish details on this site as soon as we have them finalised by the end of July.
  2. We are working with NICTA to further establish the Open Knowledge Foundation Network Australia (OKFNau) as an umbrella body to support GovHack in the future as well as other similar events and community development. We did a soft launch of OKFNau late last year with a basic website and mailing lists, and we will be launching the organisation along with a program for the coming 12 months at the GovHack showcase events in August.
  3. We are very pleased to announce we will be hosting Dr Rufus Pollock from OKFN (UK) in Australia at the end of August. Dr Pollock is credited with being the founder of the raw data movement globally, and has been a strong proponent for open data and open knowledge globally. We will announce details on the OKFNau website in the coming weeks but we are hoping to take him to several cities around the country including Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and potentially more.


Finally, but most importantly, there are some big thank yous. GovHack 2013 could not have been even a shadown of the success it was without the dedication, hard work and general awesomeness of our volunteers, sponsors, and government participants!

The volunteers!

The GovHack National team did the national coordination, competition coordination, Hackerspace platform development and management, national corporate and government sponsors coordination, national media and participant communications, mentor coordination and we also ran the Canberra GovHack local event. A huge thank you to each of the team!

  • Pia Waugh – chief cat wrangler, sponsor liaison, government whisperer, ninja
  • Geoff Mason – communications, deputy cat wrangler, overnight shift in Canberra
  • Gavin Tapp – video guru, venue magician
  • Steve De Costa – Hackerspace, website, AWS tech support
  • Clare Paine – team liaison, all round awesomeness
  • Dean Macaulay – sustenance manager, mentor liaison
  • Alex Sadleir – open data geek, CKAN hacker extraordinaire, developer kit
  • Paul Davis – budget
  • Ana Belgun from NICTA – logistics and accounts. Ana put in a superhuman effort, particularly after GovHack to support the team and keep us on track. Thank you Ana!

Several of the GovCamp volunteers heavily chipped in to GovHack too :

  • Sharen Scott
  • Tom Worthington
  • Alex Roberts
  • Steve Davies
  • Nerida Hart

We had 7 other volunteer teams around the country running 7 additional, unique and locally crafted events. Those teams had a lot of people on the ground helping out, so a huge shoutout to everyone! The GovHack National team would like to give a special thank you to the key organisers in each location:

  • Richard Ferme and Gail Fairlamb in Adelaide – these guys deserve a special commendation for a super human effort with their event!
  • Richard Tubb in Tasmania – Richard managed to pull together an incredible event in a very short period of time, and his event even weathered a fire evacuation, where hackers were continuing their projects sitting in the street!
  • Dave Flanders and Fiona Tweedie in Melbourne – Dave is a veteran hackfest coordinator and these guys ran a fun and exciting event in collaboration with journalists and academics.
  • Nic Templeton and Zane Prickett in Perth – these guys ran a great event that also focused on the awesome Perth startup scene, with incredible outcomes and a great community.
  • Anne Cregan in Sydney – Anne got the research sector involved and the Sydney event had an excellent research focus.
  • Ricky Robinson in Brisbane – Ricky did a great job bridging community, academia and government and the Brisbane event really brought the community together.
  • Tanya Lipus in Gold Coast – Tanya did an incredible job bringing the local city council to run an exceptional event for the Gold Coast.

There were also over 45 Mentors and data custodians who selflessly helped teams around the country! Thank you every one of you for your expertise and support!

The Sponsors!

The National and Local GovHack teams want to extend a warm thank you to all of our corporate sponsors .

In particular our Platinum sponsors: NICTA, the eGovernment Cluster, Microsoft, and Intersect

Thank you also to our Gold sponsors: Palantir, LinkDigital, Linux Australia, Google, Relational IO, Nectar, Amazon Web Services.

We also had a number of Gold level Government sponsors including:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Department of Finance and Deregulation
  • National Library of Australia
  • National and State Libraries Australasia
  • Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
  • National Archives of Australia
  • Geoscience Australia
  • Australian Tax Office

Our other Government sponsors included:


  • Office of Spatial Policy

Australian Capital Territory :

  • The ACT Government

Western Australia

  • Government of Western Australia
  • Landgate
  • Western Australian Land Information System
  • Western Australia Public Transport Authority
  • Department of Agriculture and Food
  • Western Australia Department of Commerce
  • City of Perth


  • City of Gold Coast
  • Brisbane City Council Libraries
  • Queensland Museum

South Australia:

  • Adelaide City Council
  • Government of South Australia
  • State Library of SA


  • Tasmanian Government
  • Glenorchy City Council

New South Wales:

  • NSW Dept of Finance & Services

It is worth noting that the South Australian Government and the Gold Coast City Council in particular put in an enormous amount of resources and support in running their local events, and are to be commended for their commitment to and support of GovHack and open data more broadly.

There were many local sponsors around the country, please click through to your local event to see further details, sponsors and other information.

History and Colophon

The first GovHack was a government sponsored initiative from the Gov 2.0 Taskforce in 2009, and was run by John Allsop and Web Directions. Thank you John for kicking off a movement, and inspiring our imaginations 🙂

A huge shoutout to Yiying Lu who designed the original GovHack logo as part of GovHack 2009. She is also known for her rather famous Fail Whale artwork 🙂 We love your work!

Who’s behind GovHack? This is a non-profit event proudly run by volunteers who form the GovHack Coordination Team. Our ongoing thanks to everyone who gets involved and makes GovHack awesome! That is, the hackers, data providers, sponsors, mentors and a special thanks to the volunteers who run Local GovHack events.
Sponsoring GovHack 2016 If you are interested in sponsoring this event, please contact GovHack Australia at or GovHack New Zealand at
The GovHack Global Operations Team Click through to find us on Twitter and Google+ Richard TubbJan Bryson,  Alex Sadleir, Alysha Thomas, Keith Moss,  Gavin Tapp

Privacy Statement/Disclaimer
GovHack is run under the auspices of Linux Australia.