In the final year of a Bachelor of Information Technology, Septian Razi and his classmates took part in one of the world’s largest open data competitions: GovHack. He reflects on the rewarding hackathon experience, where teams spent an intensive 48 hours working on projects that make life better through open data.
Over a weekend, five friends and I got together to participate in one of the world’s largest open data competitions, GovHack. From 6-8 September, teams from around Australia and New Zealand were challenged to use public datasets in creative ways to solve problems.
Essentially, we had 48 hours to discover, explore, plan and develop a piece of technology. Not an easy feat.
The ACT 2019 competition was conveniently held on our very own Australian National University (ANU) campus. We had six people in our team, all from the College of Engineering and Computer Science. My teammates were Chinmay, Cecilia, Robert, Yutong, and Konstantinos (last names?).
We jokingly named ourselves the ‘ANU Hacky Bois’, promising ourselves we won’t forget to change our names before the project submission (spoiler alert: we forgot).
The most challenging part of the experience was on the first evening. At 6pm on Friday, the public datasets were released, and our first step was to come up with an idea to utilise them. With hundreds of datasets available of vastly differing qualities, this was not easy. Staying up very late into the night, we looked at multiple datasets, discussed categories, and bounced around several ideas before deciding on our final project: Emboiable.
Emboiable works by combining data drawn from the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, and crowd-sourced Cost of Living (COL) data. It creates a cohesive description of current and future labour markets, and visualises them through a Flask web-application. This would allow people to better visualise their future career opportunities. It highlighted the future projected growth of a certain career in a given geographical location, while also showcasing other additional factors like the cost of living in the area.
Many young people fresh out of high school need to make life-defining decisions about their careers. The truth is many well-known jobs may no longer be in demand when they are ready to enter the workforce and in contrast, other jobs may experience significant growth.
In addition, high paying careers may be preferable at face value, but when coupled with a high cost of living this may make it a less reasonable option.
The existing solutions are able to showcase future career prospects, but tend to represent whole countries or the world. We want to be able to determine these trends on a local level, so that young people can visualise their career options, and prospective places to live.
A month later, we received invitations to the GovHack International Red Carpet Awards. Teams from Australia and New Zealand alongside government and industry sponsors were present, and several teams displayed their work. Our project, Emboiable, placed as runner up in the National ATO for Individuals Award. Our project also received an honourable mention at the Western Australia Class of 2025 Award.
Overall, the Hackathon was a great experience. It gave us an avenue to apply the knowledge and skills we had developed in our classes – from programming, to design, teamwork, and working to strict deadlines.
In hindsight, it was impressive what our team accomplished in 48 hours, and winning an award for it was even better! In the future, our team hopes to compete in more hackathons.