by Divina Paredes

NZ gov’t hosts open data hackathon

Aug 15, 2018
APIsBig DataCareers

When a group of GovTech Talent Graduate Programme participants were unable to participate in the annual GovHack, they decided to organise their own event.

They came up with DataLandNZ, where people from diverse backgrounds will get involved with government open data, and create new and interesting solutions to problems and challenges in the public sector.

It will be be held over two days, from 8:30 am to 5 pm on Friday the 31st of August and Saturday the 1st of September, at the head office of the Department of Internal Affairs.

The event proved popular that the registration is already full (for 80 people), with a waitlist.

“We want to celebrate collaboration and innovation in New Zealand government, while getting creative with how we think about and use open data,” says James Cronin,digital leader at ACC.

Cronin, a graduate of biomedical engineering at the University of Auckland, is one of the 2018 GovTech Graduate Programme participants.

“At the beginning of our programme a lot of us in the group were hungry to work on something that overarched the programme as well as doing business as usual work,” says Cronin, who is now the project lead for DataLandNZ.

James Cronin

He hopes the open data hackathon will become an annual event that is tied to the GovTech Graduate Programme.

The graduate programme, now on its third year, invites recent graduates to spend 24 months working in three of the participating government agencies, spending eight months in each.

This year, the Ministry of Justice joins the list of participating agencies – Accident Compensation Corporation, Department of Internal Affairs, Inland Revenue, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Education, New Zealand Transport Agency and StatsNZ.

Cronin says the primary target audience for DataLandNZ was tertiary students and young professionals within and outside the public sector.

He says participants will include people from national government agencies, district councils, Spark and Tenzing.

Cronin says the University of Canterbury is sending students who are enrolled in the masters in applied data science.

“When we talk about open data hackathon, this is a useful group of people to get involved,” he says.

“The hackathon will encourage not just the building of mobile apps or websites, but also other uses of data such as evidenced base policy, data visualisation, news articles and research papers – all based on open government data,” says Paul Stone, Open Government Data Programme leader.

Paul Stone

“Hopefully the students will see the scope and importance of data in a range of possible career paths, not just software/web development.”

DataKind founder Jake Porway talks about how data scientists are applying their skills to tackle social issues

The rise of ‘data for good’

DataLandNZ is launched amidst an environment where NGOs, not for profit and government organisations are trying to be more more data driven in their missions to improve society.

“These organisations often have an implicit mission to improve society. But data collection, use and sharing in support of data and analytics have not been leveraged as part of this mission due to limited funds and expertise,” says Gartner, in a recent report about the rise of the ‘data for good’ movement.

The report, written by Gartner analysts Cindi Howson, Mark A. Beyer, Carlie J. Idoine and Lydia Clougherty Jones, predicts that by 2020, “data for good” will become a standard programme from more than half of data and analytic vendors.

“Data is at the heart of this movement,” they write. “Some of this data may be public data, or collected and generated by public-sector agencies and then made available to the public as part of an open-data initiative.”

“Data and analytics leaders must cross traditional boundaries to use data for good, to better compete for limited talent, and to foster an ethical culture,” reports Gartner.

Analyst firm Forrester also reports on how governments can turn big data into insights and innovation.

“Governments already collect the data they need to make better decisions mdash; then lock it away in organisational silos where it can’t achieve its potential,” note Forrester analysts Rick Parrish, Jennifer Belissent, and Enza Iannopollo.

“Governments must extract and integrate their data and then enable decision-makers to derive insights and deliver value from it. When they do, they’ll become more responsive to the public’s needs, improve both short-term operations and long-term planning, and fuel public innovation.”

Stats NZ CEO Liz MacPherson: ‘We are absolutely focused on unleashing the power of data to change lives’

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