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Not another hackathon

A hackathon less about competition and more about trying to solve someone else's problem.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a hackathon here at Telstra. I know that some readers will be thinking not another hackathon, but this was a hack with a difference.

Sure, it did have its fair share of UX designers and code writers with loads of flashy technology and tools (and the odd crumpler bag). But this hackathon was less about a competition to solve someone else's problem, and more about teams of invested individuals working together to solve a collective problem.

Let me take you through the journey.

In the beginning, the Victorian Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DELWP) asked their employees to put forward ideas on how to improve their organisation - this was known as their ThinkShake program. Given DELWP is focused on making Victoria a more liveable, sustainable and inclusive state, it was important to them to strive for new ways of doing things.

Expecting around 50 ideas, they were stunned when they received 230 plus. The real challenge was turning those ideas into a reality. This can often be the hardest part of innovation. There's no shortage of ideas, but understanding what you are trying to do, and why, then bridging the technology gap with the how is the challenge.

DELWP engaged Telstra, who in conjunction with our partner Tigerspike, worked with them to refine those 230+ ideas into the top 5.

Then the hack fun began...

Over two days on 29-30 June at the Telstra Gurrowa Innovation lab, we took the five ideas and put them through a process of rapid development to come out with a workable prototype.

The five concepts included:

1. THE BASECAMP ASSISTANT - An application that assists DELWP staff to set up and administer base camps during serious bush fire events.

2. BOOMERANG - An application that connects staff with the resources available to them in the Department when and where they need it.

3. Digitising Crown Land information and making it more readily available for staff and the public.

4. Providing a digital experience that enhances public participation in various Department initiatives.

5. UP - Better together - An application that looks to monitor and improve the wellbeing of staff and their subsequent engagement at work.

Needless to say, the event was a huge success! The hackathon provided a perfect opportunity to expedite the implementation of five key mobility ideas. The teams were amazing innovating and developing slick working prototypes in less than two days.

But what I found to be just as impressive, was DELWP demonstrating what it means to be an agile, forward thinking government department.

We may all have a little politics fatigue of late but I think the message is pretty clear at all levels on the need for government departments and agencies to innovate and digitise in order to improve citizen engagement, reduce costs and move our cities into the future.

This was reinforced by the Australian Productivity Commission, who has recommended that the federal government acknowledge and embrace 'digital disruption.' While historically the view has been that governments are inherently slow in applying digital technologies, the commission said that digital technologies, if adopted well, could fundamentally change the way that governments operate.

Given the general perception that government is slow to adopt digital transformation, it was incredibly refreshing to work with DELWP to 'hack' their ideas and create some tangible and actionable prototypes on everything from asset utilisation to disaster recovery. It is amazing what a group of dedicated people from various organisations, departments and teams, all working together to an outcome can achieve in 36 hours.

Go to Telstra Exchange for more mobility.