Open Guelph Hackathon: The Winners!

Staff memo.

As you know the first ever Open Guelph Hackathon was held this past weekend to commemorate International Open Data Day. Open Data Hackathons are a fantastic and tangible example of what open government is all about – in this case, the City worked as a platform to support and empower the community to leverage our resources in order to create value for the City at large.

In just 4 weeks our Open Data Team was able to liberate and publish 19 data sets to our Open Data Catalogue. This nearly doubled what we had hoped for and is an amazing achievement for such a short time frame. The data within this catalogue served as the raw materials to support the Hackathon challenge. The event was run for 24 straight hours and produced seven highly creative applications. Several teams worked through the night to pour their passion and creativity into the code. Based on live team demonstrations, the judges – Mayor Farbridge, Jamie Doran (Innovation Guelph), Brydon Gillis (349) and Ast. Prof. Rozita Dara, UofG Computer Science – used set evaluation criteria to determine the winners…

• The first place winner of $2,500 was George Mavroidis who developed “Guelph Transit”, an iPhone application to assist Guelph Transit riders to easily navigate bus schedules while on the move. The application will be made available via the apple app store by mid-March. This app is very intuitive and leverages the iPhone’s geo-locator to find transit options in the user’s immediate proximity. It can also be downloaded for use offline if there is no cell/data connection available. With a bit more development work on the backend and with the City’s release of related GPS data, this application could be enhanced to provide users with the real-time status of transit options notifying them of any delays or adjustments to arrival times. This app is clean, simple to use and will be highly valuable to Guelph residents.

• Second place and $1,500 was awarded to Greg Klotz who developed “Contacts @ Guelph”, a cross-platform utility that allows people to search for City of Guelph employee email contact information. The contact info data which was used to create the application was not fully populated, so only those staff with email addresses can be searched. This is a very important by-product of challenges like this – they become a way to identify gaps in City data which then allows us to enrich the information for our own benefit and to increase the value of applications built around it.

• The third place team, Electric Sheep (Jason Ernst and Carlos Jsaav), was awarded $1,000 for the development of “myCity”, an application which allows individuals to discover and travel to interesting locations within Guelph and receive points by doing so. The app integrates with Google maps and Facebook allowing users to share their travel logs with their networks and compete with others who are also discovering Guelph. Gamification has become a very powerful way to engage users and incentivise participation and this app uses it very well.

The City’s BETA catalogue and the Open Guelph Hackathon were both pilot initiatives designed to test and learn what is hoped will become a substantiated program for the City to manage and the community to support. The value derived from this pilot far exceeded the nominal investment made to host the event and the time spent to recruit local sponsors (Cowen Insurance, Innovation Guelph, Chamber of Commerce etc.). The Open Government Action Plan will likely recommend the implementation of a more robust open data program which will not only support a more streamlined focus with respect to managing the data publication process it will also create an environment where challenge events like this will become wholly sponsored and organized by the community.

I want to take this time to thank the University of Guelph, the City’s Open Data Team, the ET, the DRLT and all of the other staff who worked within very tight timelines to support the publication of the catalogue and make this event happen. I was truly inspired not only by the amazing support we received from staff but also the community. Over the weekend I was approached by a number of participants as well as observers at the event asking what they could do to help support future events. This work is tapping into a very driven, creative and talented segment of our community and we look forward to empowering them to help solve our common challenges and create value for Guelph residents.

Over the next few months we will be working with the community to co-produce our Open Government Action Plan. Our design process will be fully transparent and will leverage a number of different ideation tactics to reach as far into the community as possible. I look forward to updating Council in the near future to highlight what I feel is a truly innovative engagement and design process completely unique to government.