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24

Aug

GovHack: what can be done in 46 hours…

“You've got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs.

At a recent event we got a chance to follow Steve Job’s advice in every respect. Our Data Insights team and a couple of others participated in a hackathon called GovHack NZ 2015. No wait; we didn’t hack anyone. But along with 1,200 diverse participants, we did help the New Zealand Government solve real social problems with open data. Open data is any data or content that can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone. A few examples are data published by Government like population statistics, weather data, crime data, etc.

The Challenge

In 46 hours, we had to identify a problem, conceptualise the solution, identify the technology, set up infrastructure, build the solution and, finally, present it in a video.

After some intense brainstorming and suggestions from mentors, we reached a consensus that we wanted to help people during a civil emergency. We named our team Tremorz and, as we do at the start of any project, defined a problem statement.

Intergen at GovHack 2015

Left to Right: Paul Bridgman, Priyanka Roy, David Preece, Jo Booth, Priyanka Patel, Saipriya Govardhana & Bridget Phillips (not in picture) 

Our Problem Statement

During a civil emergency:

1)       There is no single platform where people can seek information
2)      There is lack of community collaboration and people helping each other

Our Solution

We built a mobile application that combines data from different sources like social media (Facebook, Twitter) and publicly available data like locations of community centres, water resources, traffic, and weather feeds. The application allows users to input their needs as well as any supplies they are willing to share with their community. It also allows users to register themselves and their families so they can be updated on each others’ safety during an emergency.

Persona & Scenario

We built our solution bearing in mind a fictional user called Sally. Sally is a single mum with a 10 year old son, Dan. Sally is at home and has just experienced an earthquake while Dan is still at school. What does Sally do?

Sally has our new app called iHelp on which she has registered herself and Dan. So now she can track Dan and his location using the app. Dan can also mark himself as ‘safe’ so his mum knows he is okay. Sally can also use the traffic and weather feeds to find the quickest and safest route to get to Dan’s school. She picks Dan up from school and they find their way home.

A few days later, there is still a state of emergency and Sally is running low on water, essential for drinking, washing and cleaning. She uses the app to reach out to her community and registers her needs. She also wants to help the community, so lists the supplies she’s willing to share, which include canned food and blankets.

Sam, another survivor using iHelp, has an artesian well in his back yard and lives only a few minutes away from Sally. He lists his supplies on the app. Sally is directed to Sam and contacts him using the private messaging function. Sam and Sally get together and help each other.

Future Vision

iHelp can be used as a single source by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management to broadcast information to the public. The integration platform and API used between the database and the app allows the plugging in of other information sources as well as alerts. It can be further developed to foster community collaboration during any event such as flooding, fire, landslides – even a zombie apocalypse :)

A big thank you to the event organisers for bringing people together and giving us the opportunity to innovate. And also for placing us third in the Best Open Government Data Hack category.

Posted by: Priyanka Roy, Head of Data & AI | 24 August 2015

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