Health promotion

What health promotion can learn from GovHack

What can health promotion gain from participating in GovHack?

What can health promotion gain from participating in GovHack?

The Zockmelon team are big fans of The Apprentice UK, the version with the gruff-but-with-a-heart-of-gold Lord Alan Sugar.

On the reality show, contestants work in teams bickering and sorting out their pecking orders in order to achieve something that would normally take months of work in an ordinary business environment.

The closest thing to this for us was Unleashed Adelaide, the South Australian event for GovHack 2013. We had under 48 hours to complete a technical solution (such as an app or website) using data ‘unleashed’ by Government departments.

However, GovHack represents far more than a competition.

For people working in public health and health promotion, GovHack could be a possible solution to those ‘wicked problems’ that we are up against.

The health promotion sector is really not comfortable with having solutions identified by the private sector. For health, the private sector is almost the enemy (e.g. tobacco, alcohol and fast food industry) or at least not coming from the same perspective (e.g. fitness industry, private health insurance industry). Health departments are used to identifying their own solutions, at best informed by evidence from research, at worst identified on a whim. The concept that digital entrepreneurs can develop innovative solutions to social problems is challenging and may take some time to get comfortable with. I think that the buzz and momentum around GovHack has been really important in planting a seed amongst decision makers that there may be ideas and collaboration in unexpected places. As quoted in this article from UniSA:

Perhaps an important aspect of the event was in bridging the gap between the amount of information the government has and the public’s ability or desire to access it.  “Data is the iron ore of the digital age, is an increasingly important community asset held by government,” the Department of Premier and Cabinet spokesperson said.

By making information more readily accessible, the Unleashed event helped the collaboration between all levels of government and the wider community.  “Our aim is that Unleashed will act as a catalyst to demonstrate how releasing government held data can benefit the community and stimulate innovation, particularly among young entrepreneurs.”

Zockmelon’s entry used data on cycle paths, walking trails, parks and playgrounds using the premise that people could discover hidden gems in their communities and keep active, without the need for gyms or organised sporting teams.

Several other teams also selected recreation data also which says that even hackers can see the need to create solutions for staying connected and keeping active.

Screenshot of the LocalActive app created over a weekend for GovHack 2013.

Screenshot of the LocalActive app created over a weekend for GovHack 2013.

You can see our entry at While we’d do many things differently with the benefit of hindsight we’re pretty happy just to have completed an entry… especially given we were a team of two wrangling a toddler over a weekend and a pregnancy!

So if your organisation is faced with a problem, issue, health concern or whatever it may be, think about the importance and possibilities of an open government approach.  You never know what ideas and innovations could be generated.

Zockmelon won in the category ‘Safe Communities, Healthy Neighbourhoods (DPTI)’. We also received an honourable mention for ‘Best use of Local Government Data (LGA)’ category.
We would like to thank the amazing organisers of UnleashedADL and GovHack 2013.

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