Whitehorse hackathon finds ways to make government better

The event this week was based on innovators, rather than government officials, thinking of projects that the public wants and needs.

Event based on innovators, rather than government officials, thinking of new ways to serve the public

Nineteen pitches and 10 finished prototypes were the result of a 48-hour hackathon. (Ben Sanders)

Yukonstruct lead organizer Alessia Guthrie said participants "hit it out of the park" at a 48-hour marathon session in Whitehorse, to develop innovative ideas in governance.

Guthrie took part in a panel discussion at NorthLight Innovation on Wednesday, debriefing reporters about the HackYG hackathon last weekend.

The theme of the competition was to improve the workings of the Yukon government, both internally and in providing services to the public.

Nineteen pitches were made by teams entered in the hackathon, with 10 making it to the finished prototype stage, said Guthrie.
Yukonstruct lead organizer Alessia Guthrie says participants 'hit it out of the park.' (Dave Croft/CBC)

She said it's a twist on the government's typical request-for-proposals system.

"This is a little bit upside-down, where we have the individuals thinking, 'OK, what do we think is required,' and building a prototype so they can actually show it off," she said.

Ben Sanders, who was on the seven-member winning team, said they developed an online chatbot that would let the public access government services around the clock.

Government should be more open to ideas from outside innovators, said Sanders.

Ben Sanders is one of the 7-member team that developed the winning prototype in the HackYG. (Dave Croft/CBC)

"Hackathon is kind of a new way for government to access innovative ideas at a much lower cost and to try and experiment and recognize, yes, we may fail with some of them," said Sanders.

"But ultimately some of them will succeed," he said.

The territorial minister for the department of Highways and Public Works, Richard Mostyn, said he thought four or five of the prototypes have potential. He's asking officials to take a look at them.

The government has so far not committed to implementing any of the ideas.