TH.0 GovTech Hackathon: Day One

Sorry for the long post! There was just so much going on, and I thought you’d all like to share in the experience.

8 am 

Good morning! Ok, so I had a late night and completely messed up with my plan to get up bright and early. So I quickly jump on the morning Zoom call from bed. From the number of people who had their cameras turned off during that zoom call, I expect I wasn’t the only one dialling in from bed.


So the morning zoom call is finished, and I’ve finally dragged myself out of bed. I am dressed. My laptop is turned on. Time to get back to work. 

I dial into the team zoom, and two of the other team members are already in the middle of a discussion.

This particular conversation sets the tone for our morning. The UX specialist highlighted that he didn’t think that what we came up with last night addressed a specific enough issue for us to solve.  

As a developer, I am the first to admit I am not familiar with starting a project from scratch. Generally, I am interpreting work which a Business Analyst or Product Owner has already decided.

Thankfully the person who highlighted the issue also had some exercises to help us solve it. By solving it, I mean pinpoint one specific pain point for voters we wanted to address.


Now it was time for our first Key Speaker. Speakers are a common trend that I’ve seen in hackathons. I always jump out of work mode to attend these talks because it gives me a break with a quick context switch, but I will still learn something new.

This talk was by Richard Hallewell from Government Blockchain Association.

Though I went into the talk with no real understanding of blockchain, it was an exciting talk. I was excited hearing about the benefits of using blockchain within diplomacy and how governments can use it to protect against voter fraud and even increase population participation in politics by voting on important matters.


Back on the team zoom. After we have finished the exercises, we feel like we have a better idea of a specific pain point and address it. Before we broke off for the key speaker, we tried to determine what kind of information should draw a user to the app. Now it was time to (hopefully) conclude that debate.

Initially, four of us were on the call, and now another member of the team jumped on the zoom call. As a team, we paused the conversation to bring him up to speed. We explained the changes that we had decided on that morning. 

Again this caused another discussion, which was good because it allowed us to see the decisions from someone else’s perspective and address any pointers that we had not considered. One point the newest arrival brought up was rewarding users for interacting with the app to engage them.

Rewarding users was something that we had discussed last night. It had initially been a significant aspect of our app. However, this morning’s discussion made us realise that we had decided the problem around the app features that we wanted – rather than considering the issue and then decide how we could solve it. We had been putting the cart before the horse essentially.

So while the reward system was something we did want to introduce, we agreed it was not something that the app would require for the minimal viable product (MVP).

Listening to this conversation was a great experience because it highlighted a crucial hurdle in hackathons: we don’t have the time to develop a full-blown application. We need to consider the resources and time frame.

12.30 pm

It’s time for our second speaker. Wow, this morning is flying by! This time we are hearing from Walter Pasquarelli, who is a Policy Advisor at Oxford Insights. He spoke to us about how other countries are approaching GovTech and how essential incubating startups in this sector is becoming.

He highlighted the key point about making everything user-friendly and improving the experience for ‘lazy’ users (who wants to go through all the hassle of setting up their Government Gateway ID?). 


We’re back. We have some ideas for the page layouts. We discuss moving our thoughts from Mural to Trello cards to tidy things up. We have someone take on that role. Us developers agree we have enough to get started with coding. 

I am starving so time for lunch.

Oh no, we still need a team name!


I’m back from lunch. Unfortunately for the team, I gave us a random team name while they were all on a break, but there doesn’t seem to be an outrage. I missed the third keynote speech but TH.0 record each slot so I’ll check that out in a bit.

I dial back into the team zoom call, and again, I appear to be turning up in the middle of another debate. This time we’re setting up user stories and acceptance criteria. It’s vital that everyone, especially the developers, are clear on what we want to build. 

However, we have less than 24 hours before the submission deadline, and things start getting tense. When some people want to jump on coding, others want to stick to prototypes, while some want to continue pinning down the key points. Unfortunately, when you’re working on such a short timeline, these conversations will start cropping up quite often.


Do you have those moments when you hear yourself saying something before your brain has fully engaged? I’ve been working for too long. Let me tell you; I would have never expected as a C# developer who is most comfortable figuring out SQL databases to hear myself saying “let’s stick with the MERN stack”.

But here we are.

I’ve volunteered to take on the backend and database side of things for this hackathon. It’s nothing too intense since obviously we are less than a day away now (and I will be going to bed in about 6 hours). I’m not too worried. But, at the same time, who even am I anymore?


Just as we all separate to our breakout rooms, there is the fourth and final keynote speaker of the weekend.

This time around we’re getting pitch-perfect notes from Somdip Dey from Nosh Technologies. He even gets us warmed up with an energy booster chant at the beginning of the talk.    


The hackathon is getting serious now because it’s time to get coding. We all jump on a team Zoom call before the MERN specialist and me go to our coding breakout room. Having the breakout room was great because we didn’t bore the designers with how many questions I had about setting up a MongoDB collection.


Now the database has been filled with some dummy data; I’ve jumped back in with the design team. The other developers are figuring out the database and codebase connections. 

The design team is working on branding after another company had already taken our initial product name.  

Time to brainstorm all the ways you can mix and match “vote” and “politics”.      


Things are moving quickly. We’ve settled on a name, and I’m back on the code. We realised that we didn’t have models set up for the data side of things, so we fixed that. Next, we’ve decided to test if the calls work with Postman.      

We’ve also a preview of the logo the designer is creating. If we don’t manage the code side of things, I think we should win this just for the creative side.  


We’ve started on the presentation. 

We’ve agreed on the logo.

We have successfully connected the database to the code.

Time for a one-to-one session with TH-0’s CEO and Joshua the co-host.


Wow that meeting was high. Especially for this hour of the night! I am ready for a nap, and Sarah, the CEO, is so excited about our idea. It was great to hear such positive feedback and some great ideas to ponder tonight to expand on our app idea. 

Going off the team’s feeling in the Zoom team call right now, I think everyone has caught up in the positivity.


Ok I know I’m going to be lazy, but hey, I’m calling it a night this early. I want to get up and be focused bright and early for the big day tomorrow. Fingers crossed that those doing the “night shift” will have some fun and we’ll wake up to some significant progress.

But to be honest, I have no doubt we’re going to do well tomorrow.

One response to “TH.0 GovTech Hackathon: Day One”

  1. […] me had to be the TH.0 Hackathon. If you missed out on the posts, then you can check them out here: Day 1, Day 2, Awards. It was a massive boost to my confidence in taking part in that weekend, and it made […]

    Liked by 1 person

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