Infrastructure > Cloud

G-Cloud purchase drives council hack day

Gill Hitchcock Published 18 September 2012

Suffolk council CIO chief says hack day produced apps based on template purchased through G-Cloud

A hack day organised by Suffolk county council has "created a pipeline of ideas and gives us plenty that we can work from", according to Mark Adams-Wright, the council's chief information officer.

Speaking to Government Computing, Adams-Wright said that the council had issued an open invitation to people to join the hack day, held this summer, and had opened a dedicated hotline for the submission of ideas ahead of the event.

"We had a list of over 50 ideas, and although we shared those with people on the day, we didn't restrict them to those ideas," said Adams-Wright.

"And at the event we had 60 people ranging from the very young to the less young, and skills from professional developers and amateur enthusiasts."

The hack day prize was won by Tom O'Brien, a 17 year old pupil from Suffolk's Woodbridge high school who built an app to provide information about school closures during bad weather or emergencies.

Other apps produced at the event include a Suffolk county council app which provides an RSS feed from the council's website; a 'find your councillor' app, a trading standards app with a link to the mobile version of Trading Standards website; a 'contact us' app intended to help people look up key service contact information; and an app to collect and crowdsource app ideas from the community.

Adams-Wright said: "We are now beginning to explore the potential for putting programming on the syllabus for Suffolk schools. There is a real opportunity for us to get HTML and Java script back into our schools for future generations."

In term of the benefits of the new apps, Adams-Wright said that it is too early to judge. "But what it means is that we now have another mechanism by which we can talk to people in Suffolk and they can contact and talk to us."

All the apps were based on Jadu's Weejot, which allows app templates to be built using HTML5, JavaScript, CSS and frameworks such as jQuery Mobile. Adams-Wright said that one of his colleagues at Socitm, the IT managers' body, had worked with Jadu on Weejot and that "entering the smart phone and app market is something I had wanted to do for a long time".

Suffolk used the government's G-Cloud framework to purchase Weejot, at a cost of £12,000 a year. Adams-Wright said that the purchasing process was "quite simple and it was easy to get hold of the organisations. And we've purchased through it since so it couldn't have been too bad."

He is planning to adopt a "crowdsourcing model" for future apps, and intends to create a portal for the council's specifications which can be accessed by potential developers.

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