Guest blogger: Kevin Quan of Team Quantified
When I read about the CODE hackathon in the news, I was excited about participating. I’ve been fascinated with using data in novel ways for my entire career and now I had an opportunity to work with the huge amount of data that the Government has collected.
In fact, the sheer amount of data was overwhelming. The theme of the hackathon was “Solving Problems and Increasing Productivity Through the Use of Open Data,” and that helped me to refine my idea. I knew I wanted to help as many Canadians as I could, and I knew I wanted to drive change. After perusing the datasets, I decided that I wanted to tackle road congestion. It is a personal pain of mine, affects a lot of Canadians, and there is a great capacity for improvement.
I have had a lot of experience creating Android apps, and that was a definite advantage for me. I was able to find the datasets I needed quickly, and actually found a dataset that I had initially thought I would need to use through an external Application Programming Interface (gas prices). After that I was able to focus on making a clear and straightforward experience for the consumer.
What was very important to me in my product design was to be able to incite change in Canadians. My strategy was to combine the best of open data with existing research. With ParticipACTION’s help, I realized that only 15% of Canadian adults do enough physical activity to meet Canadian guidelines. I thought it would be compelling to show Canadians the dual benefit of A Healthier Commute: they could cut down costs and live a fitter lifestyle by walking or biking to work. The effect is cumulative—a 10‑minute walk to and from work every day would be enough to meet physical activity guidelines!
After submitting my app, I felt that I had achieved my goal of creating a product that would help Canadians be more productive, and was lucky enough to be picked as one of the top 15 apps! The night of the grand finale was exhilarating. The one piece of advice I have for future participants is to practise your pitch. No matter how much experience you have at public speaking, when you get on stage you’ll be nervous. The added pressure of an all-star crowd listening intently is immense.
Overall, my experience at the CODE hackathon was positive and educational. The hackathon provided me with a platform to build a novel app from scratch, share it with the rest of Canada, and build upon the momentum of feedback that I received. It put me into situations where I was not comfortable, but that’s a good thing—I learned new skills, met new people, and came across new ideas to enrich Canadian society in the 21st century.
Kevin Quan loves building products that use data in interesting and novel ways. His app, A Healthier Commute, was runner-up in the 2014 CODE appathon. He has honed his innovative spirit at Microsoft, IBM and Samsung while developing a passion for mobile applications. Kevin can be reached via his LinkedIn profile.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are not necessarily those of the Government of Canada.