Youth Tackle Hobart Transport Issues Head-on with Tech
by Lilian Koch
Sam Campbell led his team to victory last year at the Tasmanian GovHack awards with their project MyBus, an app designed to improve the user experience with public buses.
GovHack is an annual competition in which participants have 46 hours to form a team and pitch and create a project using public government data. The MyBus app team hope to remove some of the barriers people face when catching public buses.
How did the idea for the MyBus App come about?
On my way to the GovHack meet and greet, I was catching an Uber. And the reason I was catching an Uber was because I had attempted to catch the bus and missed it! Even though there was a timetable in front of me, there was no way to know whether I would actually get there on time. Here in Australia, taking the car is the vehicle of choice. So, any minor degree of friction between just finding out where your bus is, is going to discourage people from taking public transportation. If you take any ride-sharing service, there’s a map telling you where your vehicle is in relation to you. It gives you a degree of comfort knowing that it’s on its way, or if there are any problems. If you reduce as much friction for the user and just give people that sense of knowing where the bus is, they’re less likely to opt out.
The MyBus team ended up coming first place in the GovHack Awards last October. Since then, what’s been happening and what is the plan from here?
We reached out to the Minister for Transport, Michael Ferguson, and also to places like Secret Lab, which is a very successful local STEM incubator and developer. We’ve also recently been contacted by MetroTas, after we enquired about the prospect of having a discussion with them about how this could be implemented in the upgrading of their entire system.
As seen in our research, MetroTas are currently overhauling their system, but it just never seems to have taken that leap to actually implement the change. So hopefully this will act as an impetus to make that happen, fuse these two things together, and make a real impact. We’re trying to make contact with other people and communities to try and elevate it to become real.
We would like funding, and we’re inviting different stakeholders to have this discussion to make this idea a reality. It’s still very early days, but in the fullness of time it would be good to actually develop it into a trial.
When I was discussing it with Minister Ferguson, we floated that idea about trying to take it to the next step. Currently it’s still very much in its prototype phase, but we want to take it to the next step and implement it into proof of concept. We’re very excited because this could potentially change the environmental, social cultural fabric of Hobart, and potentially Tasmania.
Will you compete in GovHack again this year? What advice would you give to people who want to try it out?
I’m definitely going to join GovHack again this year. I feel like the spirit of GovHack is to try different things and work with different people in the STEM community and ICT (Information Communication Technology) community, and all the citizen programmers, and even people who are just interested. You cultivate cool networks, and in the future who knows what will happen?
You get to know new people, team up, and ideas just spark. It’s kind of like blind dating and people just show up. When you’re working on any project, you’re not always going to be with your friends, you’re going to be with people from different areas of expertise. You have to learn on the fly and work your way around problems. It adds a certain sparkle to the whole thing, like there’s a degree of invigorating spirit to it. It’s something where everyone brings their skills and abilities.
You don’t have to be in ICT, you don’t have to know any coding or programming or STEM. As far as I’m concerned it’s a box of magic, so it is for anyone who is interested and wants to participate. Artists, film-makers, animators, musicians, dancers, anyone can participate, and it allows for a fascinating combination.