At DVLA, we’re constantly searching for innovative ways to make our digital services better for our customers.
We’ve hosted hackathons since 2014, including the botathon in 2019, to test new ways of applying technology within public services. At our recent virtual hackathon event, we collaborated and shared ideas with colleagues from across government.
I had the pleasure of hosting this year’s event, and we had some fantastic new designs and prototypes on show. So let’s take a look at them!
Building and exploring new ideas
Usually, our hackathons take place in open spaces, such as our Richard Ley Development Centre, which hosted our ‘Hack to the future’ event back in 2019. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), we had to meet virtually this year – but we had just as much fun!
Attendees were split into 7 teams with members from each organisation. The teams had 24 hours to develop a prototype of a new service using any technology they wanted, with data sets provided by DVLA, DVSA, and DWP. Most attendees hadn’t met each other before, so it was a great opportunity to learn new skills, network, and gain fresh insights.
It also allowed us to share best practice and exchange ideas on how to improve public services, and our ways of working, with other areas of government. So what was the result?
Pitches and winners
After everyone had finished hacking, the teams pitched their ideas to the judging panel, which included our very own Brian Sullivan, DVLA Chief Technology Officer; Loveday Ryder, DVSA Chief Executive Officer; Tom Padgham, DWP Deputy Director for Engineering; and Tina Churcher, DVSA Head of Digital Services.
I’m proud to say that each winning team had 2 members from DVLA. Here are the winners!
Best idea went to Team MOT BOT for creating a service to check the reliability of an MOT centre. Users would be presented with information about the centre, such as the total number of MOTs carried out, how many passes, and the most common car type tested.
The team wanted to provide people with the ability to see reliable information on their local garage, with the aim of making garages more inclusive and welcoming to people who don't know much about cars.
Team Car Crash won best pitch after designing an app to assess the safety of travelling in a car with a particular driver. Using non-sensitive data, the team showed how users would type the driver’s name into a field box, and the driver would be given a safety score from green to red.
The team gave a great pitch, explaining how the app would provide the safety score based on factors such as age, penalty points and licence type. This would allow people to obtain a quick and user-friendly summary of a driver before travelling in their vehicle.
Best use of technology
The Unfortunate Family had the best use of technology, having created an interactive ‘Family Fortunes’ style game. Using MOT test results data, the team were able to generate facts, such as the top 6 vehicles most likely to fail an MOT, and present these as questions for us to guess. We had great fun with this one!
The judges wanted to see something surprising and unique, and Team GreenShip delivered! They created a service for users to calculate their car’s carbon footprint. The team wanted to provide users with a summary of a vehicle’s environmental impact over one year. This was calculated using DVLA vehicle emissions data and DVSA annual mileage data.
And finally, the overall winners were the Magnificent MOT Mystics! In a fun and engaging pitch, the team came up with a website to predict whether a car would pass or fail its next MOT. After entering their registration number, users would get a simple ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ as the outcome.
To create the service, the team trained a basic machine learning model on MOT test results, all in the space of 24 hours. A suitably ‘magnificent’ achievement!
A dynamic, digital organisation
Congratulations to all the winners and everybody who took part in this year’s event – there were some amazing ideas and prototypes developed! I’d also like to thank DVSA and DWP for their support in planning and delivering the event, as well as our technology suppliers. We aim to use the knowledge and skills we’ve gained from this year’s event to improve our services going forward.
It’s vital that we, as an agency, keep up with the latest technologies to allow us to continually improve our services. After all, technology is constantly progressing and it’s important that we progress with it. It’s also really important to invest in the development and skills of our staff to ensure we have a pipeline of digital talent in the agency. That’s why we’re committed to ensuring DVLA is a dynamic, digital organisation.