MovEd targets inefficient public services with hackathon

· The Pulse

When Mykola Holovetskyi tried to board an Edmonton Transit Service bus for the first time, the recent newcomer from Ukraine didn't have cash or an Arc card but instead only his credit card on his phone. What happened next prompted a big idea.

"I thought, 'OK, probably they have tap-to-pay or something like that; I could probably use my credit card to pay,'" Holovetskyi told Taproot. "But unfortunately, no, I couldn't do that. I had to buy either a paper ticket or get myself a plastic card. This is a significant gap in the adoption of modern technology, so I wanted to bring a change to that."

The experience gave the founder of startup community MovEd the idea to hold a govtech hackathon that targets transforming some of these anachronisms into processes that work for more people.

Why do you have to call Edmonton's Dedicated Accessible Transit Service to add a new destination, and why isn't there real-time tracking for users to see where their bus is during the pickup window? Why does the Canadian Revenue Agency still send security codes through snail mail? Could innovation improve Alberta's emergency alert test system?

Holovetskyi, a tech entrepreneur who specializes in digital transformation for both the private and public, has planned the govtech hackathon for March to address these problems. All challenges are on the table. "We plan to tackle all the levels of government," he said.

And any innovations created could be used in Alberta or other jurisdictions across the country, Holovetskyi said. "If they can improve services here, they can improve services somewhere else."

A picture of an Edmonton Transit Service ticket machine. The screen says "Press any button to START".

MovEd founder Mykola Holovetskyi, who moved to Edmonton from Ukraine, was surprised he couldn't purchase transit fare with his credit card. The experience prompted him to create a govtech hackathon, which runs in March. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Holovestkyi first moved from Ukraine to Toronto in February 2023, but next moved to Edmonton a few months later in May. He said he was attracted by the lower cost of living but has found the city welcoming, and he thinks the local tech community fosters innovation.

"The hackathon is a way to build this community, to get those people together in one room, so they can work on some projects and show them to other people," he said.

MovEd is looking for participants, panel speakers, sponsors, and volunteers for the event. Those interested are invited to reach out to Holovetskyi.

"We want to build cool stuff here," Holovetskyi said. "We want to make life easier for each other. The idea of the hackathon is building a robust community centred around technological changes."

Fittingly, the original challenge Holovetskyi encountered that inspired him to act remains in place. On Jan. 9, Edmonton Transit Service announced in a release that it is extending the expiry date of its legacy paper tickets until Dec. 31, as part of "the continued implementation of the regional Arc fare payment system."

MovEd took over Edmonton Tech Wednesdays at the end of 2023. Holovetskyi will be the new host of the weekly tech meetup at GRETA Bar.