GovHack Hamilton networked by open source FAUCET

You are only as free as the tools you use. This notion articulates a key challenge of our times. We are surrounded by tech, it permeates our work, play and homes. This means that the basic freedoms to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are somewhat constrained to the digital literacy of individuals.

This is in part why open source is so important. It empowers individuals and communities to become makers and creators in their own destinies. It is a way to support collaborative competitive and even the playing field whilst also creating transparency and openness in the systems that surround us, many of which we need to be able to trust.   

GovHack is an awesome opportunity to explore and experiment with government data to improve the lives of New Zealanders. But it is also a chance to collaborate on the sorts of systems we want to build in the future. As such, open source and transparency are the lifeblood of GovHack and our community.

But what about the networks we use? How do they shape the world we live in? Most people blindly trust the network but how can the network support or undermine freedom? We ask all GovHackers to consider the full extent of how the tools they use support freedom, for geeks and our non-geek communities, and how we can build trust into the network through openness and transparency.

GovHack Hamilton is the first GovHack event hosted on a network controlled by open source software, Faucet. Faucet is an open source SDN (Software Defined Network) application that made it easy to spin up a brand new network for general members of public to join to for the duration of GovHack, rather than trying to authenticate these users on the University of Waikato corp network, which means people can spend more time on their project.

Faucet is a New Zealand project, that began at the University of Waikato and at REANNZ, and has spread internationally. Faucet can control both software and hardware network devices (so supports high performance networking, and switches from vendors like Allied Telesis, HP, and NoviFlow) and includes built in automated test features. Being open source as well as easy to test, Faucet enables operators to quickly and safely introduce new network features - most networks today are not open source and do not have automated testing. Being able to deploy changes rapidly, safely, and securely using SDN software like Faucet is important as network security and transparency concerns are increasing for all Internet users.

Finally, we’d like to thank a few companies who made this project possible by providing their support. Thanks to our hardware partners Allied-Telesis and HP Enterprise/Aruba for providing faucet compatible network switches to build the physical network. Thanks to REANNZ who provided a generous amount of Internet bandwidth to ensure attendees could quickly download datasets for their project. Thanks to the University of Waikato for hosting our Hamilton GovHack site again this year and helping us extend our network between multiple buildings by connecting our faucet SDN network to their corp network and demonstrating interoperability of the SDN network with a traditional network.


Author credit:

Brad Cowie

WAND Group, University of Waikato, NZ