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Information Technology Strategy Team

FWD50 in the open

2020-12-01 - Written by Rachel Muston and Guillaume Charest, in collaboration with the IT Strategy team

FWD50 looked very different this year. From Nov 3-9, attendees and presenters joined the conference virtually, trading the magnificent Pavillion Aberdeen for their couches and home offices. The virtual platform used to recreate the level of energy found in-person was Grip, which provided agenda information and the ability for the users to build up their schedule and setup impromptu networking opportunities to maximize their time during the four-day conference.

Each session had a Vimeo channel where folks could watch the video with closed captioning and workshops used dedicated Zoom rooms to provide interactive features to the participants.

On the side of each session display, a text chat feature allowed participants to share information with each other and ask questions to the presenters, which opened up really interesting discussions and further improved networking opportunities.

During each session, there was also an opportunity for the users to tag a presenter to ask to network with them later.

Outside the main platform, there were virtual breakout rooms where the participants could move their avatar to bump into friends and new acquaintances alike and have the sort of spontaneous conversations that happen at in-person conferences. The services used to create those virtual rooms were Kumospace and Wonder.

The FWD50 team were very upfront at the beginning to say that there will likely be some hiccups along the way, and while there was one or two minor ones, the conference went very smoothly.

And the good news is that while a paid ticket was required to attend, a lot of content was and still is freely available.

Some of the presenters have made their presentations or details of their presentation open:

In a great example of the community working openly, a Google Document was spontaneously created by a FWD50 attendee to capture all the books that were mentioned by speakers. This list of books was shared with all attendees and anyone could add to it when a book was mentioned.

Some articles and other documents/tools that were shared by speakers include:

There were many people who were live-tweeting the event under the #FWD50 hashtag. But if going through all of those tweets feels overwhelming, then there were some standout live tweeters who’s FWD50 feeds are worth checking out:

Note: There many others out there so feel free to let us know of them so that we can update the list!

In addition to live tweeting, Sean Boots recently published a great blog post with reflections on his FWD50 experience called Government is actually a big tech company, they just don’t know it yet.

While the videos from the 2020 FWD50 sessions are not freely available, the FWD50 team has a YouTube page which includes some great free content such as:

  • a video series made in partnership with the Canada School of Public service called FWDThinking. These videos feature the world’s notable public servants, policy-makers and technologists in digital government.
  • Industry Innovations, a collection of breakout sessions, fireside chats and case studies from the private sector

Lastly, as always with FWD50, it is impossible to leave this conference without finding new, interesting people to follow. In addition to the presenters we’ve linked above, some of our new follows include:

  • Yin Yin Lu, a self-proclaimed Rhetoric Doctor, shared with the audience how communication science could very well be more important than political science. She was funny, witty and very engaging with the participants!
  • Denise Williams shared the important work of the First Nations Technology Council and their education programs which are enabling Indigenous communities to fully utilize technology and ensuring that Indigenous voices are actively shaping the technology sector.
  • Dr. Julia Glidden, from Microsoft, who shared how many of the things we are now seeing emerge in the government were concepts she and her peers were trying to promote more than a decade ago!
  • Our very own Minister of Digital Government, the Honourable Joyce Murray, provided a thoughtful keynote and encouraged us to continue our journey towards a truly digital government by building on the critical experience acquired throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
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