AI, Smart Cities and Tech for Good trend in Digital Leaders Week 2019


Written by Robin Knowles, Found and CEO, Digital Leaders

We live in interesting times. 

Digital Leaders Week 2019 comes at an interesting moment for politics in the UK – three years of Brexit debate and discussion has been a massive distraction from digital growth in government and business. In practical terms, this has made it harder than usual to engage ministers and Whitehall departments, as many of the former prepare to run for the vacant post in Number 10.

An occupational hazard perhaps, but looking at the 230 events taking place during DLWeek this year I see that Digital Leaders continues to offer up a UK wide community somewhat immune to the machinations of Whitehall and reflecting an exciting year for digital transformation away from the capital.

In particular there are three new areas that have emerged for the 2019 Digital Leaders Week programme:

The all new DL Cities programme has so far recruited 10 cities from across the UK that can be defined as “Smart Places”. Each of these cities has set up specific programmes that are now delivering digital transformation of their public services and digital economies. The ingredients seem to be consistently capable leadership from the local Council; a strong partnership with local Universities; local business buy-in; and in many cases a public sector push to embrace “GovTech” and new ways of procuring innovation.

Each of the 10 Cities is running a programme of events for Digital Leaders Week, the largest ones being in Birmingham and Newcastle and many more of them are then taking part in the National Digital Conference, ND19: Smart Places on 20th June in London and all are finalists in the Smart Cities category in the DL100. You can check them out here.

This phenomena of city activity feels to me like cities and UK regions are moving ahead with their own digital plans despite the machinations in Whitehall, keen to seize the opportunities of emerging technologies like 5G, Artificial Intelligence and data analytics.

This leads into the second development in Digital Leaders Week 2019 in comparison to 2018.

We have had to add new search categories for the week including “Artificial Intelligence”, “Connectivity”, “Data Analytics” and “Immersive Tech” reflect new interest in different types of tech during the week’s programme of events. 

Of these, AI as a topic has had the most startling rise – completely absent a year ago, Artificial Intelligence is now one of the leading topics for Digital Leaders Week events. It feels like the third wave of digital transformation, and one which holds a whole new set of challenged on top of the in-house digital transformation that many organisations have begun.

AI and Data Analytics do not only refer to how they can be applied, but also concerns about responsible use of data, privacy bias and diversity, as well as the wider ethics necessary to manage their use and development.

This leads me to my final new area of activity during Digital Leaders Week 2019:

This year, we have a great set of “tech for good” events. The rise of tech for good reflects the growing realisation that we should be using tech and investment in a socially positive way, developing products and ideas to fix the unintended consequences of technology as well as societal and environmental challenges.

So why not take part? There are 11 events on Tech for Good so far; over 63 for AI, Data Analytics, Innovation and Immersive technologies; and 26 Smart City or GovTech things to get involved with.

Events are happening all over the country – I am sure there will be several near you, so please take a look at the line up for yourself.

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