Reflections on a week of national digital transformation

Written by Robin Knowles, CEO, Digital Leaders

We have been giving out the headline data from DLWeek which finished last Friday. Figures like 72,544 sessions booked; 53% female audience;  and 45% Public to 35% private sector delegates all give a sense of the scale and nature of the audience, but I wanted here to pick out some highlights from amongst the 280 events and over 400 speakers taking part during the week.

It all started on Monday morning, when we got off to a truly national start as we were joined by all four nation’s Ministers with Digital in their portfolio to officially launch DLWeek 2020

In Whitehall the week was launched by Caroline Dineage, Minister for Digital and Culture and she was followed by formal launches of the programme in the three home nations. By Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Public Finance and Migration for Scotland; Lee Waters MS, Digital Minister for Wales; and Conor Murphy, Finance Minister for Northern Ireland. We also heard from our headline partners Sage, Nominet and AWS.

I hope you agree and a great way to get going, but my second highlight was the Young Digital Leaders Conference on Tuesday. Each year in the Digital Leaders 100 list we unearth 10 talented members of the UK’s digital community aged between 16 and 30. This exceptional group, now numbering 40, is only the tip of an iceberg of young talent making its way into careers across the UK and in all sectors of UK life. The very first Young Digital Leaders Conference was an inspiring event with speakers including Vimla Appadoo, Jack Parsons, Ben Towers and this year’s YDL winner Reem Talhouk. The event was supported by GMCA and we hope to be in Manchester in-person next year for the second conference.

Each evening during the week we held an Annual Lecture. Pre-covid we normally do this in Parliament in Whitehall, but being an online week meant we could gather each evening in the  #Digilounge to hear from a leading thinker from each of the home nations. 

These lecturers included: new CBI Director General Tony Danker; Professor of Cyber in Edinburgh Bill Buchanan; the author of Wales’ new education strategy, Professor Tom Crick;  and from Northern Ireland, Health Service’s CTO, Dan West

Quite a line-up and thank you to all of them and the panels of experts that followed their lectures for their great insights into Digital transformation across the UK.

DLWeek in Wales this year included a “Tech Fest for Social Good” run by DLWales partners Wales Co-operative Centre. The week of events focussed on tech’s positive potential for social good, with charities, social enterprises, voluntary and community groups sharing how they have changed the way they operate in order to survive and thrive during this difficult period. Do watch back some of the sessions.

In the South West, we had “The Festival of the Future”. So many great events were run over the five days designed to cheer us all up by combining fun and learning to share the programmes and inspiring ideas and good stuff that’s currently happening digitally in Dorset. A great week and focus on our DLSouth West region.

On Thursday we gathered for the 8th time to find out who the winners of the DL100 2020 are. 

It was of course the first time the awards have been virtual, but I really would urge you to watch back the DL100 Awards with comedian Ian Malone and the voice of Strictly Come Dancing, Alan Dedicoat for sheer entertainment. We also managed to have quite an online afterparty in the #Digilounge. Congratulations again to all the winners.

This year we were offering DLWeek Badges to all our participants who attended the top talks for them selected by us and our partners. We had a Business badge supported by Sage; a Public Sector badge in partnership with MHCLG; and a Non-Profit badge in partnership with the great team at Catalyst. 

It’s too late now to earn your 2020 badge, but do still click on the links above to see the talks chosen by us and our partners for these badges and watch them back. We awarded 180 badges overall during the week. Congratulations to all those who qualified.

Finally, thanks are due to the 280 event holders and 400 speakers who gave their time and expertise for free for the Week and to you the 6,600 delegates taking part. Also to our headline partners Sage, Nominet and AWS without whose support the week would not have been as amazing as it was and to our regional partners and topic partners Spectrum Internet, BT, LBG, MadeTech, Anaeko, TextHelp, UMI and Be the Business. To all of you from Digital Leaders we say a huge Thank you.


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