TECH|The New Era

I’m delighted to be working in partnership with Switch New Media on a new event that will take place to coincide with London Tech Week in September. TECH|The New Era will be on September 8 – during London Tech Week. It will be a day-long conference involving technology thought leaders, start-ups, scale-ups, commentators, analysts, writers, economists, investors, and policymakers. Our objective will be to provide a forum for some of the best, unhindered thinking on how Tech should respond and bounce back – and what technology solutions we should be building and funding right now. We will also hear from those who see real opportunities for a V-shaped recovery rather than one that looks more like an L. 

We plan to run the event from early morning to early evening allowing participation from across time-zones. We hope (subject to social distancing rules in place at the time) to anchor and live stream the event from London with a rolling studio audience and studio guests throughout the day.


Not all virtual events are created equal

Just over 10 years ago I hatched an audacious plan in conjunction with Diarmaid Lynch of Switch New Media. The plan was that we’d run a tech event (with a twist). But what made this an audacious plan was that we’d live stream it and allow live chat in real time, using Twitter.  We’d have a small audience, crammed into a conference room in central London, but we’d pack the room with broadcast quality cameras and run the thing like a TV show. Great sound, a proper set, good lighting, – and we’d allow people to comment and ask questions live. Amazingly, we pulled it off.

We had a good live stream audience (in the thousands) as well as around 100 people in the room. Despite corporate firewalls most people were able to watch it live, regardless of the browser they were using (and this was an issue back then). We had media sponsors who helped promote it. And we had corporate sponsors behind us – like IBM and Microsoft – to help fund the thing. And we had compelling keynote speakers to draw people in. 

The secret to its success was that it was a proper event. It had an element of theatricality. In fact, possibly even an element of show business.  There were glitches, of course. But it worked. And since then the concept has been honed and improved.

Fast forward just over ten years and everyone is offering “Webinars” or live streamed events. In lockdown there is no alternative. But, my goodness, where is the show business? 

The business world has suddenly, apparently, embraced what we were offering a decade ago. Except, of course, they are overlooking the fact that without the show business the audiences will ultimately go away. The sheer volume of “webinars” is simply unsustainable.

All the old world event rules still apply. There needs to be a reason to attend an online event as much as a real in-person event.  Networking and connecting comes into it, certainly. But the content needs to engage as well – offline and online. 

As we come out of lockdown physical events will return but it’s likely that travel policies will be slow to unstick. Large events will be tricky. And, in any case, there will also be a reluctance to travel and mix in big groups. But I suspect that the amalgam event will return – a modest, in-studio live event (with invited guests and speakers) combined with streamed as live content. And the whole thing professionally anchored. And everything properly mixed, streamed from a robust platform, with crisp sound and polished continuity and slick collaboration and networking. 

Because anything less than this isn’t an event – virtual or not. 

Digital Government Digital Policy Events United States

The Ticking Privacy and Security Bomb

As eGovernment applications proliferate, so does the amount of sensitive citizen data stored in government IT systems. Proliferating as well is the risk that this data – which individuals are usually compelled to provide – is disclosed, stolen or otherwise compromised through human error, negligence or cyber-attacks. And, in the end, it’s the citizens who are getting hurt, really hurt. The damage from security breaches has moved far beyond identity theft and financial gain – lives could now be at stake.

Case in point: The targeted March 2014 cyber-attack by a foreign government of the US Government agency that maintains the records for tens of thousands of government employees, military personnel and contractors holding or having applied for security clearances – including this author’s. Not only did these records contain information such as Social Security numbers, birth-dates, addresses, telephone numbers, etc. but also extremely sensitive personal data such as:

  • detailed listings, including addresses and phone numbers, of family members and foreign contacts
  • prior arrests and disciplinary actions
  • lawsuits
  • bankruptcies
  • history of mental illness, gambling, alcohol and drug use

The consequences of this breach are staggering – not only for the individuals affected but for national security. This information enables the perpetrators to:

  • identify covert agents, which could result in their imprisonment – or worse
  • target individuals possessing classified information of value and expose them to blackmail or recruitment as a spy
  • identify foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence personnel and expose them to coercion

The point here is that privacy and security are the underpinnings on which eGovernment is built. If the underpinnings fail, the building collapses. Up to now, privacy and security of data have been taken as a given but this seemingly endless stream of security breaches, each worse than the previous one, make this now a myth.

Why should a citizen trust the government with their most sensitive information anymore? In a Fall 2014 survey of about 1,000 adults, the Pew Research Center found that only six percent stated that they were “very confident” that government agencies can keep their records private and secure; 25% stated they were “somewhat confident.” It’s not clear how much longer citizens will tolerate this situation – or how far away we are from the tipping point where individuals will flat out refuse to provide sensitive personal information, even at the cost of penalties.

This distressing state of affairs can only have a quenching effect on the growth of eGovernment services, particularly at the Federal level. Privacy and data security can no longer be taken for granted, they must now become an integral part of the value proposition that eGovernment offers to citizens.

Citizen 2015 will be chairing a panel discussion on cyber-security at the EnterConf 2015 conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June, 19



Digital Government Events United Kingdom

Citizen 2015 at EnterConf in Northern Ireland

One of the most successful aspects of the Web Summit in Dublin – which has been described as “the best tech conference in the world”, “Glastonbury for geeks” and “Davos for nerds” – was the Enterprise Summit.

At Web Summit in 2014 more than 5,000 attendees from more than 60 countries attended Enterprise Summit. It was the busiest stage and exhibition area. Attendees were business and government leaders interested in understanding how enterprise software could help their company or department, be it CRM, finance, HR, security or data.

The team behind Web Summit has decided to create a standalone conference, EnterConf, dedicated to enterprise software.  It takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, next week. We’re delighted to announce that we’ll be covering the event for Citizen 2015.

I will also be moderating two panels at the event – one focused on CRM and a second on enterprise security.  I’ll try to feature a few audio interviews with delegates during the course of EnterConf.

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Thought Leader Interviews: Washington DC

During late June we’ll be undertaking a series of video interviews with thought leaders in digital government and citizen participation in Washington DC.

Commencing June 22 the Citizen 2015 team will be in town and we’ll be interviewing government leaders, politicians, representatives from policy think-tanks, academics and journalists.

If you feel you have strongly held opinions on how government service needs to better reflect the needs of citizens please contact us. Or if you would like to recommend someone please drop us a note.  Just complete the form below.

We’ll be conducting interviews from Monday, June 22 to Friday June 26.

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Coming soon…our thought leader interview series

We’re planning our first series of interviews with thought leaders in digital government over the coming months.

Citizen 2015 will build a rich body of information, opinion and debate around the process of citizen to government engagement. Therefore, we want to engage ourselves. We want the opinion of the people who are thinking about how government needs to change and adapt to better suit the needs of citizens.

Our project will focus on the following major themes.

  • Citizen engagement with government
  • The role of citizens in an increasingly digital world
  • Digital government
  • Smarter government
  • Big data and government
  • Government and the cloud
  • Digital consultation with citizens and business
  • Smarter cities

If you would like to take part in our interview program please contact us. Our initial interview series will commence in London (May 12-14). We’ll be conducting interviews in Washington DC and Boston in late June.