What’s happening during Digital Government week in Ottawa?

When we launched FWD50, we had a few clear rules:

  • No expo hall. The conference isn’t a tradeshow; our partners believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and brings great content—and if they don’t, the audience can go elsewhere during the event.
  • Nonpartisan. Our allegiance is to society as a whole; the “FWD” in our name means “neither left, nor right, but forward.”
  • Open. We know we’re part of a community, both in Canada and globally, trying to use technology to improve society.

We’d always hoped that FWD50 could serve as a “lightning rod” around which other groups can coalesce. The week that FWD50 happens, we have some high-powered infrastructure (in the form of the Aberdeen Pavillion and the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne park.) We also have an abundance of amazing speakers from around the world. And of course, we have the immense privilege of a Bully Pulpit. We take these things seriously.


One of our breakout rooms, packed to standing room only, last year.

One of the ways we try to make the most of this is to work with a number of communities and groups to put on events in and around FWD50 itself. Our goal, over time, is to turn this into a week of digital government events for organizations at home and abroad.

Here’s a list of the things that are happening alongside the event—it’s probably incomplete, because we’re adding more events every day at this point. If you’ve got something you’d like to run in and around FWD50, please contact us via our website or on Twitter.

Meetup spaces

Our venue has three breakout rooms, which are available at breakfast and lunch on both November 6 and 7. So we open those up to community groups, NGOs, and civil society organizations to use for on-site meetups. These are informal gatherings and a chance to chat for an hour about a particular topic or project.


A few familiar faces in the growing FWD50 family.

November 6 breakfast (8–9AM)

  • Meet with the folks behind OneTeamGov Canada, a global public sector reform movement which aims to improve public services and change the way we work through practical action.
  • Learn about building data visualizations and digital innovation projects at the National Energy Board.
  • The Build In Canada Program helps companies move from invention to business model by procuring and testing late-stage technological innovations. Learn about the work they’re doing to help commercialize Canadian innovation and government adoption.

November 6 lunch (12:30-1:30PM)

We’re still finalizing events for this lunchbreak; let us know if you’re interested in using one of the remaining slots.

November 7 breakfast (8–9AM)

  • Code for Canada connects all the Canadian civic tech groups through a community network and has a playbook for government innovators to find ways to meaningfully engage these passionate citizens to help make government more ‘by the people’.


The Code for Canada teams will be sporting these jackets throughout the event once again this November.

November 7 lunch (12:30–1:30PM)

  • Connect with ARMA Canada for a meetup on the Black stage: Digital transformation, big data, AI, blockchain and other information technologies are changing the way we manage records.

Regional Digital Government Summit

New for 2019, the Regional Digital Government Summit is a place for provincial, state, and municipal government leaders to focus on the unique opportunities and obstacles they face. It happens from 11AM-5PM on November 6.


Some of the Ontario Digital Service team getting ready backstage in 2018

We’re thrilled to be helping put this on; it’s being chaired by three digital government heavyweights:

  • Hillary Hartley (Chief Digital and Data Officer and Deputy Minister, Cabinet Office for the Province of Ontario)
  • Catherine Desgagnés‑Belzil (Chief Digital Officer and Head of Quebec’s Digital Center of Excellence for the Province of Quebec)
  • Nikhil J. Deshpande (Chief Digital Officer for the State of Georgia.)

We’re hoping this parallel event, which expands FWD50 to regional governments, will become an regular part of the conference each year. It’s open to all attendees of FWD50, however, participants will be asked to sign in at the door so that the nature of the event is understood, the room is secure, and we can keep in touch.

Policy Ignite

Back for its third year, this fun evening event invites speakers to entertain us—quickly! The popular Ignite format has been run thousands of times around the world: Speakers present 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds, making a series of fun 5-minute talks.


Our 2018 Policy Ignite co-hosts managing a motley lineup of speakers.

CFR’s Regulatory Innovation Showcase

We’re also working with the Canadian Federation of Regulators, OCIO, and other groups to make this a packed week of digital government and technology transformation content. The CFR is running a regulatory innovation showcase in the Horticultural Building on November 5 (as a separate event from FWD50; tickets and details here.)

And of course, there’s plenty of networking, breaks, and other events to connect with your peers from around the world. If you want to be a part of it, grab your ticket now.


Last year had plenty of networking for speakers, partners, and senior public sector officials, too. Lansdowne is the perfect location for this kind of connecting in and around the conference.

Our goal is to give every stakeholder in digital government a platform and a place to gather. We make space available for free (or at cost if you require A/V technicians during their lunchbreak) and would love to include your group. If you’re part of a nonprofit or community group that wants to coordinate a meetup onsite for FWD50 attendees, let us know.