National Digital Conference 2014 to crowdsource speakers

The 9th National Digital Conference is crowdsourcing its speakers for the first time in 2014. Digital by Default News asks the conference’s founder Robin Knowles: Why?

What is the National Digital Conference?
We founded the conference in 2005 as an annual forum that would bring together those working in communities and with the public sector to make sure the internet and digital technologies deliver social and economic benefit. It has been a free-to-attend event since we started and there are no barriers to taking part. We have a loyal following across the sector and many attending this year will be attending the event for the 9th time.

What have been some of the highlights so far?

Over the years we have campaigned for what people wanted most at that time, so the event has always reflected what was important to the sector at that time.  For example we campaigned for a Digital Minister in 2007 and got one, and for a Digital Champion in 2009. Martha Lane-Fox was appointed and spoke to the conference in 2010 shortly after she was appointed.

A real highlight for me was Martha bringing her Digital Champions to the conference in 2011. We had over 2,500 attend the event over the two days and it was a very exciting time.

In contrast, last year the 2013 conference was a working conference sat around tables and working together for two days together on key issues with speakers like Mike Bracken and Martha Lane-Fox giving their views from the stage for the delegates on tables to debate and feed back.

dlc3What are you doing this year?

It’s another year of sleeves rolled-up, round table debate  with a focus on skills, digital public services and digital inclusion this year. We have also cut the event to a single day as its getting harder to ask people to commit more than a day to a conference given how busy everyone is.

We hear you are crowdsourcing your speakers this year?

Yes. We are going to have our keynote speakers of course, but each session will include a panel of short talks which we are crowdsourcing. We feel it is far better to ask our community what they want to tell their colleagues and then ask our audience who they want to hear from.

Why are you doing it this way?

I have become a fan of the ‘unconference’ format and because it is increasingly hard for a steering committee to know what is out there that is inspirational or to keep up with the latest programmes or research. The difference here is that the speakers who get chosen will get time to prepare their words and the audience will have a decent period of time to choose the content of the conference.

What do you hope to achieve?

I am hoping for some really great speakers this year with fresh and exciting research, ideas and best practice. But, it’s for the audience to chose. I hope to inspire other conferences to do this as well.

What should people do if they want to speak at the conference?

You can submit a proposal to talk at the conference in one of our three topic areas by simply filling out the form on the ND14: Empowering people website that goes live today.


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