What we learned from you

Published On Sep 17, 2017

When we launched FWD50, we asked people how they’d like to get involved. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of people who reached out, offering to help spread the word, suggesting content, and more. But one of the most interesting learnings was where respondents wanted digital government to focus.

We figured we’d take you behind the proverbial Kimono to show you what we learned, and how it’s shaping our choice of content and speakers. It’ll probably also help show you how seriously—some might say obsessively—we take event programming and feedback.

Some quick facts:

  • 188 people responded. Of those responses, 5 were in French (we had French and English forms.)

Most of the people who responded work in the federal public sector.

What Sector People Work in    What We Learned From You Blog Post

We thought “it’s complicated” seemed like an appropriately digital affiliation.


Across these groups, the vast majority of people worked in IT-related fields:

What Fields People Work in    What We Learned From You Blog Post

(We’re leaving off a very long tail of people from a wide range of industries here.)


More than 60% of respondents wanted to help get the word out about the event, and to give us feedback on content. Many offered to give a talk or moderate a panel—we reached out to them later, and our program committee is currently reviewing over 30 incredible talks to find the ones we’ll add to the existing lineup.

As for what people are hoping to learn, it’s a split between policy ideas, new technology, and case studies that can help prove out the value of digital government initiatives run elsewhere:

What People Are Hoping to Learn    What We Learned From You Blog Post

We also asked people what sectors digital government was going to change the most, and where they felt it was most important to create content. When it comes to this kind of analysis, averages are bad—people tend to say all things are important, and a highly polarized sector (people voting 1 or 5) can have the same average as one where there is consensus (people voting 3.)

Impact and Importance of Digital Government on Various Sectors   What We Learned From You Blog Post

How respondents rated the impact and importance of digital government on various sectors.


Analyzing data in this way is seldom just running reports. When we combine a couple of dimensions—for example, the sector someone works in, and their stated area of interest—we can see whether some people’s jobs affects what they believe is important.

Some People’s Jobs Affects What They Believe Is Important   What We Learned From You Post

We don’t have a large enough sample size from many of the respondent categories. But we can still see certain differences of opinion between our two largest respondent groups: Public and private sector. For example, the public sector feels that transport, education, and electoral systems are more important, while the private sector feels energy, privacy/security, healthcare, taxation, and national security are more so.

We also intentionally kept our list short, then asked people what topics they felt were left out. We grouped these into similar categories; here’s what we found:

All the Things We Didn’t List   What We Learned From You Post

All the things we didn’t list.


This list is one of the things we’re using to steer our speakers’ topics, and to populate the various discussion groups, workshops, and Birds of a Feather meeting areas within the conference.

Perhaps the most informative data came from unstructured responses to the question, “If you could change one thing about how government uses technology, what would it be?” It’s hard to process this data algorithmically, since we received many long, thoughtful responses.

To give you a quick idea of the feedback, we’ve taken the responses and removed obvious words like “government”, “technology”, “services”, “data”, “Canada” and “citizens.”

What We Learned From You Blog Post   Word Cloud

What’s clear from reading the data is the underlying optimism about building better things, faster, for everyone. There’s a lot of support for taking risks, trying things, and focusing on citizen and user experience across agile delivery while improving collaboration between government organizations.

We read every response carefully, reaching out to many of the people who wanted to get involved. It’s informed our choice of speakers and topics. And most of all, it’s reminded us why we’re doing FWD50 in the first place: We have a unique chance in Canadian history to use technology to make a better society for all of us.