FWD50 2017

November 1-3, 2017 | Ottawa

Where it all began

In the inaugural year of FWD50, we brought hundreds of public servants under one roof in Ottawa. It was a modest event, and we tried many new things. But we had a few principles: That the event was international; that there was no pitching or expo hall; and that we'd tackle not just technology, but the cultural and structural changes needed to make digital innovation happen. We wanted to build not just a conference, but a conversation about what we can be when we steer progress towards bettering society.

We described ourselves as:

  • Pragmatic: What can we change in 50 days? What’s the world like in 50 years We need to streamline today as much as we imagine tomorrow.
  • Unafraid: Everything is up for discussion. We call out the elephant in the room and aren’t afraid of sacred cows.
  • Subversive: We’re after small, seemingly innocuous ideas that can have big, transformative consequences.
  • Inclusive: Change only works when it helps everyone. We’re focused on improving the lives of all citizens.
  • Transformative: Done right, government is a platform atop which we can create a better world.
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We chose a venue—one that gets people out of their usual “comfort zones” of expo halls and hotel rooms with projectors. It also gave us tremendous flexibility to create a memorable experience that lets people work, interact, and experience things firsthand. For the first time, FWD50 took place in the Aberdeen Pavilion, an architectural jewel in Lansdowne Park, overlooking the spectacular Rideau Canal.


We heard unequivocally from both public and private sector, “we don’t need a trade-show.” So we focused on content and interaction among a global roster of speakers and attendees. The first day of FWD50 was devoted to deep-dive workshops that focused on critical elements of digital government.

The event welcomed several member countries from the Digital Nations, and included Minister Scott Brison. Shortly after the conference, Canada joined the DN to share best practices in government innovation among participating countries.

2017’s Speakers

For the first time, we brought together some of the world’s foremost thinkers and builders from government, technology, public policy and academia. Here’s who took the stage and joined the conversation in 2017.

The Honourable Scott Brison

President of the Treasury Board, Government of Canada

Pia Andrews

Service Integration Lead, Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand

Jean Augustine

Former Member of Parliament and and Fairness Commissioner, Province of Ontario

Siim Sikkut

Chief Information Officer, Republic of Estonia

Dr. Supriya Syal

Chief Behavioural Scientist at the Privy Council Office, Government of Canada

Hillary Hartley

Chief Digital Officer, Government of Ontario

Alex Benay

Chief Information Officer, Government of Canada

Robyn Scott

Co-founder and CEO, Apolitical


The inaugural event welcomed hundreds of attendees from around the world, cementing FWD50 as the definitive conversation on technology, policy, and the future of digital government. We had interactive workshops and networking activities to spark meaningful connections that would last even after the event. Hundreds of civic innovators gathered in Ottawa to begin the conversation of digital government and how we can work together to make society better for all.

Want to take a peek at 2017’s sessions? Check out the agenda!


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