FWD50 2020

November 3-10, 2020 | Online

The first virtual FWD50

Each year digital leaders from around the globe gather in Ottawa to answer one question: How can we use technology to make society better for all? However, in 2020 the pandemic changed everyone's plans, and so we decided to tackle a second question: How do we use technology to bring us together?

We spent months learning how to run amazing events online, looking at 240 different tools and platforms, and built a massive, 5-track, 6-day lineup with hundreds of speakers. As Canada was playing host to the Digital Nations, we extended our platform to them, running two overlapping online events and welcoming hundreds of virtual attendees from regional governments with the Regional Access Pass.

What others are saying

“I came into this conference not knowing what to expect. I was BLOWN AWAY. What an amazing lineup.”

“As expected, FWD50 is leading the way in building virtual events that bring the world together in ways that weren’t possible in 2019.”

“It just keeps getting better every year!”

“Some of the most inspiring and fascinating speakers, all on a platform that was easy to use.”

Virtual platform

After reviewing 240 different tools and platforms, we built a 5-track event on an easy to use platform to host both FWD50 and the Digital Nations in simultaneous virtual events.


Attendees from 29 countries and 79 regions


Speakers from around the world


Days of unmatched content and genuine interactions


Virtual channels with surprising experiences


This year’s conference spanned five tracks and six days of packed content, from keynotes and workshops to breakouts and meeting rooms.

We also launched a number of new content formats, including the FWDThinking interview series on YouTube and a series of executive book clubs.


2020 proved that we could still create engaging, provocative content and conversation online, using a variety of polling and spatial networking technologies to remove some of the barriers of social distancing.

2020’s Speakers

The 2020 faculty featured the world’s leading public servants, tech innovators, and academics. Attendees have access to dozens of recorded keynotes, workshops, and breakouts.

Vinton G. Cerf

Vice President & Chief Internet Evangelist, Google Cloud Canada

The Honourable Joyce Murray

Minister of Digital Government, Canada

DJ Patil

Chief Technology Officer, Devoted Health
Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School

Ann-Marie Cavanagh

Deputy Government Chief Digital Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Digital Public Service, Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand

Beth Simone Noveck

Director, The GovLab

Ronaldo Lemos

Lawyer, Chief Scientific Officer, Institute for Technology & Society of Rio de Janeiro
Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Columbia University School of Professional Studies

Gina Lucarelli

Team Leader, United Nations Development Programme Accelerator Lab Network

Tim O'Reilly

Founder, CEO, & Chairman, O'Reilly

Want to take a peek at 2020’s sessions? Check out the agenda!

2020 Agenda

Some of this year’s innovations

We ask public servants to innovate and take risks, so we try to embody that ourselves. Each year, we experiment with new technologies and formats to improve attendee experience. Here’s what we tried in 2020.

Not another webinar

We reimagined what FWD50 could be by leveraging virtual technologies that encourages interactions and genuine connections. The Covid-19 pandemic kept us physically separated but we found a way to bring together civic techies from across Canada, and from around the world, in a fully virtual environment.

Surprising virtual experiences

We asked unexpected questions and engaged with the audience across chat, social platforms, and the content itself. We also hosted live content in captivating formats including interviews, talks, and chain reaction panels with experts from around the world.

Live Q&A and polling

We used a digital platform to solicit questions and take polls from the live audience. And following virtual talks, attendees could meet with speakers in a spatial networking tool that let them chat via video easily.

Virtual breakout rooms

Leveraging virtual video technologies like Zoom, we created interactive breakout sessions to workshop complex problems and brainstorm solutions with participants.

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