Review of Worldwide Government Solutions Forum 2012

The sixth year of the Worldwide Government Solutions Forum saw the turn of London, featuring speakers from 26 different countries. After sampling a few international cuisines we sat down to gain a range of views from around the world on how the Government and Public Sector can incorporate cloud computing to build towards better and smarter cities, focusing on the need for a very real and innovative change.

The day opened with a welcome from David Burrows, Managing Director, EMEA Government, Microsoft. David introduced the morning’s speakers, who included Scott Dodds, General Manager of Marketing and Operations, Microsoft UK, Niels Soelberg, Vice President Public Sector EMEA, Microsoft, Liam Maxwell, Deputy CIO at the Cabinet Office and Andrea Di Maio, Vice President at Gartner Research.

Scott’s welcome focused on the national plan to build a better Britain – a healthier, greener, working Britain. He talked about the Anywhere Working project which aims to help 500,000 people reduce travel and save money with a focus on helping deliver flexibility and efficiency through working. Scott also talked about Microsoft initiatives around education, apprenticeships and citizenship amongst other topics.

Neils Soelberg focused on making an impact for better government. He said that there are challenges facing government and reminded the delegates that we also represent our customers - the citizens. As citizens we are demanding towards our government, we all need to ensure we stay healthy for a long life and we are taxpayers – a refreshing message in this day and age.

Liam Maxwell Deputy CIO at the Cabinet Office talked about government as an enabler that will help people get the solution that works, to get the public service that works and works for them specifically. He said that our government needs to be digital by default to communicate with the citizens, that public services for the citizens need to offer engagement with the government online. He also said that young people don’t use public services online as they are simply not available in a relevant format. We face a threat, if we can’t provide services to people in the way they want them, then we can’t provide services at all.

Andrea Di Maio of Gartner Research focused his talk on an uncertain future. He talked about the increasing amount of information out there; personal information and also on public bodies and services. All this new information comes together to create new possibilities for government as well as challenges and uncertainties. Di Maio said that we need to take lessons from the past, both good and bad, and use these to move towards a better future for open government systems.

The afternoon kicked off with an introduction from Munir Ismet of HP and Eric Basha, Government Industry Managing Director at Microsoft, who in turn introduced the afternoon’s guest presenters. They were Paul Bevan, Secretary General of EUROCITIES, Susan Attard, Deputy Town Clerk at City of London, Kevin Lasitz of Infusion, Peter Kommers of the Municipality of Utrecht and Jan Cornelis den Ouden of Logica, Manel Sanroma, CIO of the City of Barcelona and Graca Fonseca, Deputy Mayor of the City of Lisbon.

Highlights of the afternoon included Jan Cornelis den Ouden of Logica giving a video demo of his work on developing applications that can control street lighting digitally. His demo sparked some delight from the crowd as a tablet controlled a street light in real time. His life’s work spent making a big light switch, he said.

Manel Sanroma of the City of Barcelona also brought the room to life with a talk that focused as much on Barcelona FC’s Lionel Messi as it did on technology. A lively presentation, Sanroma focused on the potential and the implications of mobile devices – which he called weapons of mass construction. And the acronym MESSI stood for Mobility, E-Administration, Smart city, Systems and Innovation which he explained in full throughout his talk.

All in all it was an enjoyable event which was discussed online through the Twitter hashtag #ukgsf2012.

Rounding the day off with a few laughs, it is clear that change is on the cards and a collaborative one across all countries. The first day was a huge success; however London’s hospitality left a lot to be desired with the London tube strikes and the inhospitable weather. We are looking forward to day two.

Please do also go and check out this blog post from our colleagues in the Worldwide Microsoft on Government Team, which will also recap some of the discussion from the event.