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SmartGov Live Conference

15 Jun 2011

The Outlandish Ideas team went down to the docklands today to the Guardian SmartGov Live Conference at ExCel. It’s about getting government IT people and suppliers together to share ideas.

We had some interesting conversations and met some interesting people. It was particularly good to hear Chris Chant, the ‘CEO of digital’ at the Cabinet Office, talking about the AlphaGov project. He was very honest about failings in government procurement and the need for a change of mindset. But he was optimistic about future possibilities, holding the AlphaGov experiment up as an example of what can be achieved with the right people.

There was also an excellent discussion from Prof. Paul Watson and Andy Gibson about the importance of not neglecting the least technologically able in society. They both argued that too much time is spent examining how the cutting edge can give the most able ever-more powerful ways to use technology, when it’s no less cutting edge to look at how you can make tools accessible to the masses or the neglected.

Andy also citied a Funky Business paper that suggested that a knowledge economy is a Marxist economy, since the workers control the means of production. Hasta la victoria, comrades.

But the highlight of the conference for me was a middle aged man in a double-breasted suit and bowler hat dancing to Mint Royale’s remix of Singin’ in the Rain with an umbrella. He and his pyjama-wearing friend handed us flyers while telling us “I’m sorry, we’re just actors. I have no idea what half these words mean! Go and ask that guy.” Harry went and asked that guy but it turned out he was equally unable to explain what the product was. They had a pretty big stand though. So I guess it must be good.