4 Things we learned from Digital 2015

In the wake of Digital 2015 earlier this summer, we share our top takeaways from Wales’ premier digital event

Over 1,800 people from all corners of the business world joined us at Celtic Manor Resort this June for a two-day festival of digital innovation and inspiration. With more than 120 speakers and around 80 sessions spread across five stages over two days, this year’s bigger and better event presented huge potential for coming away that little bit smarter.

Deciding on just four things that we learned has been almost as difficult as choosing a name for my fast approaching first child. On the plus side, two people are involved in that decision.

So, without further ado, here are my top four takeaways:

1. The digital economy is thriving in Wales

Earlier in 2015, South Wales was named by TechCity UK as the UK’s fifth fastest-growing tech economy in its Tech Nation report. The digital economy here now employs around 24,000 people in 3,000 businesses, and is worth more than £860 billion.

From the evidence of Digital 2015 this looks to be only the beginning. The sheer number and diversity of the delegates walking the halls, the calibre of speakers and some of the high profile businesses involved indicate that there is huge potential to exploit even more growth in the region.

Front and centre of the event were the Digital Dozen, twelve businesses in Wales and the West who are raising the bar and setting the tone for future digital innovation. They proved that the digital economy is thriving outside London, and gave us some disruptive names to look out for in the future.

2. Digital starts with the young

The first keynote of the event came from Ian Livingstone CBE (watch the video), the brains behind Tomb Raider and Games Workshop, who urged of the need for consumers to be turned into digital creatives. He’s on a mission, on behalf of the UK Government, to equip young people with the right problem solving and coding skills needed to be digital citizens in the 21st Century, and called on educators and businesses in the audience to support him in this.

Digital Skills was a key focus of the event, as it has been every year, and a series of lively and well attended debates proved that Ian Livingstone and the sadly departed Whitney Houston aren’t the only ones who believe that the children are the future. It was standing room only for the Dell sponsored debates looking at what skills young people require, how can they get them, and what does the future hold.

3. Businesses are having to play nicely together for the greater good

So the big guys might have the cash, but they are increasingly turning to smaller and more agile partners to support their digital transformation.

On the Digital Entrepreneurs stage we heard from DVLA, on the same day that they had announced an end to the paper driving licence, about how they had fostered innovation throughout the organisation by more closely working with SMEs. This is a Government led trend, and DVLA was joined on the panel by Natural Resources Wales, Capgemini and General Dynamics to reveal just what a huge opportunity this is for both parties.

This was one of the panels that generated real audience interest, and certainly indicates that this is a trend that’s capturing the imagination within the digital economy. With the UK Government setting a target to spend 25 per cent of its annual £230bn goods and services budgets with SMEs there are 57bn reasons why this is an area to watch. You can find a video of the panel debate here.

4. The Internet of Things is the big thing

It was no surprise to discover that The Internet of Things (IoT) led the way when it came to revealing the results of The Future Five – the top five new technologies that will change our lives, as predicted by the industry.

Around 1,000 delegates, sponsors and speakers agreed that IoT was the technology trend to watch, and the Digital Innovation stage certainly went big, with speakers from Cisco, Salesforce, Arqiva, British Gas (Hive) extolling the virtues and potential of connected devices.

Sadly my fridge and washing machine have yet to show their excitement, but I’m assured that the rise of the machines isn’t far off.

We’re immensely proud to have been involved in the design and delivery of Digital 2015, and thoughts are already turning to next year. Will we see the same technologies and trends celebrated? Will the vast digital appetite continue? Will I make a decision on the name of my child?

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