Today we attended UK GovCamp 2013 - the yearly unconference where attendees get to pitch the agenda for the day. The lively conference kicks off in the morning with around 300 people introducing themselves and offering their ideas for the day's sessions. It may sound messy, but it really works and creates a dynamic and diverse day. 

With 35 sessions (on 7 tracks) we were spoilt for choice at UK GovCamp this year, but we could only visit 5 sessions - here are the highlights:

Innovation between big and small companies 

This session discussed the ideals of big and small companies working together. It was agreed that the companies involved must talk honestly to one and other, sharing each of their goals in an honest way. Interestingly, people discussed how they often find (as small companies) that medium sized companies are the best route to big companies. 

The quantified self

The quantified self is a growing movement in the UK. It is the practice of tracking various elements of your life (activity levels, mood, financial status etc.) and creating learnings from this information. In terms of government, the body data being generated from people tracking themselves could be quite powerful, in terms of health policy.

Digital communications

Social media is now a mainstream platform for the majority of the UK population, so government and local councils are finding ways to get in touch through digital media. The discussion in this session also highlighted that there are still many not using digital media (often the older generation) and reminded us not to forget to communicate with those who are 'offline'. 

Bringing open data to communities

The discussion kicked off with an example of social media surgeries, being rolled out in local communities to bring local people up to speed on social media platforms. This way people can then be contacted through social media, making local councils more digital. The question was - can this work with open data? There was a little uncertainty, but by making open data more visual, it is possible to empower people from the data. 

Overcoming the fear of Agile

Agile is a software development method, in which developments are made in small batches, feedback is given on a regular and frequent basis and the end result is a flexible, well-tested piece of software. The fear is the uncertainty at the start, what the end result will be, what the end date will be and what the overall cost will be. However by working closely with the client was the found solution (and often a fixed price quote). 

We had a great time at UK GovCamp 2013 and look forward to next year's event. For more updates from the day, take a look at our Twitter feed or search for #ukgc13.

by David Clare
Microsoft in Government Team