Digital Evolution 2015

Building a digital nation

Wednesday 25th November 2015

Digital Evolution: Building a digital nation took place on Wednesday 25 November at the BT Centre, just a stone's throw away from St Paul’s in London.

Local community partners, national organisations and thought leaders joined together to take a broad look at all things digital, discussing everything from digital for life and digital for society to digital for democracy, including:

Maggie Philbin (TeenTech)
Tom Bage (
Rosa Birch (Facebook)
Beverley Bryant (Director of Digital Technology for NHS England)
Bob Gann (NHS England)
Lord Jim Knight (Baron Knight of Weymouth)
Jimmy Leach
Catherine McDonald
Rachel Neaman (Go ON UK)
Kathy Settle (Leadership for Libraries Taskforce)
Colm Sheehy (Centre for Economics and Business Research)
Leigh Smyth (Head of Digital Inclusion, Lloyds Banking Group)
Ed Vaizey MP (Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy)
Nicola Wallace Dean, Starting Point
Chris Yiu (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations)

Maggie Philbin

Maggie Philbin, Conference Chair

CEO, TeenTech

Maggie Philbin has worked in radio and television for over 30 years on science, medical and technology programmes, and can currently be seen on BBC’s ‘Bang Goes The Theory‘ and BBC 1’s Inside Out.

Maggie is co-founder and CEO of TeenTech CIC, an award winning organisation helping young people understand more about opportunities in Science and Technology. She is keen to help improve the visibility of successful scientists and engineers, to encourage both young people and women to pursue careers and to reach top positions in these areas.

Maggie sits on the panel of the New Engineering Foundation, which supports the development of Vocational Education and helps lecturers in FE get cutting edge career development in industry. She is also patron of the Daphne Jackson Trust which helps scientists, engineers and technologists return to their careers.

Tom Bage

Tom Bage (Panellist)

Communications Director,

Tom Bage is the UK Communications Director for - the world's largest petition platform with 120 million users globally and nearly 10 million users in the UK.

He has spent nearly a decade working in and around politics, campaigning, tech and the media.

Rosa Birch

Rosa Birch (Panellist)

Head of Policy Programmes EMEA, Facebook

Rosa Birch is Head of Policy Programmes EMEA for Facebook and manages strategic partnerships, special projects and programmes for the EMEA Public Policy Team. Before this, Rosa was Associate Manager on Facebook's UK & Ireland Public Policy team

Rosa joined the company in June 2010 and has worked on a range of policy issues including safety, privacy and working with public sector organisations helping them to maximise their use of Facebook. Prior to joining Facebook, Rosa managed a UK Member of Parliament's office focusing on community engagement.


Beverley Bryant

Director of Digital Technology for NHS England

Beverley Bryant is the Director of Digital Technology for NHS England, setting the national direction for NHS technology and informatics and stimulating technology leadership and innovation across the NHS in England.

She is responsible for the delivery of a number of NHS England commitments including Integrated Digital Care Records, NHS E-referrals, Patient Online and Electronic Prescriptions.

Prior to joining NHS England Beverley was Managing Director of Health at Capita. She has undertaken various change, performance improvement and operational roles in big-five consulting companies, as well as leadership roles in the Department of Health and the NHS.

Bob Gann

Bob Gann (Panellist)

Programme Director for NHS England's Widening Digital Participation initiative

Bob Gann is a consultant in digital health for clients in UK and internationally. He is currently working as Programme Director for NHS England's Widening Digital Participation initiative, which is delivering digital skills training to increase health literacy and reduce inequalities.

Internationally Bob is consultant to the University of Chicago on public reporting of comparative healthcare quality. He is also a member of the World Health Organization’s e-Health Advisory Group.

Previously in his career Bob was Director of Strategy & Partnerships at NHS Choices and Director of New Media at NHS Direct. He is Visiting Professor in Health Informatics at Plymouth University.

Jim Knight

Lord Jim Knight

Baron Knight of Weymouth

Jim is currently Managing Director of Online Learning at TES Global, chair of HTI Academies and deputy chair of Nominet Trust.

He was a Labour MP from 2001-2010 and is a former Schools and Employment Minister. He became a Life Peer in 2010.

Jim is Chairman of the Good Things Foundation board and has long been a supporter of UK online centres - he is passionate about the benefits being online can provide to everyone.

Jimmy Leach

Jimmy Leach (Panellist)

Jimmy has been working in digital since the turn of the century, and has tried to do so in twos. He has worked in senior digital roles for two newspapers - The Guardian and the Independent; he has worked as head of digital communications in Downing Street for two Prime Ministers (Blair and Brown) and as head of digital diplomacy for two foreign secretaries (Miliband and Hague). He has also worked for two communications companies - Freud and Portland.

Since going freelance, the symmetry has gone, but he advises government and corporate clients in the UK and Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the US on digital strategy and building the skills, capacity and platform to implement those strategies from in-house.


Catherine McDonald (Panellist)

Catherine McDonald researched and wrote A Leading Digital Nation by 2020 for Good Things Foundation and Go ON UK, calculating for the first time the cost of delivering online skills for all: £875 million.

Over the course of her career Catherine has had roles designing, directing, analysing, implementing and evaluating public policy, including working as Special Advisor to Rt Hon Jim Knight (now Lord Knight) when he was Minister with responsibility for digital government across Whitehall.

Rachel Neaman

Rachel Neaman (Panellist)

Chief Executive, Go ON UK

Rachel is Chief Executive of Go ON UK, the cross-sector digital skills charity that works to ensure all individuals, small businesses and charities in the UK have the basic digital skills they need to prosper in an increasingly digital world. She is also Chair of the Digital Leaders programme, a network of digital professionals from a range of sectors and disciplines.

Rachel was previously Digital Leader and Head of Profession for Digital at the UK Department of Health, where she had overall responsibility for the Department’s digital strategy, services and transformation, and for leading and aligning digital activities and services across the health and care system. As a member of the GDS Digital Leaders group she was also responsible for co-producing Government strategy on digital.

Before joining the UK civil service Rachel worked in the private sector in marketing and digital communications. Rachel is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars in the UK and abroad, a frequent judge of digital awards and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).

Chi Onwurah

Chi Onwurah

Labour MP for Newcastle Central and Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy

Chi Onwurah MP is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central. She is currently Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), an opposition position she has held since September 2015.

In addition to this role, she is also Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport).

She was Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) (2013 to 2015), Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) (2010 to 2013) in opposition.

Kathy Settle

Kathy Settle

Chief Executive of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce

Kathy Settle is Chief Executive of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce. She was previously Director for Digital Policy and Departmental Engagement at the Government Digital Service where, having developed the Government's Digital Strategy, she worked alongside GDS colleagues and Departmental Digital Leaders to deliver it.

Prior to this, Kathy worked in the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, and in Government Office for the North West. In her earlier career, Kathy worked for the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency as a Chartered Civil Engineer.

Nick Williams

Colm Sheehy (Panellist)

Managing Economist, Centre for Economics and Business Research

Colm is a managing economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), one of the UK’s leading economics consultancies. As a member of Cebr’s microeconomics team, Colm leads research projects for high-profile clients, such as Royal Mail, UK Broadband, Engineering UK, General Motors, BSI Group, and National Housing Federation. His research has featured in the UK and international press including the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Guardian, The Times and others.

Colm’s particular research focus is in energy, technology and public policy. Recent projects include establishing the economic case and energy security role for a British tidal lagoon power industry, a study on the economic benefits from better mobile connectivity in large UK businesses for O2 and research on the size of the last time buyers’ property market in the UK for Legal and General.


Leigh Smyth

Head of Digital Inclusion, Lloyds Banking Group

Leigh joined Lloyds Banking Group in 2012 as Head of Digital Inclusion, leading the digital inclusion agenda on behalf of the Group.

This appointment leveraged the knowledge and skills gained during Leigh’s previous post, supporting Baroness Martha Lane Fox to establish GO ON UK, the agile-cross sector digital skills charity.

Prior to this, Leigh was the Managing Director for Race online 2012, running the partnership campaign to raise awareness of digital inclusion, in particular the barriers and opportunities faced. Leigh lives in the midlands with her husband and two sons, who share her endless enthusiasm with all things digital. Which is pretty lucky really.

Ed Vaizey

Ed Vaizey MP

Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy

Ed has been the MP for Wantage in Oxfordshire since 2005. In the most recent election in May 2015 he secured over 53% of the vote in his constituency.

Following this re-election he was appointed Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, a role which is shared between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).


Nicola Wallace Dean (Panellist)

Projects Lead, Starting Point

Nicola is a qualified teacher who spent 15 years teaching in the public and private sector for organisations including IBM and the Ministry of Justice. Now Staring Point's Projects Lead, she doubles as the finance department, marketing and also caretaker! Despite the job title, Nicola is - at heart and in practice - a community organiser; committed to empowering people to bring about their own change to improve their lives and communities.

Starting Point's approach to digital inclusion has matured from traditional outreach delivery because of their belief that bringing kit into a community and then taking it away until the following week is not a way to keep communities online. They now work with local groups to fund their own resources and keep tools and knowledge in communities.

They host 14 weekly outreach sessions throughout Stockport, support a number of local housing associations with their digital inclusion strategies and delivery, and support learners between the age of 5 to 92 years. More information can be found in their blog

Chris Yiu

Chris Yiu (Panellist)

Digital Director, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

Chris Yiu is Digital Director at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

His work covers three big themes:

  • Helping more people in Scotland to gain basic digital skills
  • Helping more charities and voluntary organisations in Scotland to think digital
  • Using the web to help more people get involved with charities and good causes

He is also a co-founder at UNGOV, a public policy and crowdsourcing startup, and an associate at the Westminster Policy Institute.

Before joining SCVO he was Director of Digital Government at Policy Exchange, where he published a number of reports about the impact of technology, data and the internet. He has also worked at the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury and McKinsey & Company.



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