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Live from Dubai!

Let's Think Digital Podcast

Live from Dubai!

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Live from Dubai!

Live from Dubai!

Live from Dubai!

Live from Dubai!

Ryan travels to Dubai for the World Government Summit, an annual event that brings together leaders in government and industry from around the world, looking at issues related to digital transformation, futurism, sustainable development and other topics that are of interest to policy makers around the world.

Appearing on this episode as part of hallway conversations during the Summit are some amazing guests:

  • Pooja Warier Hamilton – Chief Partnerships Officer, Apolitical
  • Giulio Quaggiotto – Innovation Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE
  • Aaron Snow – Fellow, Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation
  • Barbara Ubaldi – Head of Digital Government and Data Unit, OECD
  • Simonida Subotic – Former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, State of New York

Watch the Video Version of the Episode


Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): I'm Ryan Androsoff and welcome to Let's Think Digital. So I just got back from the World Government Summit in Dubai, hosted by the United Arab Emirates. It's an incredible event hosted annually in Dubai. This was the 10th annual version of it. And it brings together leaders in government and industry from around the world, and looking at issues around digital transformation, around futurism, around sustainable development and other topics that are of interest to policy makers around the world. This was my first time attending and one of the reasons that I went is that I was invited by the organizers to present on a panel about the metaverse and to host a fireside chat with the former head of the Canadian Digital Service, Aaron Snow, talking about digital service teams and how to bridge the gap in digital services. It was also an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues from around the world, to make some new connections, and really just to be able to step back and think about some of the big issues that are facing governments around the world today. While I was in Dubai, I took the opportunity to record some of my reflections during the three day summit, and also a chance to have some conversations with colleagues in the hallways and in between sessions during the summit. So I'm really excited on today's special episode to share with you these reflections and give you a little bit of a taste of what it was like to be at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Well, good morning from Dubai. This is the start of my first morning here in Dubai. A beautiful, sunny day out, as I think is the case most days here and just at the hotel room getting ready to head out to the first day of the World Government Summit. It's exciting. I got in yesterday. I think I've largely been able to conquer the jet lag after a bit of sleep last night. And there's already just a huge buzz of activity around here. It's pretty fascinating to see all the people that have gathered. I was talking to some of the organizers yesterday when I got in, and they're anticipating this to be the largest of this event that they've held. They've been running the summit for about 10 years now, and they're anticipating about 5,000 people here today. The agenda itself, as I've been looking through it, is frankly just overwhelming in some ways. Huge number of sessions going on, tremendous mix of speakers ranging from you know, celebrities to world leaders, to, you know, billionaires like Elon Musk, who's apparently speaking on Wednesday morning. It's quite the agenda, all really kind of focused around the future of government and the future of big public policy challenges. There's a big thread that is focused primarily on sustainable development and looking at progress against the sustainable development goals.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): There's also a lot around technology and how the future of technology and innovation is shaping government and vice versa. And that's actually the main reason I'm here, and was invited, was to come present a couple of sessions related to digital service teams in government, and then a panel about the metaverse and what the metaverse means for the future of government. So I'm looking forward to diving in. Certainly this will be one of the, if not the biggest conference I've ever attended in person. And, you know, been a while since I've had a chance to do a lot of conferences, particularly given the pandemic and restrictions on travel for the last few years. Excited too, that there's a few people here that I know well. Former colleagues of mine including Aaron Snow, who was the Executive Director, CEO of the Canadian Digital Services. Aaron had come in as the CEO of the Canadian Digital Service shortly after I left the federal government and have had a chance to know Aaron over the years and great to see him here again. My former boss from the OECD, Barbara Ubaldi is gonna be part of the session on Wednesday that I'm attending on the government services forum. Really looking forward to seeing Barbara again and a few other friends and colleagues who are either at the summit or actually live in Dubai, who I'm hoping to get a chance to connect with while I'm in town. And then I think in a few cases, getting a chance to put a face to a name to people who have only met virtually or only talk to over Zoom who are gonna be here from different parts of the world. So I'm about to head in. Gonna go take in some sessions. It's gonna be a long and interesting day, I think. And we'll continue checking in throughout the course of the next couple of days.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So it's the first morning of the World Government Summit, and already I've had a chance to meet somebody in person who I've only met online before. Pooja, who's here from the UK from Apolitical. Pooja, do you wanna introduce yourself and share a little bit about what Apolitical does?

Pooja Warier Hamilton (Chief Partnerships Officer, Apolitical): Sure. Hi, I'm Pooja Warier Hamilton. I'm the Chief Partnerships Officer at Apolitical. We are a social and learning platform for governments globally. We have over 200,000 public servants from 160 countries that use our platform to find peers, find the latest knowledge and skills they need to address some of the biggest challenges of our times.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): That's great. And so Pooja, I think like me, this is the first time you're at the World Government Summit, first time in Dubai as well. Same as for me. What are you planning to get out of the next couple of days? I know you have a couple sessions that you're moderating or involved with, so maybe you can share a little bit about what you're hoping to draw out of the next couple of days of these events.

Pooja Warier Hamilton (Chief Partnerships Officer, Apolitical): Absolutely. So I'm moderating a few sessions here on Tuesday, tomorrow, on agility in government. Now that's a topic that we care deeply about at Apolitical. Cause I think that's going to be a skill that's going to be important for governments around the world. So the sessions that I'm moderating focus on bringing innovative case studies from around the world. We're also talking about the role that governments can play in setting up dedicated institutions that spark innovation. But the main reason why I'm interested and excited about being here, it's just amazing to hear all the focus on climate. Literally every talk has been focused on getting our act together, moving along quickly, getting agreements on different transition pathways. And again, that's a topic that's quite close to our hearts. We launched the government climate campus last year to upskill about 50,000 public servants in the top emitting countries. And so it's really exciting to be here and see the enthusiasm for that agenda.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Yeah, I noticed the agenda has a big focus on sustainable development, a big focus on technology and, in some cases, where the two of those things come together. So it's gonna be a fascinating few days. Huge event. You know, just looking around, thousands of people here from all over the world. I'm pretty excited about what we pull out of it and I'm excited about the chance to meet people like you. I was just saying, Pooja and I were on a Zoom call last week, I think it was, with Pooja's boss Robyn, who's the head of Apolitical, and Derek Alton, who's some of our Canadian listeners will know from digital government circles and discovered today that we're both here and had a chance to meet in person. And that's always the beauty of these kind of events. You know, being able to sometimes make those in-person connections of people you've only met online.

Pooja Warier Hamilton (Chief Partnerships Officer, Apolitical): It's such a joy to see you here and excited about the things that we are planning for this year together.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Absolutely. Yeah, we were talking about some collaborations down the road. You know, Apolitical is doing very similar work to us on capacity building for public servants and so I think as we're hoping to be able to see if we can bridge the gap and do some international work together. So good to see you Pooja. Thanks so much for joining.

Pooja Warier Hamilton (Chief Partnerships Officer, Apolitical): Great to see you. Have a great summit.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): You too.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So I'm here at the Edge of Government exhibit. Just had the pleasure of getting a tour of exhibits from around the world. Interesting innovations in government, and here with Giulio who's one of the leads of this project. Giulio can you introduce yourself and just share a little bit about the exhibit that we're at?

Giulio Quaggiotto (Innovation Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE): Sure. First of all, welcome to Dubai.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Thank you.

Giulio Quaggiotto (Innovation Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE): The Edge of Government is really a pavilion where we try to invite innovative bureaucracy hackers from all over the world to explain what we've been doing to really push the boundaries of innovation in our context. What we know is that government innovation is not necessarily something that is easy to communicate, so we pair them up with the designers, interactive designers, so they can actually come up with a story and translate it into something that can be felt, sensory, smelled, sometimes touched, so that actual visitors to the World Government Summit can get a feel of what actually it means to push the boundaries of innovation within the public sector.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Right. And it has been actually a fascinating experience walking through the hall. There's, I believe, seven different exhibits here that are being shown from around the world, and fascinating kind of divergence of examples. You know, everything from supporting community services for women in Columbia to encoding information into trees for sustainable long-term data storage, and a very unique kind of combination between biology and digital data. And this is, I think if I'm right, the fourth year that this program has been in place, the Edge of Government?

Giulio Quaggiotto (Innovation Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE): Yes. It's actually the fourth year. Yes.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Okay. And so there's an awards part to this. So actually Giulio approached me fairly recently if I would be a judge as part of this, which I was honored to do. And myself and Aaron Snow, who I know well, we're walking around just now, taking a look at all these and we'll be quickly giving our feedback on it. For the exhibits that end up winning at the end of this, do they get support? What comes out for them? Or is it just recognition?

Giulio Quaggiotto (Innovation Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE): At this stage is recognition, but obviously one of the reasons why we want to showcase these examples is to encourage replication. So what we are doing with all the cases that are shown here is actually to try to match them up. And basically say, well, you know, these are other places, or this could be replicated, inspire others and support another process.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): That's great. And I'm curious your thoughts about the World Government Summit that we're at. I know you're based here in the UAE. You work with the government here on innovation projects. What's your big takeaway from events like this? What are you looking forward to the most over the next couple of days?

Giulio Quaggiotto (Innovation Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE): Well, one of the things that is always interesting for me is almost, this is almost acts like a pulse check. Whe are the discussion around governments in the world? And obviously given the current world situation, it's a very interesting moment to do it. So what I'm trying to see is whether they can surface a current. What is happening right now? What is the mood in general of decision makers? I think that's a really important thing. And then of course there is a global learning, right? There is an awful lot of things that happen on the side. What people share, information share examples, et cetera, which I think events like this are an ideal platform to make it happen.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Absolutely. I mean, I think some of the ideas that just get generated from kind of side conversations are always one of the highlights. Thanks so much. And thanks for being our tour guide today around the exhibits.

Giulio Quaggiotto (Innovation Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office, UAE): Thank you very much.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So it's the end of day one here at the World Government Summit and it's been a very long day one for me personally. Probably was up around 7:30 this morning, and it is now 12:46 am. So it's been a solid 15 hour day, or 17, pushing 17 hour day. The conference itself ended late afternoon and we had a networking event for some of the speakers for one of the sessions I'm with, which was great. A good chance to meet a number of people who I'm gonna be sharing the stage with over the next couple of days. But one of the realities of doing international conferences particularly for someone like me who's a small business owner, is that life doesn't necessarily stop while I'm away. Back in Ottawa, and unfortunately there's a few things that I still have to keep an eye on, we had an important client meeting that had to happen with one of their governance committees this afternoon, Ottawa time, which ended up being around midnight Dubai time. So just finished up doing a video conference call with a number of folks back in Canada and now getting ready to head to bed.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Really great first day. Some really interesting conversations. You know some interesting sessions, but I always find the things you really take away often come from those discussions that happen on the margins, and had that in spades today. And just some neat experiences too. Had a kind of funny experience. Was doing a tour of this exhibit called the Edge of Government that's looking at some interesting case studies of innovation around the world. While we were getting the debrief on one of the exhibits, there were suddenly a crush of people and TV cameras that came out of nowhere that were over our shoulder. And this woman had come up and came to meet the two presenters who were walking us through their exhibit. And then ended up, I ended up getting introduced to her. Anyways. Turns out it was the Prime Minister of Serbia. So, you know, one of those kind of fascinating World Government Summit moments where you end up randomly meeting a head of state while looking at an exhibit. And that's, you know, it's one of the fascinating dynamics here is you get a lot of very high level representation, number of different heads of state and world leaders, particularly from Eastern Europe, certainly from obviously the Gulf region, the UAE, from a lot of African countries as well, and from Asia. So it's a really interesting, these kind of government delegations that are coming with senior leadership, but obviously people from throughout the organization also at a bit of more of a working level. And then people from international organizations from all over that are coming here. So, yeah. I'm probably rambling a bit at this time, just from a little bit of sleep deprivation. So I'm gonna go get some sleep 'cause things are, are getting going again here, not too long from now in the morning. And I have the first of two presentations that I'm giving tomorrow afternoon. So I need to go get myself ready for that.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): All right. So it is the evening of day two of the World Government Summit, and we are on the bus with a group of folks who were part of the GX Talks session heading to go see the Museum of the Future, which we're all excited about. And I am excited to be sitting here with friends old and new, which is always the great things about these conferences. So Aaron Snow is here with me on the bus who we just did a session at GX Talks. Hi Aaron.

Aaron Snow (Fellow, Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation): Hey Ryan. How you doing?

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Good. So Aaron and I had actually had a great little fireside chat talk as part of GX Talks, talking about digital services teams, what's happening in the world. Aaron, what's kind of the 30 second highlight of what you were talking about in terms of what we're seeing around the gaps in digital service delivery and government?

Aaron Snow (Fellow, Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation): We talked about the different ways government has to work to keep up with people's expectations set by, you know, the rest of the digital world in the year 2023.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So Aaron and I are both here for the first time at the World Government Summit. And actually we were just talking about just the value of kind of hallway conversations that come up and new people you meet. Aaron, what's your impression so far?

Aaron Snow (Fellow, Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation): Yeah, exactly that. There's so many, there must be 10, 15, 20 programs going on at any given time at this summit. I was told there were maybe 10,000 people attending. The agenda itself is sensory overload for a guy like me, so I find I'm happiest in the halls talking to people one-on-one or in small groups, meeting folks learning that way and not trying to, you know, choose which of 18 different things to go to next hour and the hour after that, and the hour after that.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Right? No, it's great. So we're heading to the Museum of the Future, which we've heard is quite spectacular. It should be interesting. Anything that you're looking forward to the most over, you know, tonight or in the last day as things wrap up tomorrow?

Aaron Snow (Fellow, Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation): I'm just gonna be wandering until I find their flux capacitor.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): There we go.

Aaron Snow (Fellow, Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation): I will say we, there were many interesting speakers today. I had no idea coming in that I was gonna be sharing a stage with the guy who's written for Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Yeah. A pretty, pretty amazing group of speakers who were coming out.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Well, good morning. It is the morning of day three and… having an early start today, at least for me. I typically tend not to be a morning bird. Can hear a few birds in the background as we're chatting, I'm just sitting out on the patio here at the hotel room, having a cup of coffee. It's about quarter to seven in the morning. And yeah, early start today. We've got an interesting event coming up that starts at eight o'clock this morning and into the afternoon. Really today for this last day of the summit I'm participating in something called the government services forum. This is kind of a special sidetrack of the summit that's really focused on the issues that are near and dear to my heart, which are how do we improve government services and, in particular, look at kind of public administration issues and their intersection with technology. I had a chance yesterday to be part of another stream that was called GX Talks, GX standing for government experience, and was able to join on stage my friend Aaron Snow, who was the former head of the Canadian Digital Service. And previous to that had run the 18F digital team in the US government. I was essentially moderating or interviewing him as part of a fireside chat on stage. Today I'm gonna be talking all about the metaverse and as part of the government services forum I'm gonna be on a panel looking at the metaverse talking about what it is, talking about what the potential impacts of it are for government in the future. As some people may know, certainly from one of our previous episodes, one of our first episodes for this podcast, was actually about the metaverse. It's an area that we've been experimenting with quite a bit over the last couple of years. So looking forward to that discussion today. And just kind of reflecting back here what has been a very busy couple of days. You know, it's been a really interesting experience. The chance to connect with people who know, I've known before and haven't seen in a long time. Having the chance to meet some new connections from all over the world. I love that type of thing. I find it very invigorating and certainly it brings out the extroverted piece of my personality to be engaged in these types of things.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): We had a visit last night to the Museum of the Future, which is actually a fairly new attraction here in Dubai that just opened up about a year ago. Kind of takes the premise of taking futurism or taking foresight forecasting, actually building a museum as if it was the year 2071. And gets you to get into the head space of how might our future descendants look back at what's happened in the interceding 50 years or so of our progress and getting us thinking about potential paths going forward into the future. And I think it's a fascinating approach to getting us thinking a little bit about some of these big existential issues that have been themes here at the summit. And using that kind of future forecasting in a different type of way around it. I had the pleasure of watching from colleagues and new friends yesterday, the GX Talks sessions were very much about thinking around what are the trends gonna be in the next decade, two decades, three decades coming up. And I think that it's always kind of an interesting place to go. To be able to stretch our thinking down the horizon, you know, multiple decades can be challenging. But I think probably what's even more challenging behind that is to be able to think about how do we take action today to be able to shape that future and to move us in the right direction. And so that's, you know, that's certainly after two days of pretty enriching, interesting conversations where my mind is at this morning as I am looking out at the natural beauty of Dubai and enjoying the sun come up.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So it is the last day of the World Government Summit, and one of the great things about these types of events is reconnecting with people you haven't seen in a while and was super happy that in the government services form I was part of today, was also my former boss from the OECD, Barbara Ubaldi. Barbara, great to see you again.

Barbara Ubaldi (Head of Digital Government and Data Unit, OECD): Hi Ryan. Great to see you again in the warm weather.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So Barbara and I have just been catching up. We haven't actually seen each other in person for probably four or five years. Barbara continues to do some amazing work around the world with the OECD, leading the digital government unit there. Barbara, you're a veteran of these kind of international events. What are your big takeaways from your time here at the summit?

Barbara Ubaldi (Head of Digital Government and Data Unit, OECD): I think finally we're talking about really putting the users at the center of the design of services. For so many years we've been talking about being user centered, but that remained a very government driven point of view. Whereas I think we finally realize that the user needs to be at the core. We are talking about design of services, and not only delivery of services. And I see that we are started thinking about the metaverse. What does it mean for public services?

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Right. Yeah. I was here for a panel in the metaverse. Interesting conversation about looking kind of at future thinking technology. And Barbara, you were on a panel about digital identity, which is one of those like basic things that government has to get right. I'm curious, maybe if you can just summarize your points around what you're seeing from the work in the OECD about how digital identity is moving across countries around the world.

Barbara Ubaldi (Head of Digital Government and Data Unit, OECD): Yes. I think the biggest trend is that we start talking about digital identity systems and not longer about solutions only. Because solutions for digital identity have been around for quite some time. In many cases, they were enabling access to private services. The COVID-19 pandemic showed the relevance for governments who had digital identity systems to be able to use them to keep delivering services in a continuous way. So I think the big trend we see, first of all is understanding that having digital identity systems that are able to manage identity as a service is essential for governments and for digital maturity. We are understanding the importance of the governance of digital identity having to be right, and we are shifting the conversation from the technical solution to what it enables to do. So I think those are trends which are very important. And which are also bringing to light the fact that there's no one approach that fits all national contexts, but different national environments require different approaches. But the governance needs to be right across all governments.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Yeah. I'll say I think it's an issue we've actually struggled with in Canada in terms of getting a national approach to this, in part because of our decentralized approach. And it's just one of those like fundamental building blocks, right? That if governments don't have that, it's tough to do much more beyond it. Listen, thank you for this. I was thinking we probably should have a podcast episode about digital identity by itself because it's such a big important issue. Great to see you again, Barbara, and let's hopefully not, you know, make it five years until we see each other in person next.

Barbara Ubaldi (Head of Digital Government and Data Unit, OECD): Great to see you soon Ryan.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Thanks Barbara.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So it's the evening of day three of the World Government Summit. One of the running themes has been running into people who I've only known online that I got to meet in person for the first time, making some new connections, and also excitingly getting to reconnect with people who I haven't seen in a while. And thrilled that my good friend Simonida who I know back from our time together in Boston, happens to be living here in Dubai. And we got a chance to catch up in person for the first time in probably five years. So, Simonida, introduce yourself. Tell folks about who you are and what you're doing here.

Simonida Subotic (Former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, State of New York): Sure. Yeah, I'm Ryan's friend from grad school. Well, I live here now, but a year ago I was living in New York where I was working for Governor Cuomo's cabinet as a Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Housing in New York State. So even though I'm no longer in government, when it comes to all things government, I'm always interested and always eager to listen and hear what the conversation is.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): And, and I'll just say you did some amazing work there during the COVID pandemic trying to navigate procurement in what was a legitimate crisis. So, yeah, big, big hats off to you for the work you did in that space.

Simonida Subotic (Former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, State of New York): Survived, which was the ultimate target. Yeah, no, but the most gratifying, humbling experience of my lifetime, and one that I think I'll always look back to and sort of think I'm glad I survived it. And I never will regret, you know, going, going that deep. It was just truly an honor to be a part of it.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Yeah. And actually, you know, it's worth, we were chatting with us over dinner earlier. We're just in a taxi heading back after after having a chance to catch up a little bit. And we were talking about that difference between working in government and being on the outside and you've worked as a consultant for a good part of your career as well. And I'm curious, just, you know, this was actually one of the themes that's come up in the summit a little bit is kind of how do you work between sectors? How do get everybody rowing in the same direction, so to speak. I'd be curious for you to just kinda share your insight on, you know, having been inside government, being as a consultant, you've worked for a number of startups, kind of what, what that difference is like and maybe what's unique about trying to deal with issues from inside the system.

Simonida Subotic (Former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, State of New York): Yeah, so I'm a huge proponent of showing that one can navigate multiple worlds because one thing in government, I found, I came in after being in management consulting for a decade almost. And most of my colleagues had only done government. So they were only sort of on the public sector side as they called it. And they always wondered what the other side was like or whether it was too late for them to sort of go back and forth. And I felt that there was this divide that it was so artificial, and people put themselves in boxes that I kept wanting to show you really do not have to be a part of. And so I went from management consulting to government to now private sector. Again, working for a startup in a different part of the world to always being connected, to the government's perspective. Because I think that's the only way to make it effective. And I will say, I was talking to a colleague of mine who was working on procurement with me and we thought she's applying to go to business school, and she's thinking about, well, why business school and not Kennedy School? And you know, the answer is super simple. In New York, we could not have dreamt to have done what we've done in terms of the response and getting masks, gloves, this incredibly critical equipment had it not been the connection to the private sector. Like people who were just, you know, donating the planes and you know, their connections to everywhere around the globe to help New Yorkers do what we needed to do. So the answer is super simple. It's just that people don't seem to somehow think that you can have a career across these worlds, multiple times and going back and forth. So I don't think this is the last time for me.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Yeah, no, I mean I've, well, I'm a proponent personally. I mean, my career has kind of gone in and out of these different sectors and I think we were having discussion in one of the sessions earlier today, just about the need for talent, right? As governments are moving to digital and I think you can only get there if you can bring people in, but also take public servants and get them that perspective outside. So it's, it's a really important point. Curious just to ask you, you had a chance to actually come to the summit today and sit in a bunch of sessions. Anything stand out to you from what you heard this morning at the sessions you attended?

Simonida Subotic (Former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, State of New York): Yes. I think first of all, I, you know, I came to sort of like, like you to reconnect with people and I ran into a friend while I was trying to get coffee. I was there to see you. So I didn't really think I would be, you know, caught by the panels as much as I ended up having been. And that's always a pleasant surprise when it comes to large conferences, right? Where you probably have lower expectations and then you get something that's great. I think because we are in this part of the world and they always try to be at the forefront of whatever is next to new on the tech side, there was a lot of conversation on tech. So even people like Ian Bremmer, who I really respect, for his perspective on global geopolitics, had a sort of tech perspective as he was doing his plenary session. And one thing he said that really stuck with me was, if we think about people of his generation, I think he's in his early fifties for example, or even just us, you know, everything that you can ascribe to your success or failure can really go back to either your parents, or your broader community that you grew up in. So nature versus nurture, or nature and nurture. And he is now offering that really going forward for people that are born in the, you know, late two thousands or even today or going in the next 5, 10, 15, 50 years, it will be nature and nurture and algorithm. Right? And I think that's a really profound way to think about technology, in the way that you are brought up that is very different than how our parents or even ourselves were brought up. And so I love this kind of medley of geopolitics, government, and technology, and you know, with the individual at the center.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): It's a fascinating thought about whether some of those kind of foundational pillars of our world are changing before our eyes. Well listen, our cab is almost at its destination but it was great to have you on, on Let's Think Digital and hopefully, we'll have a chance to, to maybe have you back sometime. So thank you for doing this.

Simonida Subotic (Former Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, State of New York): Absolutely. And you represented Think Digital and Canada really well on your panel. I was there to witness it myself.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Very kind of you to say. Thank you.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): So it's the morning of day four. Day four here in Dubai. The summit officially ended yesterday afternoon, and I am here for one extra day which is wonderful to have a chance to go explore the city a little bit. We were pretty busy for for the first few days here at the summit with all the activities going on and connections with speakers and networking. Didn't really get a chance to get too far beyond the grounds of the hotel complex where the summit was taking place. So I'm excited as I start my last day here in Dubai, to have an opportunity to to go out and see a little bit more of the city and get a little bit of a better sense of the place. And so I've just been, reflecting a little bit this morning on the last few days and the experience here at the World Government Summit. And I have to say it's been a pretty incredible experience in a whole number of ways. Amazing hospitality here. Certainly quite an extraordinary event. And a pretty unique mix of people who've come together for it. And as I've talked about a little bit on my reflections throughout the week, one of the highlights of, I think any of these types of events, be they national or international, is that opportunity to reconnect with former colleagues and people you may not have a chance to see that often in person. But also to meet new people. And certainly in this context, new people from around the world who are working on issues that are near and dear to your heart. And something that really stood out for me is just the commonality of the challenges that people are facing who are in this space around trying to improve how government works in the digital age. I think in Canada, we often hear from peer countries, from places like the US and the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. You know, some places in Europe. And I think here was a really interesting chance to connect with people from the Gulf region and across the Middle East, from Africa, from parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. It really just struck me that I think everybody is dealing with some of the same challenges. And so that is heartening and hopefully can lead to a degree of solidarity as we pool our resources and think about what some of these approaches might be. So yeah, it's been an incredible experience.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Really looking forward to digesting everything that I've taken in. And I'll just say that I think these experiences, going to conferences and events like this, having the chance to travel and get a bit more of a firsthand perspective on how others are dealing with issues that you're working on, you know, for me, I find them really inspirational. I've often said, you know, almost all the best ideas I've ever had have been sparked from when I was at a conference, when I was traveling, when I had a chance to visit other places and see firsthand some of the challenges they're working on. And I was reflecting with my friend Simonida last night when we were having dinner, that it can be very tough in the day to day where you're putting out fires, dealing with very transactional things. People get very busy. Your calendars get very full just trying to keep on top of what's immediately in front of you. And I think for virtually everybody I know, one of the challenges becomes how do you carve out space to be able to think, strategically, think deeper. To try and get a little bit of that long-term vision and inspiration. And that's why I think these types of events and these types of experiences are amazing for that, from the perspective of being able to actually step back a little bit. And I'm certainly kinda looking forward to, you know, as I kind of slowly make the trek back across the globe over the next 36 hours, to do some reflection myself and, and hopefully walk away from this week and this experience with some new inspiration that I can bring back to the work we're doing at Think Digital, and be able to share back with with colleagues and friends back home in Canada. So I am off to meet a former colleague for lunch and to go explore Dubai a little bit more before I head to the airport. And, you know, just grateful for the opportunity to be here for what I think has been a really successful trip. A really unique experience and certainly something that I will remember for a long time.

Ryan Androsoff (Host of Let's Think Digital): Thanks so much for listening to what was a special episode of Let's Think Digital, live from Dubai. Please reach out to us on social media using the hashtag #letsthinkdigital and share with us what you thought about today's episode, or email us at As always, if you like what you've heard, please give us a five star review on your favorite podcast app and do share our podcast with friends and colleagues who you think might be interested in it. Today's episode was produced by myself and Wayne Chu. Thanks so much for listening, and let's keep thinking digitally. 

Live from Dubai!