We Brought World Experts to Prague

We Brought World Experts to Prague

The organizing team spent a year and a half preparing the conference focusing on digital topics. Included was also Jan Míča, Head of the European Digital Agenda Department. "It's definitely a great experience and the organising team is not going to be thrown off balance easily," he says.

The conference on digital issues is the event with the highest number of participants of all events held at the PCC during the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. What are the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. What are the reasons for this? Why this particular event?
The digital agenda is currently one of the leading topics of the European Union, and therefore logically one of the priorities of our European Presidency. It is a bit of a tradition that the country currently holding the Presidency organises a big "digital event". It is a great opportunity to bring global experts from international institutions, academia and business to Prague and connect them with our Czech partners.

The conference has been described as one of the leading events of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union. What makes this topic so interesting?
In the Czech Republic, we have a tradition of conferences on the topic of 5G network security, which have historically been organised by The Federal Office for Cyber and Information Security (NÚKIB). This year, the Government Office and a team from the Ministry of Industry and Trade joined our colleagues from NÚKIB. Well, and that has turned into this two-day conference. In addition, we set the whole event in the so-called Czech Digital Week, a week of events on the topic of digital transformation, which brought together the public, non-profit and private sectors and clearly showed that digital topics are not an afterthought in the Czech Republic.

What were the main topics discussed at the conference?
On the first day, crucial topics such as securing supply chains and critical infrastructure were on the table. The second day of the conference took a closer look at issues related to the digital transformation that is fundamentally changing the economy and our society. The relationship between artificial intelligence technologies, data and business approach was discussed. The fight against misinformation was also an important topic.

We heard repeatedly that global cooperation is important, especially with the United States of America.

Can you name any important participants, political representatives aside?
The two-day conference was attended personally and online by prominent representatives from academia, business and NGOs, and the European Commission was represented by experts from their Directorates General for IT and Business - Yvo Volman and Joanna Szychowska. The United States was represented by Ruth Berry from the US Department of State or Frances Burwell from the Atlantic Council think tank. From the business associations, there were present, for example, Ray Pinto from Digital Europe in Brussels or the Swedish representative Charlotte Andersdotter.

Which halls were used in the PCC?
We mainly used the Forum Hall, which allowed us to get a large number of participants in one place on both days. The Forum Hall was also used for the accompanying programme, where we turned the hall into a cinema and screened the documentary V Síti about the pitfalls of the Internet for children and young people.
In addition to the Social Hall, we used the halls on the north side of the PCC with a beautiful view of the Prague Castle and Prague. Here we held bilateral meetings of ministerial delegations and on the second day also the so-called breakout sessions, where we divided the participants into 4 groups and took part in simultaneous panels on artificial intelligence, data or disinformation.

Was there anything specific about this conference in terms of technology? What technology did you use?
There was probably nothing specific in terms of technology. Both days were held in a hybrid form via videoconferencing platforms and with the possibility of streaming (for the second day it was streaming on our conference website digitalconference2022.cz, where the recordings are available for viewing retrospectively). What was specific was probably the interactive robot exhibition. During the conference, attendees were able to meet a mobile industrial robot that distributed refreshments to guests and speakers on stage. The robot was imported and programmed by a team of scientists from the Technical University of Ostrava. The team also presented various 3D printing products to the guests, such as a scooter or the smart factory concept. The musical background was provided by a robot playing the piano.

What was the most difficult thing to organise for this conference?
The most complicated was definitely the fact that it was organised by 3 state institutions together - so more heads, more opinions. But in the end, we covered everything in the wider organising team. The nuts and bolts and nerve-wracking part was definitely the hybrid design of the conference. Remote connections had to be arranged and tested (sometimes across the world) to make sure everything worked and we didn't embarrass ourselves when we were working on the digital agenda and the online connection failed.
The logistics of ministerial and VIP delegations were also challenging - it was not clear in advance who would arrive at the PCC and when, and whether they would all arrive at the correct entrance. In the end, everything worked out without any diplomatic missteps.

The second day of the conference was open to the public. Was the public interested? And was the organisation a bit more complicated from this point of view?
There was a much bigger wave of interest from the public on the open second day. A number of participants used the online stream on our website, but it was still necessary from an organisational point of view to provide more support for on-site accreditations.

How satisfied were you with the event? Was everything okay?
Personally, I was very satisfied with the event, and apart from some nerve-wracking situations, everything went well. Preparations for such a large conference took more than a year and a half of planning, which is several times longer than the duration of the event itself. It is definitely a great experience, and the organizing team is not going to be surprised by anything.

What did you appreciate most about the PCC?
It is the large variety of different spaces that can be adapted to the number of participants and the type of event - screenings, conferences, bilateral meetings, workshops. It's definitely the accessibility near the metro and the accommodation options in the area.

How satisfied were the participants? Do you have any feedback?
We already had feedback from the participants on the spot. Nothing pleases the organizing team more than being stopped by unknown participants with congratulations on a well-run event. But even now, a week after the event, we are getting thank you emails from VIP speakers and ministerial delegations thanking us for the service and smooth running of the conference.


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