A DIGITAL and tech conference which was online-only for the first time last week was also its “biggest and best”, organisers said.

Around 600 people attended the free virtual conference, hosted by Dynamo, the voice of the region’s IT, digital and tech sector.

The seventh annual conference involved speakers, panels and exhibitions through an online platform, opening the event up to people all across the North-East.

“It’s certainly not what we had planned at the beginning of the year, but we had 600 delegates registered and the feedback we’ve had has been excellent. It was informative, challenging and our biggest and best conference to date,” said Dynamo chair Charlie Hoult.

Dynamo announced in April that its annual conference, titled Collaborating for Success, would go ahead in a digital format because of the spread of Covid-19.

Keynote speaker professor Nic Palmarini, the director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA), based at Newcastle University, discussed how older generation could continue to make vital contributions to society and should not be seen as an expense or a burden.

The second keynote was from Aaron Harris, Sage’s chief technology officer, who joined the conference from the USA and looked at Sage’s cloud services.

The agenda was dominated by the threats and opportunities posed by the pandemic, with one panel exploring how the health sector and society more generally have responded.

Other sessions examined resilience in the tech sector, looking at the future of tech education in the wake of the pandemic, how to embrace the post Covid-19 world and examining how to move staff to homeworking.

Mr Hoult added: “It was important we highlighted how the regional tech sector is playing a key role in Covid-19 recovery, and we also wanted to explore the wider response, the challenges and opportunities.”

Another panel looked at diversifying tech workforces, which Dynamo has identified as a priority within the region’s sector.

Panellists included Prof Sue Black from Durham University and Fareeha Usman, founder of Being Woman while Prof Aad van Moorsel, director of the IOC at Newcastle University, led the discussion.

“Diversity is a topic we’ve identified as a priority for Dynamo and the important session gave us some clear direction for the coming months,” said Mr Hoult.

“Our overarching theme was collaboration, a USP of the region’s tech sector and one of the reasons why it is so successful. We wanted to celebrate the collaborative nature of the region’s tech companies and how well we work together,” he added.

Dr Mhairi Aitken, Senior Research Associate at Newcastle University, helped close the conference with her light-hearted Blame in on the Algorithm session, which she has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“Obviously it was going to be difficult to replicate the vibrancy and buzz of a conference online, but we’re delighted at how well this year’s conference went,” Mr Hoult said.

“The chat was busy with good craic all day and networking opportunities were popular.”

Dynamo’s conference annually attracts delegates from the region’s tech and IT companies, as well as representatives from local public sector organisations, professional services, colleges and universities.