MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The 6th annual Focus Forward conference, sponsored by the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative (WVPEC) and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, is coming to the Morgantown Marriott Waterfront Place on March 27 beginning at 9 a.m.

Focus Forward 2024: West Virginia’s Digital Destiny will feature forums on how technology is revolutionizing society and opportunities to collaborate, according to WVPEC executive director Donna Hoylman Peduto.

“This is for teachers, education, business leaders, and government—we welcome them all,” Hoylman Peduto said. “Our agenda is full of opportunity to learn and collaborate.”

In an increasingly digitized world, more sensitive information is in the digital space, and how is that information safeguarded? Sessions will also have important information about the seemingly sudden emergence of artificial intelligence and how it will change the way we live our lives, if at all.

“We’re talking about how we can become a digital state and how these new technologies that revolutionize every aspect of our society can be used to our benefit,” Hoylman Peduto said.

The guests include Sarah Biller, executive director of Vantage Ventures; Major General James Hoyer (Ret), vice president for economic innovation at West Virginia University; and Scott Swan, CEO of Rank One Computing, the only American-made multimodal biometrics and computer vision provider.

“Both U.S. Senator Capito and Manchin, “the presidents” Gordon Gee and Brad D. Smith, and we have someone from Amazon Web Services that’s going to give us a national and international perspective.”

Digital technologies have developed and evolved, creating an environment of constant change and innovation. Digital technologies are now common for paying a bill or getting directions, but they are emerging in security, agriculture, and environmental applications.

“Are we going to use cards to get into buildings, or is it going to be our facial recognition or finger prints?” Peduto asked. “It’s exciting in a way, but I know there are fears too.”

At 3 p.m., the Fireside Chat: West Virginia Innovations Captivating International Spotlight will feature Gordon Gee, president, West Virginia University; Brad D. Smith, president, Marshall University; and Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair and director, Rockefeller Neuroscience Center. Rezai and the Rockefeller Nueroscience Center have been the subject of national media attention for a 60 Minutes feature about the breakthrough use of ultrasound to treat drug addiction and other disorders.

“Things are happening so quickly, and what Dr. Resai is doing is such a great example of a wonderful use of technology, and that’s what we hope to bring out in our topics,” Peduto said.

A special reception with Dr. Rezai is scheduled for 4 p.m., sponsored by Discover the Real West Virginia, the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, and WVU Medicine. This event requires additional registration.

Get more information about Focus Forward and register here.