Written on behalf of Digital Jersey by Professor Alan W Brown, strategy adviser, entrepreneur and Professor in Digital Economy
TODAY, more than ever, digital technology is having an increasing impact on all our lives.
In the workplace, we collaborate, deliver services and manage our tasks with the support of digital tools. At home, we are constantly connected through digitally-enabled devices, we monitor behaviour through smart meters and stay entertained through mobile apps.
Digital has become cheap, easy to use, consumable like a utility, mobile, always on, and operates seamlessly with devices we frequently carry around with us. In just a few years, we have become sophisticated users of such technologies, and accustomed to the flexibility and freedoms they enable, whether at home or at work.
We also see the evidence of digital technology changes in the organisations and institutions we use. Industries such as banking and insurance have long been heavy users of computing technologies, from automated teller machines to online bill-paying systems. Now these have been joined by online retail, digital health devices, internet-connected home appliances, and dozens more services. Even our public services, such as reporting crime and paying parking fines, are digital. So why are we still talking about digital transformation?
The digital revolution is upon us
Although the digital revolution has been under way for some time, we are now entering a new phase. Building on the shoulders of information technologies in use for the past 50 years, we now see a fundamental shift in computing’s focus away from generating and manipulating data and toward advanced ways of understanding and learning from this data to automate actions, make decisions and predict future behaviour.
Likewise, our expectations for this technology have also escalated. Where it used to be sufficient for a bank to record our financial transactions or the utility company to know our recent levels of electricity consumption, we now want them to work on our behalf to manage our financial health, optimise spending patterns, advise on better deals and tariffs and so much more. Through the digitisation of our world, we have opened up significant opportunities to redefine how we work, live and interact.
No surprise then that in both the public and private sectors, organisations are having to adapt to respond to the implication of this digital perspective. As they do so, they recognise that adopting digital technologies is only part of a successful digital strategy.
Also critical to their future sustainability is reviewing their working practices by performing a deeper analysis of the value they offer in a quickly-evolving market, undergoing a broad examination of how they position their activities in light of new demands and expectations from stakeholders, and carrying out a careful review of management practices across the organisation to adjust the pace of decision-making, establish appropriate levels of governance and motivate a workforce driven by new expectations and concerns.
Taking time to act on these challenges is critical for all organisations facing the digital revolution. As a result, we see new kinds of organisations with a digital-first mindset appearing, and existing organisations refactoring to ensure that they are fit for a digitally-driven environment.
Inevitably, experiences coping with the Covid pandemic over the past two years have increased awareness of the digital shift that is under way. Long-held reservations about the risks and challenges of adopting digital ways of working have been overtaken by the need to survive, adapt, and thrive within a different business and societal landscape. An emerging world which relies upon the power of digital technologies to help us to connect, communicate, manage and adapt.
Implications for Jersey
All these effects have been as significant on Jersey as they have been in many other places around the world. The restrictions, uncertainties and changes to our lives have led us to appreciate the role that digital technology can play in supporting the things that matter to us most.
Indeed, we are more reliant than ever on their successful adoption, whether that is for communicating with our loved ones, sustaining our health and wellbeing or ensuring the continuity and resilience of the organisations that support us.
It is a concern that Jersey has long recognised. In particular, over the past few years, the role and impact of the digital revolution has received significant attention. Enabling use of digital technology, growing digital skills and building effective strategies and plans for the delivery of digital products and services has been a priority, co-ordinated through the efforts of Digital Jersey, the government-backed economic development agency and industry association dedicated to the growth of Jersey’s digital sector.
Driving towards a better digital future
The digital focus in Jersey has driven several successes, notably the deployment of high-quality gigabit connectivity across the Island, establishment of the Digital Skills Academy and support for a growing digital tech sector. These are important milestones on the journey to build a foundation that is sufficiently robust to support the significant changes under way, flexible to adapt to the uncertainties we all currently face and scalable to power future developments necessary for growth.
Yet there is no time to pause. A continued focus on these areas is essential to maintain momentum and encourage the search for additional opportunities that build on the platform available. A key part of this is the Digital Jersey five-year strategy, released earlier this year. It outlines the ambitions, focus areas and key milestones for the next phase of digital transformation taking place across Jersey.
While broad in scope, it highlights the digital revolution’s influence in four key areas: infrastructure, industry, government and people. Within each of these themes, the strategy considers the current context and lays out a vision for how Jersey can succeed in moving forward over the next few years.
It is an important document, rightly receiving significant attention, and an important step on Jersey’s digital transformation journey. However, it will only make a difference if it now drives broad impact in Jersey. Experience of working in large-scale digital transformation activities across the world points to three essential elements that must support this strategy:
1. Open dialogue to ensure alignment in understanding the opportunities and challenges brought by digital transformation.
2. Appreciation and leverage of the investments already made in Jersey in the key digital building blocks that can now drive opportunities across the Island and attract new businesses.
3. Co-ordination of the passion, expertise and skills that will power Jersey’s digital future.
The accomplishments thus far form a great base on which to build. Now is the time to look ahead and work together to propel Jersey forwards into the digital future.