Warning over AI and the digital future of Jersey

Jersey Chamber of Commerce lunch with guest speaker Tony Moretta Picture: JON GUEGAN. (37550482)

JERSEY must prepare for and embrace the impact of AI to stay ahead of the curve and prevent well-paid jobs from disappearing here in the near future, Digital Jersey’s chief executive has warned.

And Tony Moretta said that while Jersey was advertised as a “digital island”, it often did not feel like that because it was yet to take full advantage of the “amazing infrastructure” here.

Speaking at this month’s Chamber of Commerce lunch, Mr Moretta said that while there were some encouraging signs with government and its arm’s-length delivery partners, recent difficulties over credit cards and postcode recognition illustrated that Jersey was “finding out the hard way what happens when we can’t connect or don’t connect our data with an increasingly digital world”.

Mr Moretta said: “The risk [with AI] is that if we leave it to the market, then it will replace many of the well-paid jobs here and we’ll be left with the harder-to-automate lower-paid jobs, such as hotel room cleaners, food servers and carers. What would that do to our economy and the government’s tax revenue?”

He also expressed disappointment at the pace of change with the Health Department seven years after publication of a digital health strategy that had brought together clinical practitioners, Digital Jersey and the government. Nevertheless, today things remained “very analogue”.

“Hardly any of it has been implemented. I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough. We need to do something about our health data and connectivity across not just HCS but the GPs and Family Nursing now. It’s improving but too slowly and needs to be prioritised,” he said.

Outlining his vision for a “smart Island”, Mr Moretta pointed to achievements in two key areas: the development of the first data trust – a legal structure developed within Jersey’s tax laws to provide independent stewardship of data – and the creation of a digital twin, or digital representation of a physical object in its own environment. This had been used, he observed, to demonstrate the impact of the Island’s potential wind farm in the public consultation.

He continued: “Doesn’t it feel as if it’s perhaps time to have another look at the design of our road network, especially in St Helier? We have the data, we have the digital twin, so we could try things out – in simulation rather than mess everyone around with real-world tests which don’t always work. We could try changing traffic bottlenecks, one-way roads [and] change the design of pedestrian crossings.”

Mr Moretta said there was a third key element for a smart Island: development of a digital exchange to collect, share and use data “to unlock unprecedented opportunities for data-driven decision-making and innovation”.

He said Digital Jersey would work with local and external partners, “including the likes of Google”, to build the exchange, starting by inviting States-owned entities and government departments to get involved before opening up opportunities more widely.

He continued: “We’ll only get to realise the vision if we work together as a business community, along with the public sector, and show a little bravery in doing things differently.

“When we got back from the Smart City Expo in Barcelona in November one of my team published a blog entitled Modernise or Die, Jersey. I have to admit I was a bit worried it might offend a few people but do you know what? He was right.”

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