Building bridges by crossing continents
The Mayor of Trenton, the state capital of New Jersey, has come to St Helier to open the square at the heart of the International Finance Centre - and brought a delegation with him, thanks to increasing interest in the US, in what Jersey is doing, says Digital Jersey head, Tony Moretta.
IT’S amazing what returning to a familiar spot can do for your mind, body and soul. Just a few weeks ago I found myself sitting at the fishing wharf by the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, an awesome feat of engineering which spans the strait connecting the Pacific Ocean with San Francisco Bay.
I totted up that it had been 20 years, almost to the day, since I was last there, and I was immediately transported back in time to 1999. Back then I had more hair, I could fit into smaller clothes, and I had no idea about the career that lay ahead of me.
That flashback came at the end of a week travelling east to west as part of a visit made with the Government of Jersey, where we got to meet a whole of range of government, business and research institutions – and where I was able to beat the drum for Jersey’s digital sector. It was a moment to remind myself of the advice an old boss gave me in the 1990s: that it was important to get your people out of their day-to-day routine, and that it was important to expose them to new ideas, to new places and to new things. It’s a belief that’s stuck with me, and it’s why I have a constant intellectual curiosity to learn new things. I returned to Jersey mentally re-energised, and fired up with plans to develop the new professional relationships I’d made on my trip.
I mention all of this because one of those relationships is with the Mayor of Trenton, the state capital of New Jersey. On May 8th, Mayor Reed Guscoria officially opened Trenton Square, the public realm that’s been created at the heart of the International Finance Centre on St Helier’s Esplanade. Since our meeting in Trenton as part of my US week, the size of the delegation visiting Jersey has increased in number. Meeting, face-to-face, with both the Mayor and a host of political and business representatives gave me the chance to showcase the good work that’s going on in Jersey, and means more of them want to see it for themselves.
They were wowed by our ultrafast fibre broadband network, by the way a well-regulated environment and a fleet-of-foot approach to getting things done attracted Binance – the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange – to the Island, and by our testbed proposition, SandBox Jersey, which offers up the Island as the perfectly placed location to trial new products and services.
I just know this is the start of a long and prosperous relationship for Jersey and New Jersey, and I am delighted that the delegation will be visiting Digital Jersey while they’re here to meet some of our tech industry players and hear more about the work we’re doing both here and around the world.
It’s that kind of ambition which was noticed wherever we travelled. Our US week began an hour north of New York at IBM’s research laboratories where they’re developing quantum computing. This is computing with a speed and power beyond anything most of us can currently fathom. Seeing it in action made my brain hurt, but it also opened my eyes to its game-changing potential.
From there it was to New York to meet representatives of the UK’s Department for International Trade who are doing a lot of work around financial services and all things digital. Again, a key chance to really explain the Jersey proposition – that we’re much more than solely a finance centre, and that our digital infrastructure is among the best in the world. Promoting our tech credentials is becoming an increasingly big and important part of the story we tell of Jersey overseas. At Princeton University I met their Centre for IT Policy & Strategy. We talked, again, about our fibre infrastructure which really did wow them, and we began talks about working together on shared projects that could be tested on the Island.
In Washington DC we met officials from the US Department of Commerce where they were aware of Jersey’s Binance story, but didn’t realise another massive global success – Worldpay – had started life in the Island. It’s the sort of example that really makes people sit up and listen to what we’re about and a reminder of the power of continually having such conversations. We also met with the British Embassy where there was real interest in our work with academic institutions, including UCL and Rothamsted, in the UK. The US hold the UK’s reputation for academic research and technology development in such high regard and they got to understand how Jersey plugs into that by being the place where ideas can be tested in a real-world environment.
From Washington DC to Seattle for a day with Microsoft, meeting their experts in a range of areas from fintech to technology that can support people with accessibility issues. These are the sorts of solutions that have the potential to improve many people’s lives, and something I intend to follow up in the coming months to find ways for us to work more closely with them.
And then it was on to San Francisco to meet up with representatives at the World Economic Forum’s Centre For The Fourth Industrial Revolution. These are the people who are dedicated to understanding the effect of artificial intelligence on different industries. I spoke to them, as you might expect, about our Sandbox Jersey proposition. While there we also met the Consul General to get a better insight into the region’s business culture, and to learn more about how to position ourselves, and how to deal with investors and companies there.
It was an intense week spent on planes, trains and automobiles, but a priceless chance to share the Jersey story with key players across government, business and research institutions.
I often ask myself: ‘What is our right to play?’ In other words, why should people elsewhere be interested in what Jersey is doing? The week in the US answered that time and time again. Our well-regulated environment, our internationally respected finance sector, our world-leading digital infrastructure, our ‘not too big, not too small’ testbed proposition. They’re all reasons why people are listening to what Jersey is doing.
Having the Mayor of Trenton here today is another part of that progress. And judging by the relationships being forged across the US, and the interest in the developments being made by Jersey’s fast-growing tech sector, I suspect it won’t be as long as 20 years before I’m next able to enjoy that view of the Golden Gate Bridge.