A year ago we were all slowly getting back on our feet after months of total upheaval from the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects here in Jersey.
Fast forward to June 2021 and it really is quite extraordinary how far we’ve all come, both individually and collectively.
Each month we’ll be in the JEP to update you on the very latest from Jersey’s thriving and growing digital sector, but I wanted to start by setting the stage with where we are right now.
It can be so easy to nod through the success without much thought: That business you used to visit that was suddenly able to take orders online and make deliveries to your door; that GP who, in the midst of the madness of last spring, was able to see you via video link to keep an eye on your health and wellbeing; those teachers who invented a new way of learning, almost overnight, so that our children could receive an education in the most difficult of circumstances.
Much of this feels like ancient history already. Some of it feels such a normal part of daily life that you’d imagine it had always been there.
But it all happened thanks to the spirit of entrepreneurship that exists in the Island, alongside a ‘can do’ attitude, and our collective commitment to supporting good people trying to do good things.
It’s out of this that I’ve learned so much over the past year. I’ve been banging the drum about all businesses being digital in one form or another for an age.
But it’s the events of the past 12 months that have wowed me on a near daily basis as I’ve seen one-man bands, medium-sized firms, and our Island’s biggest employers all rise to the occasion and keep the show on the road with the help of technology.
Effectively, it feels to me that we’ve fast-forwarded the Island’s digital transformation and offered everybody a real-time proof of concept through necessity.
Now, though, is the time to capitalise on those gains to not just maintain momentum, but to increase it too.
Digital Jersey is charged with leading the growth of the Island’s bold digital ambitions. We’ve just set out a five-year plan to make that happen.
A big part of that is Jersey’s digital skills divide.
Right now there is a gap between the skills that exist in our workforce and the skills our employers need.
It’s not a particularly Jersey problem; it’s one being faced by nations around the world. Our advantage, though, is our ability to act quickly and nimbly.
There’s already great work happening with the launch of a programme of completely free short courses where people can learn new digital skills.
It covers the technical stuff such as coding, but also a tonne of creative stuff such as digital marketing and podcasting. This is about giving our current workforce the chance to upskill and reskill.
We’re working closely with government and industry to see which areas of the current education curriculum could be updated to better match the needs of industry.
This is about giving our future workforce the skills they need to thrive in the world of work.
We’re also working to attract the brightest minds to the Island. The way people work is changing, which means Jersey is suddenly an even more attractive place for entrepreneurs and start-ups who can rely on our world-class digital infrastructure and know they’re just a short hop from an international hub airport in London.
This is about making Jersey famous worldwide as a place that’s serious about its digital future. And who are the winners in all of this? The answer is all of us.
Digital transformation can boost business productivity, can generate higher-wage work and can change our day-to-day lives for the better.
If 2020 was about proving to ourselves that we really can cope in a crisis, let’s make 2021 the year we show the confidence to build on the brilliant progress we’ve already made.