‘There are very few situations where you can bring this collection of people together, this set of skills and interests, and that’s been extraordinary here.’
Those aren’t my words. This was what Alan Brown, professor in digital economy, University of Exeter Business School, said after helping to facilitate our Building a Digital Jersey event at the end of last month.
Professor Brown was absolutely right. The range and calibre of stakeholders we had for the two-day event would never be seen in other jurisdictions.
It is the essence of what makes Jersey’s ecosystem such a fantastic place to launch and run a digital business; the collaborative and connected nature of our Island, teamed with its world-beating broadband and infrastructure.
The thing is, we already know that. The aim of the two-day event was to work with all the stakeholders to identify exactly how we can harness what we have, and refine our strategy for Jersey’s digital future.
The event wasn’t a conference; it was very much a workshop where we wanted as much input from the attendees as they got from the international speakers, who either flew in or beamed in to take part.
Helping Professor Brown chair the event was Dave Birch, Jersey’s fintech ambassador, and a globally recognised expert in this area.
Andy Stanford-Clark, chief technology officer at IBM, and Phil Male, chairman of JT, were the two experts who challenged our workshop attendees in terms of infrastructure.
Mr Stanford-Clark highlighted the disruptive impact of digital technologies as they are adopted, along with the opportunities they create. Mr Male gave examples of how artificial intelligence and quantum computing will reshape how we work and live.
The consensus was that while we know we have the world’s fastest broadband, there isn’t the understanding of what a key enabler this is to drive opportunities and attract new businesses. We must do more to leverage these investments.
Jacqueline de Rojas, president @techUK and @digileaders, and co-chair of the Institute of Coding, brought a focus on the skills and education agenda required to power the future of our digital world.
She called on the attendees to take a broader perspective on the humans at the heart of digital transformation.
Stephen Blackman, principal economist, NatWest Group, dealt with the elephant in the room, giving a critical view on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy and financial institutions.
Radhika Chadwick, a partner at McKinsey Public Sector Practice, reviewed a wide range of digital transformation examples, which have been accelerated over the pandemic period, and Siim Sikkut, chief information officer, Republic of Estonia, recounted their jurisdiction’s digital journey, and brought us neatly full circle back to how collaboration was absolutely essential in order to achieve their aims.
Our digital strategy is intentionally ambitious. We absolutely have to be in order to not only compete, but show that being small doesn’t hold us back. In fact, it means we have the speed and agility to take advantage of opportunities.
One of those opportunities was highlighted by Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of computer science, executive director of The Web Science Institute, University of Southampton.
She said: ‘The issues around data stewardship are the most important things to get right. You could lead the world on showing how these things work, but it means taking a bit of a risk and putting everybody’s efforts behind it. You’ve got the infrastructure, for heaven’s sake. We don’t in the UK.’
Besides highlighting again our world-beating telecoms infrastructure, Dame Wendy touched on a key point and one which came out clearly from the discussions around the tables, and that was the balance between protecting Jersey’s heritage and the rate of change.
There were fears expressed that the stability of Jersey’s way of life needed to be protected and therefore caution should be employed in the pace of change in case it disrupted our values.
However, equally, there were views on the other side of the table that said we have to change – and change rapidly – to ensure we can generate the revenues required to maintain that quality of life. The truth of it is that we don’t have a choice about change.
The world is becoming more digital whether or not we like it. The only choice we have is how successful we want to be in that world. Digital doesn’t threaten our way of life, our values, or what is unique about Jersey – it protects it.
It is being used in agriculture, tourism, finance, and in every one of our homes. It isn’t some separate ‘necessary evil’ that is being inflicted on our Island; it is a tool that benefits every one of us.
We could have titled the event Building Our Digital Jersey, because it was about creating opportunities for us all. It wasn’t about making sure our Digital Jersey board could tick the boxes in our five-year strategy. It wasn’t about justifying what we do. It was all about exactly what it is we do, and do well. Bringing people and organisations together to work for Jersey plc.
Our digital plan is a co-creation of all that collaboration and expertise. The next five years are going to be exciting times for our Island, and together we can deliver it for now and for future generations.
You can read the full five-year strategic plan here: digital.je/our-work/5-year-strategy.