It occurred to me while preparing for the IoD Debate last week, that perhaps we’re not always strong enough at Digital Jersey in educating the wider public and business community on what we do. I had intended to give a snapshot of a typical few days – the ones before that evening – but didn’t get a chance within the Debate format, and so thought it might be worthwhile doing it as a blog.
Let’s start on Saturday morning, when I got an email from my contact at Apple HQ in Europe. The email explained they’d resolved the issue of people not being able to set up an Apple account to buy music, video, apps, etc. with a Jersey address, which was an annoying loophole impacting not just individuals but also important areas like education. Convincing Apple to remedy the situation took months of joint effort on the part of Digital Jersey and Government – so hearing this news was a fantastic moment for us.
On Monday we held a joint ‘Regtech’ Proposition Development Group (PDG) with Jersey Finance, where members from both communities worked together to develop propositions and ideas and looked at how to turn them into new products and businesses. This was led by Dave Birch, one of the Special Advisers who has just joined our team; Dave is an internationally recognised thought leader in digital identity and a wide range of fintech areas.
We were also able to announce on Monday that Barclays are going to open an Eagle Lab in the Jersey Library. The Eagle Lab will be a space where people can explore their creative tech-based ideas and turn visions into realities. This was another strong example of Digital Jersey and Government’s successful collaboration to convince a large off-island company that we are an economy worth investing in, and we will now see Jersey listed as one of the 10 or 12 places (along with the usual suspects of London, Cambridge, Brighton, etc.) that Barclays is building labs in.
On Tuesday we held the Digital Jersey Board meeting, attended by on and off island directors from the business community and advisers in areas such as fintech, Digital Health and eGovernment. On the same day we announced that the Chief Technology Adviser to the Government of Estonia, a world leading digital economy with only 1.3m people, had also joined us as a Special Adviser.
The Board meeting discussed further initiatives we could put in place to improve Jersey’s proposition for digital businesses, including incubator space, work licences and access to funding, as well as ways of promoting Jersey as a start-up location, working with Locate Jersey. Our goal is to emulate the success of organisations like Startup Estonia, who I met only a few weeks ago with Assistant Chief Minister Ozouf.
It’s now not long until this year’s Techfair taking place on 11th and 12th November at Fort Regent. The Digital Jersey team sat down to continue planning the two-day conference and exhibition at Fort Regent, where tech enthusiasts of any age can learn about new technologies, important digital issues and find out more about what Jersey’s tech companies are doing.
Finally, if you went to The Digital Hub on Tuesday night, you would have seen quite a crowd there listening to the founders of 3 major technology companies, including our own Play.com and Feel Unique, speak about their experiences and the lessons that others can learn from them.
Wednesday was also a busy day, seeing us kick off the development of a Digital Health Strategy for Jersey, including meetings with a new Digital Health Adviser, the Health Department, on and off island technology suppliers and States IT. This work will not only solve pressing problems in Jersey – such as A&E being able to see your GP records if you get admitted – but it will also provide a strong foundation for building a community of Digital Health companies here.
Then came the next set of meetings – first with the eGov team to develop options for Digital ID, then with a large IT company here who came in to discuss how they can get licences for new, urgently required staff with skills they cannot source in Jersey. We also advised the Population Office on the granting of a new business licence for another company. We then had a visit from the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council to discuss working together, both to showcase Jersey to businesses in their other member countries and also to showcase our own businesses to their markets.
That night saw another event at The Digital Hub, with lots of students from Grainville School plus their parents and teachers launching the second stream of Business VTEC, where pupils use the Hub and meet with mentors every week. This was closely followed by the regular meeting of Jersey Coders, where 30-50 secondary school pupils are taught how to code by volunteers from the tech community… AND in our Boardroom, at the same time, you would have seen the latest cohort of our adult coding programme where we re-train people in coding with the end goal of securing them new jobs with tech companies.
I’d like to say in many ways that these were an unusually busy few days in the life of Digital Jersey, but they’re not. While there’s no such thing as a typical day or week, hopefully these examples of our work will give a better idea of the range of activities we’re engaged in, and the difference we are trying to make in building a digital Jersey.