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A fantastic opportunity for Jersey… if we seize it!

Posted: Wednesday 8 August 2018

It was Bill Gates who said: ‘We tend to overestimate how much will change in the next two years but underestimate how much will change in the next 10 years.’

It’s a nugget of wisdom that stuck with me the moment I heard it, and I had cause to repeat it to an audience at a recent event when talking about artificial intelligence.

There are those who think of AI as scary-looking robots moving in to replace us all in the workplace. I prefer to think of AI as automated intelligence as, in reality, it’ll be software working in the background on tasks that were once done by humans.

The one thing that isn’t in doubt is the disruption it will cause, and the jobs that will be displaced.

It means the Digital Skills Strategy, unveiled by Digital Jersey earlier this year, is something I’m incredibly passionate about and, with my team, am on a mission to shout about it at any given opportunity.

So far this year, some 3,000 people have attended our conferences and courses. Among them, coding classes and digital marketing events, all part of our effort to read the road ahead and make sure Jersey is ready.

This isn’t just about schools doing the work, though their effort to place digital at the heart of the curriculum is vital. It’s about all of us. Having an interest in and understanding of technology is only going to get more important.

‘A harsh reality facing Jersey right now is the island’s brain drain. As a small island community without a university, there’s a constant flow of talented people leaving to go to university and often not coming back. We need more degree education and other upskilling options on-island. It’s why Digital Jersey is working tirelessly to create a year-round calendar of events focused on equipping people with those skills.’

We’ve had a paint sprayer and a fish and chip shop worker join our courses looking for a different career path. They’ve left with the ability to work in the tech sector. That means a better salary for them, which in turn translates into more tax for the government. That’s a win win.

But this isn’t just about current jobs, it’s about future jobs. The growth of AI only reinforces the need for Jersey to have not just a skilled workforce, but a flexibly skilled workforce.

Some argue it’s all too easy for a school leaver to walk into an admin job in Jersey’s finance industry, but the day will come when those jobs may not exist in the same numbers. It’s the sort of thing I think about a lot, and I stand ready to work with anybody and everybody who thinks like me to put us front of the pack in our preparation.

What heartens me is that Jersey’s digital sector is now a part of almost every industry in the island. Membership of Digital Jersey is at its highest ever, and the range of businesses around the table is greater than ever.

It’s no longer just about the tech companies. We have individuals, small businesses, the telecoms companies, utilities, banks, law firms, agriculture, tourism and more all understanding the importance of digital. They know that, together, we can solve Jersey’s problems and become a world leader in technology and innovation.

We’re already attracting talent from overseas. They want to be here because they see the great work we’re doing digitally. There was one entrepreneur who moved to Jersey to set up an innovation hub. And while that began by bringing workers with specialist skills to the Island, they’re now creating jobs for locals who are in turn being upskilled.

We’ve increased the number of desks at the Digital Jersey Hub from 12 to 26 and, yes, they’re now full so we need to consider more. These individuals and small teams will be the big businesses of the future. They’ll be the ones looking to grow their workforces, expecting to find the people who have the requisite skills right here.

It’s my mission to work with government, industry, regulators, educational establishments and anybody else who understands the importance of digital to keep us on the road to success.

AI is happening and Jersey has the choice of seeing it as either a threat or an opportunity.

To paraphrase Bill Gates, disruption tends to take twice as long as you think but it will also have double the impact.

I see that as a fantastic opportunity for Jersey if we seize it.

 

To read the full Digital Jersey Half Year Update 2018 click here.

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