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Future Jersey: believe in something better

Posted: Friday 30 November 2018

Once upon a time if you asked people what could be done to improve their journeys, they’d tell you they wanted a faster horse. Then somebody invented the car.

Until it’s in front of us, most people don’t know what they don’t know. That next invention seems really obvious once it’s there, but until it appears, the concept is usually too abstract.

Once upon a time companies and governments would make their decisions based on tradition, based on anecdote, based on a gut feeling. Then somebody started using data.

If we strip the emotion and opinion away and, instead, focus on hard facts and reality, we make better choices.

There’s something happening in Jersey right now which has the potential to change the way we make decisions in future – from the smallest to the very largest.

From the building of a major new project to the layout of a road scheme, there’s a different and better way to go about it. It’s something the digital sector globally is calling a ‘digital twin’. It’s about using a mass of data to create a virtual world where we can try things out first before going to the expense and occasional life-long error of ploughing on with something we ‘think’ is right.

Jersey has a competitive advantage in this area because, by pulling together data from the likes of Jersey Electricity, Jersey Water, JT, the Ports of Jersey and the States of Jersey, there’s a lot of existing information that has the potential to make Jersey a ‘digital island’ that’s the envy of the world.

Imagine being able to look at real time road traffic flows or the movement of people, or the way we use electricity and water, and even how that changes according to the time of day, or based on what the weather’s like. Add that to the project you’re about to embark on and you can actually simulate the effect of all those variables and see whether what you’re about to do will work, how it will alter habits, and – frankly – whether it makes sense. It’s a chance to make multiple mistakes in private, before a brick is even laid in the real world.

And because Jersey has a fairly straight-forward set of infrastructure, including one electricity supplier, one water supplier, and a small and accessible government, bringing this mass of knowledge together in one place means we can create a ‘digital island’ that’s good for the people of Jersey and is hugely attractive to entrepreneurs, corporations and investors around the world who crave the valuable insights access to this kind of data offer.

I see a future Jersey where the role of Digital Jersey, and indeed all those who work in the sector, is to grow all other sectors. To help finance and tourism and agriculture and others to be more productive, to be more efficient, to be more successful.

All that said, this isn’t about losing our traditions, quirks and character. Instead it’s about embracing all that’s unique about Jersey and applying the very latest technology to improve all our lives.

If you’re stuck in a jam on the Avenue during the morning commute, I suspect using a ‘digital island’ model could find a solution. If that gets people to work on time, if it reduces their journey length to spend more time with their families, and if it reduces the impact on those roads, it’s win after win after win. And that’s just one example of diving deep into that shared data.

Is it about staggered start times for schools? Is it about changing the routes of buses? Is it about rethinking what the working day looks like? I have my own personal views and gut feelings about these things. But the trouble is, everybody has an opinion, and they’re usually all different. There’s got to be a better way and, thankfully, the creation of a ‘digital island’ platform to test these things in the virtual world before sending them live in the real world is now possible.

Digital Jersey has begun work with the Island’s infrastructure providers to begin creating a ‘digital island’. And, because we sit in that space between government and industry, we’re a trusted intermediary solely there to make all our lives better.

A faster horse? A faster car? What if there was something better? We’re currently limited by our own preconceptions and opinions. A future Jersey has the chance to show the world that we’re being driven by data, by knowledge, to get it right first time. That’s the future.

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