The world is getting interested in the digital transformation of islands under the title ‘Smart Islands’ and I had the opportunity to represent Digital Jersey on the stage of the second Smart Island World Congress in Mallorca. The event is organised by Fira de Barcelona, the same team that organise the biggest smart city event in the world held in Barcelona every year. The reason I mention this is that if they take this market seriously then it’s a serious market.
This was the second year of the event and having spoken at the first I was keen to see if it had kicked on and I am happy to say it has with over 1,200 professionals and 175 international delegations from over 100 islands attending this time round. Also, worth noting is the participation of several important international associations, such as Dafni, which brings together over 44 island municipalities of Greece; Coe, representing some of the smaller islands in the Caribbean; or Global Island Partnership, representing over 30 islands. There was a structured meeting platform so within the framework of the Island2Island B2B platform, over 150 meetings were held between companies and delegations.
To some extent, the term smart islands has all the weakness of the definition of smart cities in that it is not a homogeneous group. I spoke with one lady from Finland who lived on an island there and when I asked her what the population was she replied that there was another house. I then spoke with someone from New Zealand which has a population of 5m; Britain is an island and getting more so daily and at the extreme you could describe Australia as an island. Over the course of two days, the event brought together 95 national and international speakers, as well as institutional representatives from over 100 islands all around the world, such as Zanzibar (Mauritania), Paros, Milos or Tilos (Greece), Wight and Orkney, Bahrain, Cozumel (Mexico), or Port Louis (Mauritius). Without being biased I believe that the Jersey offer stood out as it was the only Island offering itself as a digital sandbox that has already put the connectivity infrastructure in place and created the right vehicle in Digital Jersey.
Size and population aside there were more similarities than differences in what islands were interested in. Sustainable tourism, economic diversification, emigration, agri and aquaculture, island mobility and resilience ran through the talks like a stick of Jersey rock. There were interesting lessons to be learned and the Isle of Wight scooped the global innovation prize for its work on energy. We need a Jersey submission for next year so let’s hear some good ideas! The suppliers in the exhibition were interesting in that there were less of the usual suspects and my favourite was www.underwatergardens.com where they focus on scuba diving to create underwater gardens, teamed with an online gaming aspect.
Interestingly, I was at the Commonwealth Summit in London the week before and attended the Commonwealth Islands Session. Many of the 13 British Overseas Territories such as Turks and Caicos were at the event. Many of these British territories such as British Virgin Isles, Cayman, Bermuda etc also have an interest in Finance and there are opportunities for Jersey to explore collaboration. The biggest surprise to me was meeting a delegate from Hawaii and discovering that the 52nd state of the US has a massive Union Jack on its flag. Go figure.
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