If there’s one thing that defined 2023, it was the pace of change.
It’s incredible to think that ChatGPT marked only its first anniversary in November 2023 – in one year, that strand of Artificial Intelligence worked its way into offices large and small, around the world – including in Jersey.
And it’s not just in the AI world where we’re seeing rapid change. As we take the opportunity to reflect on what we have done at Digital Jersey over the past 12 months, it’s clear that digital technologies are having an ever-greater impact on how we work, live and play in our island, in diverse ways that just a few years ago might not have seemed likely.
It’s important, though, that we maintain that momentum as we hurtle into 2024, if we are to continue to support local innovators.
More than ever, we need to harness technologies in a way that doesn’t only benefit our digital or even our business sectors – but in a way that can have a positive contribution for us all. In different ways. Every day.
I’m really proud as I look back on what we at Digital Jersey have achieved over the past year. It has been a truly collaborative effort – one that has brought leaders, entrepreneurs and visionaries together to ensure Jersey is where it needs to be if we are to realise our digital ambitions for the future.
That collaboration led to a number of instrumental partnerships over 2023, which are driving genuine progress.
For instance, early in 2023, Digital Jersey signed an MoU with Mastercard, a partnership that has since played a big role in driving tech innovation in different ways. In one case, it successfully brought together a number of organisations to meet a real need for a community bank payment card, usable by those in society who can’t access mainstream banking facilities.
That partnership also helped encourage tech firms to relocate to Jersey – such as virtual assets business Moneybrain, who moved to Jersey in 2023, with the assistance of Digital Jersey and industry, attracted by Jersey’s forward-thinking approach to fintech innovation.
Over the course of the year we also welcomed members of the Google team to Jersey to talk to students, local entrepreneurs and government officials about developing and applying digital solutions to address community, social and environmental issues, and we partnered with Grindstone, an accelerator with a formidable international reputation, that with the support of a number of visionary local businesses, provided training, mentorship and support for start-ups looking to scale, build their networks and accelerate their growth.
We also worked closely with non-digital sector partners. In late 2023, for example, we launched ProMatch, a platform we developed jointly with Jersey Finance that aims to bridge the gap between financial services organisations and technology providers and will undoubtedly play a key role in engendering greater engagement between our digital and finance communities.
Of course, we are aware that, as an island, we need the right skillset to drive such aspirations forward – one of our industry polls indicated that almost 60% of people in Jersey think their organisation is ‘very affected’ by a shortage of digital skills.
That’s why we undertook a Digital Skills Credits pilot scheme last year, to make it easier and more cost effective for individuals and businesses to access courses and workshops. Over 2023, we delivered 84 courses to over 1000 people, helping them to boost their digital skill set.
In particular, we worked closely with Visit Jersey to help give the island’s tourism and hospitality industry a digital boost through a series of specialist skills sessions.
As a digitally-driven island, it’s vital that we continue to strike up partnerships like these, with like-minded visionaries both inside and outside of the digital world, if we are to bring about meaningful change through technology.
In 2024, we will continue to focus on creating impact through digital solutions in all areas of island life. Attending the Smart Cities World Expo in Barcelona in 2023 underlined just how critical it is for Jersey to embrace technology, as a ’smart island’, if we are to nurture a sustainable, prosperous future for people in the island.
Nowhere is that clearer than through the Impact Jersey scheme, launched in 2023, which aims to support the development of tech-driven solutions to some of Jersey’s biggest challenges – from climate change, housing, transport and health, to supply chain resilience, skills, and productivity.
The first grant programme in 2023 has seen projects focused on carbon capture, drone-aided emergency services, fintech, electric vehicles, and smart developments all being awarded grants. The potential is incredible and it’s just the beginning.
As Impact Jersey evolves in 2024 and we see the launch of its first larger ‘challenge’ initiative, we are really excited about the innovative solutions to real local problems that could emerge from our local community of entrepreneurs.
In addition, building on the successful Tech Start-Up Bootcamp in 2023, we are also relaunching the initiative in 2024, giving another group of ambitious local innovators the guidance, support and framework they need to take their ideas to the next level. Our ‘winning’ bootcamper in 2023, Tamsin Raine, had the opportunity to visit the leading Slush tech start-up conference in Helsinki, which she says ‘reignited’ her enthusiasm for exploring tech-driven solutions – our 2024 bootcampers will have similar access to exciting world-leading platforms like this.
We will be progressing our innovative ‘Lifecycle’ data trust pilot scheme in 2024, which is not only pooling data together to help create safe cycling routes in Jersey, but also has the potential to put Jersey on the map globally as a leader in data stewardship.
2023 was certainly a busy year for the Digital Jersey team – but there is still a lot to do as we continue to embed digital into all aspects of island life.
Our focus in 2024 will be to ensure that not only does our own digital sector continue to evolve and receive the international recognition it deserves, but that we are also nurturing tech-driven innovation in non-digital sectors too – from agriculture, tourism and finance, to the not-for-profit, construction, and health sectors.
The pace of change will continue to be relentless in 2024, but our collaborative approach and collective entrepreneurial mindset will stand us in good stead. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.