It’s been quite a year since we launched Digital Jersey. When we set out to bring Jersey’s digital professionals together, we had no idea how successful the concept would be. Just twelve months later, Digital Jersey has become one of the focal points for networking within the Island’s digital industries. We never would have guessed that in such a short space of time Digital Jersey would have morphed into a government initiative to promote technology within the Island and across the globe.
Since the formation of Digital Jersey "Limited" a number of people have asked us how this affects the original networking group. So in this blog we attempt to set out exactly how we see the evolution and future of Digital Jersey.
We were inspired by the work of Abigail Harrison of Bluedoor PR, who had created a networking group called Digital Surrey. We felt that Jersey lacked an accessible networking forum for IT professionals at all stages in their careers and so created Digital Jersey. We didn't know how well received or effective the group would be, we just wanted to meet other on-island digital experts in the spirit of collaboration and sharing, so we could learn from one another and pass on ideas.
In the course of this first year, we’ve held a series of well-received events centred around a broad range of inspiring and knowledgeable speakers who have helped to inform and create debate. The inaugural meeting included a presentation from HSBC, other events have seen speakers from the UK and on-island experts like Ian Ronayne, offer us the benefits of their knowledge.
Digital Jersey event in June, 2011
If there was one particular event that acted as the catalyst for pushing Digital Jersey to centre stage of the local IT community, it was probably Ian’s presentation about Jersey’s telecoms industry. Ian sparked a lively debate about pricing, regulation and the rationale behind Gigabit Jersey. All of this led to a great discussion about the Island’s lack of an IT strategy and the direction of the Island’s economy.
The debate also revealed a hole in our knowledge of Jersey’s digital sector, so inspired by the meeting, we approached Mark Loane of C5 Alliance and suggested we create a survey that would quantify the size of the industry in Jersey, its aspirations and the views of those who work within it. We agreed that there was a need for some sort of benchmarking exercise which would give everyone a better feel for where the industry was and how people saw its future.
Mark and I teamed up with Steve Hickson, of E-scape, Ian Ronayne and Kirsten Morel to get the survey off the ground.
The findings of the survey were presented to a healthy audience of about 80 industry professionals and very importantly, local politicians, at the Digital Jersey event in November last year. It was clear that the survey had captured the attention of a lot of people and there was a real willingness to get things done, to grow the industry and to make a success of Jersey’s digital talents.
The Working Group
It was at this event that Ed Daubeney spoke to the audience and let everyone know that he’d been working on an IP/e-commerce strategy on behalf of the Economic Development Department. He invited us to join the working group which included a number of people already operating in the digital arena and who wanted to secure government funding to set up a body that would represent the IT sector. This was fantastic news, it’s exactly what people had been asking for within Digital Jersey. We weren’t going to turn down the chance to help create the organisation that would become Digital Jersey Limited.
We provided Ed’s group with all of the survey data and offered Digital Jersey as a channel of communication to the wider industry. Digital Jersey’s success at engaging people within the industry meant it was well placed to continue this work and become a key means for communicating the views of the sector.
Ultimately, the working group managed to secure £300k of funding from the States of Jersey, which is hugely exciting news. The industry now has an organisation dedicated to its promotion and support, both at home and abroad.
We believe that Digital Jersey can play a key role by providing a means for individual IT professionals and businesses to get their views heard. This will help ensure that Digital Jersey Ltd is an inclusive and transparent organisation that’s accountable to the sector.
There’s no doubt that its board and CEO, once appointed, will have a huge task on their hands and they won’t be able to work on or achieve everything that everybody wants to see happen. At times, we’ll need to be patient and understand that there are severely limited resources (£300k doesn’t stretch that far when it comes to international promotion!) but if we work to make Digital Jersey Ltd a success, helping it bring in new business and create new jobs, then it should be able to attract more funding, both public and private. Over time, this will enable it to take on more initiatives and help develop more areas of the industry.
You can see that a year is a long time in the technology sector. When we created Digital Jersey, we had no plans for it to go so far and certainly didn’t envisage that it would play a role in creating an industry representative body. But that’s the beauty of the digital sector, it’s unpredictable and fantastic at achieving things.
Over these past twelve months, we believe we have achieved more than we set out to do but along the way we have never lost sight of our principal aims:
- getting people together
- meeting great people
- shaping the future of the Island and its technology sector
We’ve only just started but our achievements so far are very encouraging and if we all continue to work with the same spirit of collaboration and enterprise, then there really is no limit to what we can achieve.
Looking forward, it’s clear that we need to focus on developing skills within the Island, creating opportunities for future generations. We will continue to make connections and hold regular events that bring us the benefits of people’s knowledge and experience. With proper funding, we should be able to attract more speakers from outside the Island and raise the group's profile, creating even greater engagement within the digital community.
Of course, none of this would have been possible, and none of it will be possible, without the enthusiastic engagement of everyone who has contributed to the Digital Jersey group and turned up for our events. Keep on coming and engaging, ultimately, it is you, your views, knowledge and expertise that are essential for the group’s future. It's been a great initiative to be involved with and we are pleased to have been part of something that is changing the face of IT in the Island.
It’s been an exciting year and if it’s anything to go by, we really can’t begin to imagine what the future holds!