With technology being the focus of this months Agenda, we wanted to get the opinion of someone currently working within the industry about Jersey’s potential to join the digital revolution.
At work, Matt Chatterley is one of the directors of Mattched IT (http://www.mattchedit.com), a software developer and technology advocate (with a large collection of hats), who is keen to encourage the adoption of relevant technologies where appropriate to add value and increase efficiency. Away from the keyboard, Matt is a keen runner and cook. Originally born in Jersey, he lived and worked in Portsmouth for ten years before returning to Jersey in 2008. Here are his thoughts on the island’s digital future:
When I was growing up in Jersey, tourism was still a big part of the economy – the beaches were busy and Harve des Pas was full of hotels. Of course, even then, the Finance industry was already well established and rapidly became the mainstay. But now, we are poised to witness the rise of another industry – Creative & Digital. Although it may never replace Finance, it offers significant potential.
The establishment of Digital Jersey and inauguration of ‘The Hub’ at Forum 3 on Grenville Street is just one milestone on the road to diversity, but an important one nonetheless. There are many companies in Jersey working in and around the technology sector, however the idea of bringing the industry together as a whole and growing an industry focussed on the world outside our shores is new.
Could it be that we are on the cusp of a ‘tech revolution’ here in Jersey, and if so, what challenges do we face in making it a reality?
In general, modern tech start-ups are a very lean affair and really don’t have many needs or wants – a group of clever and motivated people with their laptops is more than enough – but as the business grows, so do the demands. Amongst the services required are excellent legal and financial advice, fast and affordable internet access, a supportive, fostering business environment and ultimately access to funding– all available in Jersey (even if we need to work harder on some of them!).
There is clearly a ‘skills gap’ – a shortage of skilled technology professionals – so a vital part of our strategy must focus on education and although there is good work already being done on this front, more will always be needed. As well as improving the standard and breadth of Information Technology curricula in schools and at 16+, we must consider if we can offer better alternatives to the traditional “University” path to school leavers. All at the same time as offering adult education and re-training to those who are seeking a new career (either from unemployment or as a change of direction).
And in the short term, we will inevitably have to accept that immigration is essential to support the development of a fledgling industry – we can’t produce new experts overnight.
There are other elements working in our favour too – Jersey offers a good standard of education, excellent healthcare (easily criticised until you’ve lived somewhere without it for a period of time) – and that’s without mentioning the high standard of living which we all enjoy (Sun! Surf! Sea! Sand!).
It’s not a simple task, of course – and there is a mountain of work to be done (as a community) to demonstrate to the world that Jersey can punch above its weight when it comes to Tech as well as finance.
So how might our new Tech landscape look?
The obvious conclusion is that we are perfectly placed to dive into the rapidly expanding world of “FinTech” (Financial Technology – products and services aimed at the Financial Services market) either through traditional avenues (internet banking, payment processing and the like), or the myriad opportunities posed by emerging tech such as ‘BitCoin’ and other CryptoCurrencies (learn more at http://bit.coin.je and in Robbie Andrews’ article within Agenda on page 126).
While it’d be foolish to dismiss the value inherent in using our island’s undeniable expertise in the financial services realm, it’d be equally naïve to take a blinkered approach to technology, which is undoubtedly the most pervasive industry of all – every business ultimately uses technology in its day to day operations – and some areas are ripe for disruption.
Indeed, the more controversial face of modern tech is just that – disruptive innovation – the process of using new technology to shake up an existing marketplace, like ‘Uber’ has with the taxi markets in many places around the world. Such innovation is not always popular with those in the marketplace which is being disrupted, but when applied in a socially responsible way, it can bring great benefits – we do a lot of things because we are used to doing them a certain way and all it takes is one good idea to change things forever.
Which leads to the thought I find most exciting – could Jersey become an incubator for start-ups and/or fledgling tech businesses looking to grow? We have a rich and vibrant creative heritage and culture, of which innovation is really just another aspect. With the right education and tools, I see no reason why within a few years we couldn’t have a handful of successful start-ups operating from the Island.
If you think about it, almost everything you need is in place already – and as I said earlier – a couple of enthusiasts with a laptop really can change the world. So what’s your great idea, and what are you going to do about it?