WORDS Tony Moretta, Digital Jersey

Jersey is going to the polls on May 16th to choose Parish deputies, Constables and island-wide Senators for the next four years. Hopefully in greater volume than last time! Tony Moretta of digital Jersey gives us his take on why we should be choosing candidates that choose technology as a priority.

Election 2018: why does IT matter?

Four years can be a long time, particularly in technology terms. It’s not even four years since the Amazon Echo/Alexa device was launched, and they’re now in tens of millions of homes. I bet you’ve swapped your mobile phone for an updated model at least once too in the last four years; and, believe it or not, the ubiquitous iPad only came out eight years ago.

More importantly, technology is revolutionising our workforce and altering the way we do our jobs. We can’t ignore technology’s advancement, whether that’s artificial intelligence automating mundane roles, or simply how we are receiving and consuming information and media. In the last four years there’s been a massive proliferation of job ads for digital marketeers, cyber security specialists and Data analysts. It’s therefore essential that digital is on the agenda of those who will be representing us as decision makers.

What’s a Digital Manifesto?

That wonderful online bastion of knowledge, Wikipedia, says ‘A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer.’ That’s exactly what our digital manifesto is. Digital Jersey works to promote and build the digital industry in the island. Our aim is to secure Jersey’s digital future with the creation of a vibrant technology industry and a highly skilled workforce.

Our manifesto is our attempt to get across the key things we need to do, as an island, to achieve this aim. We hope candidates and electorate alike, will read it and realise how this will help every one of us by diversifying the economy, increasing productivity, improving skills and ensuring an inclusive society.

So, what exactly would we like our election candidates to consider?

Strategy & Leadership

Whatever direction we travel in, it’s essential we have a clear strategy and strong leadership. This means the digital sector should have a champion in the senior political leadership. We need that leader to be bold and ambitious, to transform the public sector, and to update legislation and policy when it’s needed. We’d like to see cooperation between public and private sector leaders, working together with Digital Jersey as the connecting glue.

Investment in Local Innovation

Innovation is critical for Jersey and for digital businesses and it’s also critical that we have the right conditions for entrepreneurs to start and to grow. We need to incentivise and we need to be able to help small businesses access early stage investment.

Technology Education & Skills

Going hand in hand with supporting local innovation, is technology skills and education. Without a skilled workforce, entrepreneurs will struggle to grow their businesses. There has to be a public/private partnership to build digital skills and support workplace apprenticeships. We need to prioritise immigration policies that will attract the brightest and the best and, we need to start at the grass-roots and focus on the recruitment and retainment of IT teachers within all schools.

An Inclusive Digital Society

None of this would work without the final pillar of our manifesto, an all-inclusive digital society. We have to invest in retraining staff, we have to ensure no one gets left behind through digital inclusion and knowledge sharing; and we also have to protect islanders and businesses with robust data protection and cyber security policies.

Why should I care?

You can’t moan about the decision our politicians make if you haven’t voted and taken an interest in what they’re doing. It’s only 100 years since the Suffragettes won the fight to get votes for women. Only we can challenge the election candidates on the issues which are important to us.

Our hope is that electors will challenge candidates on these issues and ensure we get the digital agenda on the election hustings’ platform. There are many issues to consider, but digital is at the heart of our workplaces, our homes and it needs to be at the heart of our education system. It is essential for us all – including our politicians – that we look forward and grasp the opportunities digital has to offer, while protecting and enhancing our existing industries and society.