The year ahead: technology

Written by: BL Global Posted: 04/01/2018

2018_LancePlunkettLance Plunkett, Founder and CEO, Found, Guernsey, gives his views on the year ahead in technology

As we enter 2018, what’s the general health of the tech sector in the islands? 

There’s been a positive move from the States on both islands to improve the tech sectors. The investments in the Digital Hub in Jersey and Guernsey’s Digital Greenhouse have started the ball rolling. Now, I hope both government and the private sector will take the appropriate steps to develop an effective tech culture in the Channel Islands.

It’s a big challenge to create a new sector and requires complete commitment, but the positive outcomes could be significant. The islands have been very successful at reinventing themselves in the past, as our size makes us nimble and quick to react.

So our future success in this area really comes down to our willingness to recognise and embrace the opportunity.

In the next 12 months, what do you think will be the biggest challenge(s)?

Attracting tech talent to these shores. There’s no doubt that both islands lack access to top-level IT skills, and attracting those people should be a priority for the government and the private sector. They will be the catalysts of any successful tech revolution.

Where will the greatest opportunity lie?

I believe the islands offer an amazing test bed for new technologies. Guernsey and Jersey provide a perfect microcosm of society, with defined borders, controllable variables and a very similar demographic to mainland UK. 

One very positive advantage in the islands is the ease with which anyone can gain access to government and international business – that’s so important.

Speaking with key decision-makers and investors really speeds up the development of projects and creates important relationships with people and organisations that can make things happen. I love the fact that it’s so simple to meet senior ministers or a multinational CEO for a coffee.

Is there one thing that will dominate tech in the islands this year? 

There seems to be a move towards blockchain technology, which obviously complements, and has specific uses in, the finance industry.

In simple terms, this is a bit like a continuously updated spreadsheet hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data accessible to anyone on the internet. At the moment, there’s a massive demand for blockchain developers.

Anything else to add? 

Creating what is essentially a new industry on both islands needs commitment from government and the private sector and a great deal of focus.

Fintech seems to be the obvious focus, given the financial sector on both islands, but it’s hard to compete with the big boys elsewhere, and a lack of skills is a huge challenge. Attracting 20 tech gurus to our islands would make a tremendous difference and could help to solve that problem overnight. 

If fintech is our focus, then we need to target a specific niche within finance. Work needs to be done to identify where that niche and opportunity lies and then get key stakeholders committed to exploiting it.

With Guernsey having one of the biggest captive insurance industries in the world, I’m sure there’s also a great opportunity in the islands for yet more innovation around insurance products.

My view is that the test bed idea is a genuine opportunity for both islands. Imagine companies testing driverless cars here, or Amazon testing drone deliveries – it would certainly put us on the map.

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