Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen claimed that Guernsey could be ‘one of the most digitally connected places in the world’ at Wednesday’s IoD mid-term breakfast. A new professionally accredited Digital Leadership and Innovation GTA programme, aimed at directors and endorsed by the IoD, was also announced.
The sell-out event, sponsored by Carey Olsen, focused on the island’s digital connectivity and the audience heard from panellists Justin Bellinger, Chief Digital Officer at Sure; Phil Male, UK-based telecommunications strategist and Non-Executive Director of JT; Michael Byrne, Chief Executive of CICRA; States Chief Information Officer Colin Vaudin; and Lucy Witham, Head of Digital at the Economic Development department.
During her update on the States of Guernsey’s digital progress, Deputy Dudley-Owen announced that the Digital Greenhouse will host a new Barclays’ Eagle Lab – a tech start-up incubator designed to grow the local digital ecosystem.
She also asserted that Guernsey could be the location of choice for high value, low impact digital business and revealed that fibre to the island’s business areas will come within two years, 100MBps will be available to all island houses within three years and 5G – the next generation mobile tech will be arrive in line with or before the UK.
Digital infrastructure and the security of Guernsey’s connectivity dominated the conversations, with panellists Justin Bellinger and Colin Vaudin keen for the audience to understand that islanders can already choose to access superfast broadband and that perceptions on the island did not reflect the reality that Guernsey is ‘one of the most connected jurisdictions in the world.’
The approach of government setting Universal Service Obligations (USO), such as minimum 100mbps for all homes in three years, came under debate. Phil Male advised business leaders in the audience to be very careful of such numbers which can be misleading.
He reminded the audience that the most important question to ask was not around download speeds but what the island wants to achieve, citing the example of how South Clyde’s regeneration has centred around tailored and targeted governmental support to create an environment which would nurture and attract digital media businesses. He warned that trying to fit policy around the numbers is not a good idea.
Mr Male stated that the technologies are complex and constantly improving and that solutions need to be defined by experts and warned that government needs to be careful not to mandate a particular technology or to intervene too far in a well-functioning market.
5G and a vision of Guernsey’s digital future was shared by Mr Bellinger who stated that this connectivity will change society. He said: “It will be driving the island’s children to school and connecting the machines in our office and home.”
The panel were all keen to ensure the audience understood the exceptional resilience of the off-island connectivity across all providers.