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Statement by the Vice-President, Committee for Economic Development

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Update on the Digital Framework


I am pleased to provide an update to the Assembly on the Digital Framework. I do this in my capacity as the lead member on digital matters on the Committeefor Economic Development since the beginning of this term, which has given me a lead role in the co-ordination and delivery of the framework; and also as the current chair of Skills Guernsey. The link between the Digital Framework and the Skills Strategy is a critical one.

It is important to emphasise that the ongoing development and implementation of the framework and its work streams brings together the Committee for Economic Development, the Committee for Home Affairs, the Policy & Resources Committee and the Committee for Education, Skills & Culture.

The Committee for Economic Development published the framework document just over 12 months ago. At every stage and at every opportunity during this term, the Committee has sought to prioritise digital.

Our ambition is to make Guernsey the location of choice for high value, low impact digital businesses, leveraging off existing economic sectors.

We will ensure that Guernsey is a centre of excellence for future digital technology, developing new and innovative businesses through research and development in sectors such as FinTech, data storage and analytics, cyber-security; institutional peer to peer lending, digital transactions including blockchain, and wealth management platforms.

That means we need - broadly - to do three things, all of which are central to the digital framework:

We need to recognise the importance of digital enablers; we need government to help create a working market, but not to interfere with it; and we need to develop the skills and the people of the future.

First, putting in place digital enablers means establishing a world class digital infrastructure, and the next step is the publication of a telecommunications strategy.

That strategy will be published in the next few weeks and it will be built on three foundations:

We are working in partnership with industry as well as CICRA on this, and it will make Guernsey even more connected - in fact, it will make us one of the most digitally connected places on Earth.

Another enabler that has been prioritised through the digital framework is ensuring we have a robust and internationally recognised data protection framework.

The Bailiwick's new Data Protection Law is fully aligned with GDPR, and has been delivered effectively and efficiently by the Committee for Home Affairs. The Guernsey regulator, Emma Martins, is in place; and Richard Thomas CBE, the former UK information commissioner, has now been appointed as our chair of data commissioners.

In addition, the Guernsey Investment Fund was launched in February, with the States as the seed investor to the fund to the tune of £25 million, with a protected cell for technology and innovation.

The fund support the digital framework by investing in innovation and economic diversification.

So we will have world class connectivity, data protection, and the ability to invest - all critical for the growth of our economy and the resilience of our community.

Second, we need the government to help create the market that enables business to flourish - but not be interventionist.

To do that, we are undertaking work on smart contracts. We are working on supporting intellectual property and the knowledge economy through working to join the World Trade Organisation. We have supported the development of blockchain technologies.

Third - we need to develop the skills and people of the future.

We need to grow our own - but also make our rules flexible enough for businesses to bring in the skills we need.

The focus of our plan to grow our own is the Digital Greenhouse. The Digital Greenhouse was established in 2016, and after a phase of establishment has really started to come into its own.

In under a year the Digital Greenhouse has seen a 98% increase in co-working membership, representing 30 digital start-up businesses working from the premises. There are ten industry memberships, 74 student memberships, and increasing female representation. There is a Digital Industry internship, and a tie-in with universities in the UK and beyond.

The Digital Greenhouse works closely with the wider skills strategy as well. It is critical to growing our digital entrepreneurs, challengers and disruptive influencers of the future.

It also plays another important role. Through projects and events such as Digital ACE, it provides guidance on online safety and security for children - supporting their aspirations, and empowering them to learn, discover and importantly to be safe in our amazing digital world. Helping children understand how to stay safe and secure online is vital.

Given the great work that the Digital Greenhouse does, I am very pleased that last month the Committee for Economic Development agreed its plan for the next three years of funding, which was supported by the Policy & Resources Committee.

A big part of the Digital Greenhouse's future is support from industry.

Last month we confirmed the further development of the Digital Greenhouse with Barclays Guernsey, bringing the very successful Eagles Lab programme to the Island. Building on the growth of their 14 UK sites, this exciting new partnership will be a test-bed for Eagles Lab's new model of broadening delivery by working with Government. 

To Barclays, and to all of our sponsors and partners - thank you.

Sometimes, of course, businesses needs specific skills, and specific people. And usually, they need them now.

So to ensure you can do that, the Committee for Economic Development has worked closely with the Committee for Home Affairs to ensure that the population management processes now positively reflects specialist digital positions, enabling straightforward off-island recruitment. Tech specialists have been very positive about the process.

Over the past 12 months then, the States has made significant progress in implementing the Digital Framework. This has been a truly partnership approach, across government, and working with business.

It will remain a priority as our economy and community meet the challenges of the future.

Thank you.

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