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ICT


The next big thing? R


Are the Channel Islands in a position to embrace digital industries as part of their economic diversification? Kirsten Morel investigates


ENTAL income is Jersey’s second largest industry sector, providing 11 per cent of the island’s economic


activity, according to Jersey in Figures 2009. As economic drivers go, property investment has a pretty bad name, and the Channel Islands know they need to diversify their economies, but Guernsey and Jersey are still looking for this big, breakthrough industry that will bring new and significant revenue to the islands. One sector that has been suggested is


that of information and communications technology (ICT). Naturally, the finance industry relies heavily on ICT excellence in order to deliver its services globally, and this natural fit is why Brian O’Reilly, Head of Wealth Management Research at UBS, recently suggested that Jersey (and Guernsey) could consider developing


themselves as serious digital hubs – centres of ICT excellence in a similar manner to Cambridge. This is not a new idea. A decade ago,


Guernsey employed an e-business tsar who was to deliver on an e-business manifesto. Although the post no longer exists, some elements were achieved, for instance the sale of Guernsey Telecom to a global network and the development of the e-gaming sector. These seeds have started to grow


and today the sector makes up three per cent of the island’s economy, which is about £55 million according to the Policy Council’s 2009 figures – not a huge amount in absolute terms, but evidence of a very decent 40 per cent growth over a five-year period. Across the water in Jersey, the IT industry’s contribution can’t be singled out from the statistics. What is known


is that financial services, similarly to Guernsey, brings in just over 40 per cent of the island’s income. Mark Loane, Managing Director of C5


Alliance, feels that this lack of a strategic direction means that “commercial interests drive the ICT sector without a road map, and this may not be the best for the island.” This is not to suggest that private enterprise will do damage, just that decisions driven by the short-term need to generate profits may not meet the longer-term needs of the islands.


Well connected Despite the lack of a strategy, the islands have managed to get themselves into an impressive position with an excellent ICT infrastructure. “In terms of infrastructure in the


islands, it’s very good,” says Ian Jauncey, Chairman of pan-Channel Island IT


42 businesslife.co April/May 2011


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