‘Silicon Guernsey’ making progress, says minister
Wednesday 18th September 2013, 10:00AM BST.
‘SILICON GUERNSEY’ is making progress, Commerce and Employment minister Kevin Stewart has said.
It is more than a year now since the then new deputy announced his vision for diversifying the economy, developing the island as a centre of excellence for ICT and creative industries.
Deputy Stewart said while much of the work done so far had not been headline news, it would successfully underpin the strategy as it moved forward.
‘We have made a huge amount of progress.
‘I am pleased that in the last year we have formed our ICT sub-group with three ministers and the chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
‘I am pleased that the Chamber of Commerce has also reformed its ICT sub-group.
‘The creative industries have also now got a really good sense of direction.’
The minister has made much play of the fact that, in his view, the States was directionless in this area before he took office.
‘I was disappointed when I came to the States to see that there was no digital strategy and no plan in place.’
Initial work centred on looking at the island’s infrastructure and spectrum allocation and the first item on the agenda for Silicon Guernsey was to talk to industry.
‘We have had so many meetings I’ve lost count.
‘It has been a massive piece of work and we have had to put staff full-time onto digital. It was frustrating for me, but it was good in a way because we had a clean sheet of paper,’ said Deputy Stewart.
He said with issues such as the roll-out of 4G spectrum, it became clear that it would be prudent to look at the entire issue of spectrum allocation.
‘4G is just a technology and works across the spectrum. We wanted to roll out 4G but it became apparent to us that there had not been a look at the whole spectrum.’
This triggered a pan-island consultation carried out by the regulator Cicra to examine the whole issue of spectrum allocation.
‘It has informed us enormously and now we and the regulator will have evidence to base decisions on.’
The next piece of work is Cicra’s much-publicised consultation on the provision of business broadband in Guernsey.
There has been much discussion over the provision and cost of broadband, which critics say puts the island at a disadvantage with its competitors.
‘We have to develop a policy so that we have competitive broadband in the Bailiwick. The issue is really about “are we competitive with the UK, Dublin and Luxembourg?” We have to be competitive with the jurisdictions that we compete with. If you want to rank its importance, we see it as important as electricity.
‘Broadband is economy-enabling. Growth in GDP is aligned to the growth in broadband and the opportunities it creates for businesses to compete.’
Deputy Stewart said he was pleased with the progress that had been made. ‘I think we have done an awful lot in a year and it’s absolutely essential for Guernsey’s economy.
‘In our economic development survey, which we will publish soon, the most important thing that people mentioned was cost-effective broadband.
‘That is the message that we get from industry, so we clearly have to work together with the telcos to try and achieve the best that we can for business.’