Thursday, 13 June 2013

20-20 Re-Vision

I've been looking at the 2020 report which provided three scenarios for Jersey's future. This came about around the time when the dot-com bubble had been exploding, and just around the time it actually collapsed. As usual, the States were eager to get in on the act just was the party was over.
Deputy Phil Rondel could already see money being wasted in 2000, where he stated in an amendment to the States Resource Plan that "the IS/IT section of the States has lost its way and a reduction of funding for IS/IT must be considered until this department can prove that they can achieve a consistent standard of work year on year, which should be monitored by an outside body." The States website came in for particular criticism, and the response from Senator Frank Walker was to take on a professional manager. Unfortunately, Deputy Rondel's note that the work done should "be monitored by an outside body" was not put into place.
The seed of the report came in 2001, when BusinessLab was invited to set up a subsidiary in the Channel Islands. The Jersey Information Society Commission was convinced that the way forward for Jersey was in e-commerce, and BusinessLab was a successful player with their "Digital Advantage" programme in the UK.
A report from the time said this:
"Jersey has wasted no time in demonstrating its commitment to the development of e-commerce in the jurisdiction. Already this year, the Jersey Information Society Commission (JISC) has launched a new e-business portal and is now inviting comment on an initiative "aimed at shaping Jersey's e-business future"."
"Jersey has introduced a new portal,, to promote e-commerce on the island. It was unveiled earlier this month by the Jersey States IS/IT strategy adviser, Peter Griffiths, who said it could be used by Jersey firms wanting to go online, but was primarily an "electronic shop window" promoting Jersey as an e-commerce centre around the world. At the official launch, Mr Griffiths commented: 'There is nothing like this in the offshore world. The site carries a vast amount of information and provides us with a marvelous promotional tool which carries the Jersey banner around the world.'"
"Following the launch of, the JISC is now undertaking a strategic planning initiative, called, on which it is inviting comments"
The site said:
"The Jersey Information Society Commission will produce a business plan and marketing programme that complements JISC's strategic framework, with particular regard to the establishment and encouragement of e-business in Jersey. This will identify where Jersey is today, where it could be in 2020 and what actions must be taken to get there. Information is currently being gathered through a comprehensive programme involving documentary research, individual interviews and group discussions - all which will be fed into the analytical process."
Incidentally the new portal vanished sometime around 2005.  The site vanished earlier around 2002.  Thanks to the Wayback archive, I was able to get some of the site information.
The 2020 project was organised under the aegis of Jersey BusinessLab. Along with a team from the University of St Andrews, they were commissioned to undertake a  project to look at a number of possible futures for Jersey, particularly looking at the emerging "ebusiness" and any possible threats that posed to offshore finance.
They developed three scenarios under the umbrella title " Scenarios and Strategies for Jersey in the Digital Age". These were titled "Help", "Imagine" and "Yesterday"  In essence, while they were researched, they were speculative scenarios of Jersey in the future, and no more likely to be wholly accurate than Patrick Moore's 1976 book "Next Fifty Years in Space".
Willy Nieuwburg (on Facebook) has dug up some information on what those actually said, and it is fascinating. This is how the JEP reported it:
It gives three visions of the Island on Liberation Day in the year 2020 dependent on political and investment decisions made. 
"The first scenario, which is entitled 'Help', paints a picture of a successful Jersey involved in a strategic alliance with the European Union, forming part of an economic development area called the British Channel Islands. This scenario suggests that the Island lost its finance industry in the early years of this century and its consequential wealth. "
"The second scenario, named 'Yesterday', paints a bleak picture of Jersey in 2020. It predicts 14 per cent unemployment and very few job prospects. This is a nightmare scenario in which the finance industry disappears elsewhere due to external pressures. The scenario says that violent crime has increased, 'making Jersey's streets proportionately as dangerous as those of a major UK city'. It also says that racial tensions are high between the indigenous population and the significant Portuguese minority, and, to a lesser extent, Polish and Kenyan workers. "
"The third scenario, 'Imagine', paints a rosy picture of a multicultural and cosmopolitan Jersey inspired by an 'intellectual revolt' by the populace akin to a peaceful coup. According to the scenario, a decision was made in 2005 that only people who could make a contribution to the Island's economic wellbeing would be granted the right to residency. The population hovers around the 100,000 mark and some people are describing the Island as a new Hong Kong in the Channel. This scenario sees the housing market liberalised and agricultural buildings rezoned for other uses. The Island has also become an electronic trading centre and an airline named EuroAir has made Jersey its European hub."
BBC Jersey reported on a States sitting from that time as follows:
"A £200,000 report looking at a future of Jersey - which was roundly criticised as a waste of taxpayers money - was a mistake at both political and managerial levels, the States was told this morning. Senator Frank Walker was talking about the report which was compiled by the Jersey Information Society Commission.  Senator Walker was asked where the failings lay in the report - and the money it cost - being drawn up. "
Clearly Deputy Phil Rondel's request for independent oversight had not been forthcoming, and the States Audit Commission investigated the background of this. Its report showed that  former IS/IT adviser Peter Griffiths - by then no longer employed by the States - was able to sanction spending without Treasury check. On three occasions, says the report, Mr Griffiths signed off invoices in excess of the £20,000 expenditure limit he was authorised to sanction. It further reveals that the monitoring of the project 'did not meet good practice in the management of consultants'.
Looking at the report, only the second scenario, "Yesterday" comes anywhere close to today's Jersey, although it is mistaken about the finance industry, there are pressures on that industry today. The high unemployment is also something prevalent today, although this has far more to do with the events of 2008 which the report did not foresee, the near collapse of the financial and banking systems across the globe; we are still living with the after-effects of that devastating collapse in global markets today,
For £200,000, it seems a hugely expensive waste of time, and it is perhaps not surprising that the civil servant involved left very rapidly under a cloud. They'd have done better to get Dan Brown to write the report, and they might have even got a return for their investment, as it became a best seller. I can imagine it now - "Digital Money", with the Dean of Jersey, an Albino Monk, the Bailiff, and a secret connection between the contents of a bank vault, a hoard of Celtic coins, a midsummer ritual held at Hougue Bie; it would have high stakes, high finance, and high implausibility. But it would be better value for money.
I can make one prediction for 2020, which is that the States will certainly continue to waste large amounts of money in various ways - recently, the grant to a film of £200,000, and the confirmation that the sunken road will go ahead (annual maintenance by the States £500,000) - show very little has changed here.


TonyTheProf said...

Daniel Wimberley asked me to put up this post:

Interesting post.

I disagree with what it is saying about the 2020 report. I disgaree on grounds of principle, I have not read the report, and it may be that it is badly written or badly evidenced, but I am simply commenting on the decision to go ahead and commission such a report, and on the three scenarios it ends up with, as reported by Tony.

The three scenarios are extremely persuasive. The report should have been published. Looking ahead is exactly what the governing elite fail to do in Jersey time and again. And discussing the future properly is precisely what never happens here. Opinion at events like Imagine Jersey is simply managed to produce the answer the elite had in mind anyway.

They fail in this area of looking ahead and discussing the way ahead in an open and honest way mainly because they do not like what looking ahead and discussing things openly brings, which is ideas and new directions that they do not agree with: for example a newly aware populace; an end to The Jersey Way; new, sustainable and honest ways of earning a living, etc.


TonyTheProf said...

am sure you could come up with a better scenario for less money than £200,000 though! That seems quite ludicrously large amount of money for what is essentially speculative fiction. Don't get me wrong, I have the greatest admiration for speculative fiction, for example:

The Battle of Dorking
The Land Ironclads (HG Wells)
The World Set Free (HG Wells)
The War in the Air (HG Wells)
Things to Come (HG Wells)
The Time Machine (and the extrapolation of capitalists / workers to Eloi/Morlocks)
On the Beach - Neville Shute
Timescape by Gregory Benford (ecological and environmental disasters)

All of these made certain speculative "prophecies" about the future