Looking back, it is hard to remember how we thought about the future of the Isle of Man in 2020. That was before the big data scandals, and the regulators breaking up the big social media companies. The Manx cannabis and hemp boom was just getting going, so the economic outlook for the Isle of Man was probably not so clear – it was still all financial services and e-gaming. I remember everyone was thinking a lot about the first Brexit. Back then the IOM population was still under 100,000 and looked as likely to shrink as to grow.
We probably thought about the future more in terms of technology than how society and the legal environment would evolve to accept technology – which with hindsight ended up being far more important. Of course, technology certainly played a role – the ubiquity and low cost of IoT and more powerful AI have been important. But it seems quaint that we thought autonomous vehicles would be mainstream by 2030!
The big changes for the Isle of Man came after the data scandals, and the lawsuits on misuse of big data and unfair decision-making by algorithm. After the EU Data Ownership legislation came into force in 2023 and the Autonomous Agents Registration Acts on both sides of the Atlantic, the Isle of Man seized the opportunities for new business models in the wake of the data backlash.
Building on our expertise in managing shipping and aviation registries, the Manx AI Registry became the world’s leading registry for autonomous agents, blockchain-based smart contracts, and commercial AIs. Our insurance industry has also boomed, underwriting the risk for Limited Liability AIs. The Data Ownership rules opened up a huge new industry in holding personal data in trust and monetising it for the profit of the data subject. After all personal data was confiscated from Facebook, Google, etc., and ownership returned to the data subject, there was a massive need for Data Fiduciaries. With 28 data centres, the Isle of Man is now the third biggest vault for Article 9 (GDPR) data in the world. The TCSP industry morphed quickly to provide data fiduciary services, initially to HNWs, but soon to the mass market.
Government also played a big role in the changing Isle of Man business environment. Legislation to enable the AI Registry moved rapidly from initial idea to full effect. The Registry was helped hugely by the Isle of Man being the first jurisdiction to limit the liability of AI doctors and implementing automated e-prescriptions for conditions to be managed in accordance with NICE guidelines. This contributed to Amazon Health opening a substantial office in Jurby in 2027.
Bold action came from the Climate Emergency initiative that was picking up steam in 2020. With 450 MW of wind power now generated in Manx waters, we hit our carbon emissions targets 23 years early! Although we don’t get that much from the seabed lease (which everyone harps on about), there are now nearly 600 jobs in the offshore service & maintenance industry. UCM has 800 off-Island students studying in their 3 offshore energy programmes – in addition to nearly 1,500 in the Horticulture, Lab Technician and Business programmes in our Centre for Cannabis and Hemp Research.
We also have 7 windpower technology companies in the Maritime Business Park in Port Erin. But the really big impact was how the Greentech fund brought Smart Cities and IoT companies to the Isle of Man. Unfortunately, DOI still hasn’t implemented the smart traffic solution that Manx-based AutoFluidix has deployed in Singapore, Dubai, Shanghai and most recently, London. People complain about that nearly as much as the value of the seabed lease.
Odd really, in 2020 I can remember being rather pessimistic about the Island’s future. Amazing how reacting quickly to disruption can open such opportunities. Stay on your toes and be ready for anything!