- Veröffentlicht: 25. Februar 2017
The past decades have witnessed an exponential increase in the ways and methods in which information technology and digital innovation have infiltrated our daily lives and routines. Both domestic appliances and industrial processes have come to rely more heavily on ICT, and the smart-phone revolution has seen the creation of digital applications for many of the routine tasks we perform daily. This is expected to keep increasing in the near future.
As a country, we have never been blessed with natural resources. But what we have lacked in raw materials we have made up for in the industrious work rate and versatility of our workforce. And that is how we have progressed and moved our economy forward throughout the ages.
ICT has provided us with the perfect industry in which we can excel through the capability of our workforce without requiring any other natural resource. The Nationalist Party understood that from the beginning, and that is why investment in a suitable digital infrastructure was a priority immediately upon its election to government in 1987, notwithstanding the scaremongering of the Labour Party at the time.
The last decade has seen an exponential escalation in Malta’s global digital ranking. In 2011 we became the e-government leaders in the EU and have retained that spot since. This could only happen thanks to the ICT education and training of our workforce and the investment in infrastructure done by successive governments since 1987.
If we want this economic sector to keep flourishing, it is now time to look forward to the next steps to keep Malta as a leading digital hub and an avant-garde smart island. Our tax incentives and regulation of the online gaming sector have enabled our country to boost its gross domestic product through this industry.
But we cannot rely solely on tax incentives to attract investment, as the changing situations in other countries may easily take that away. The recent introduction of the point-of-consumption tax in the UK is a case in point. We need to keep looking for niches which proper investment and regulation might strengthen and attract to keep our economy growing and providing high-quality jobs in the ICT sector.
That is why the Nationalist Party’s document ‘An Economy for the People’ dedicates a number of chapters to creating a strategy in this sector. As the document rightly points out, our next challenge is going to be “not merely a question of delivering a broadband or mobile connection, but rather one of how we can connect systems, people, business, societies, cities, countries into one integrated trusted infrastructure to generate more economic growth”.
The document makes quite a number of suggestions as to how this can be achieved. First of all we want to shift our focus on knowledge-based services such as fintech (digital financial services) and digital healthcare, and establish these sectors in the same way we established the gaming sector a decade ago.
For this, we will require a workforce that is not only digitally literate in being consumers of technology, but a workforce that is an innovative producer and creator of technology. That is why we need to introduce coding from the early ages of primary school. Children need to grow up with a strong view of a technology as a tool by which to express their creations, not as an addictive product to which they are simply enslaved.
The document also speaks for the first time about the concept of digital citizenship. This means not only engaging citizenship in the decision-making processes further through technology and through providing more e-government services, but also leveraging the value and benefits of big data to provide our local councils and government itself with the proper feedback and real-time information which will be crucial in improving public services and infrastructure.
The vision of the Nationalist Party is to establish Malta as a leader in this area with the view of it becoming a regional digital hub providing integrated electronic services platforms to North African jurisdictions.
This will require a reliable infrastructure, and that is why our view is also to encourage and promote investment in an international submarine cable to both Europe and Africa.
We also want to embark on a five-year programme aimed at supporting and incentivising SMEs and young enterprises to develop digital services for citizens and businesses alike, facilitating their deployment not only on a local level but on a global scale. To do this, apart from financial incentives and the loan guarantees promised to start-ups on the same magnitude as the loan guarantee given to Electrogas for the unnecessary power station, we are also committing ourselves to procuring 25 per cent of government’s digital services from these young enterprises.
This is just a taste of what the Nationalist Party is proposing in order to create a stronger ICT sector for a stronger economy, one which is not based on sales of passports and ODZ land being given away, but which is based on solid investment and knowledge-based growth.
For this though, we need a government which is focused on what it can give to our country and its people, rather than what it can take away to populate its offshore companies’ assets and its adventurous escapades.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Mark Anthony Sammut
Quelle/Source: Times of Malta, 18.02.2017