Honorable Ministers for the Economy and Industry, Silvio Schembri and Minister for Finance and Employment, Clyde Caruana,
It is a great privilege to be here with you today and a pleasure to speak to you this morning about Tech.mt and the local digital ecosystem but let me first add my welcome to those of you who’ve come to Malta for this group meeting. It is a great opportunity to network, discuss ideas and learn from each other.
Let me start by telling you a little about Tech.mt. We are fairly new on the block with only 2 years in operation – as an organisation we aim to bring government, scholars and private businesses together. Our bold ambition is to make Malta a tech centre for innovative technologies. The focus of Tech.mt is on four main pillars – Promotion, Innovation, Talent and Assistance. Promotion means letting everyone know about the great high-tech work being done in Malta. Innovation is about exposing professionals to innovative technology and driving academic research. The third pillar, Talent, is the work we are doing with Maltese and foreign academia – a collaboration to encourage and develop well-defined career paths. And the final pillar, Assistance, is about offering the necessary assistance on areas such as access to finance for the tech sector, consultancy on opening a new business or scaling your business and guidance derived from market research.
For Tech.mt, the agency tasked with promoting and cultivating Malta’s technology and ICT sector, creating a culture of innovation is a priority. The current challenges have accelerated the need for us to transform, change, and reinvent ourselves for the future, so that we can emerge stronger. The latest version of the EU Innovation Scoreboard indeed highlights that the EU’s innovation performance continues to increase at a steady pace. Indeed, this has increased by 12.5% since 2014.
Being at the forefront of integrating technology and innovation in different sectors, Malta has continued to push the boundaries in the digital sphere. This is reflected in the strong performance increase recorded for Malta in the 2021 Innovation Scoreboard – that of 14.9 percentage points. Malta’s success in this sector is mainly due to the Governments’ drive and commitment towards the digital sector and the private sector’s continued investment and growth.
Although a lot is being done; we must also acknowledge the need to further digital transformation to ensure that Technology can become not only an enabler of growth but a main driver.
In today’s world, millions of people around the world carry their smartphones everywhere. This mobile device is becoming more powerful and enables individuals to feel empowered by what can be made available instantly. This has led to a truly transformational time. However, we cannot keep moving forward without addressing analog citizens and businesses who are falling behind for different reasons. We need to keep encouraging the idea of digital justice were no-one will be left behind in the digital revolution.
People with skills and experience in ICT are more likely to have a competitive advantage over other people with different skill sets. However, for the general female population in the ICT industry this does not seem to be regarded as such, with the number of females employed within the sector not increasing for the past years. This is an area of concern for not just Malta but across Europe. I am a strong champion of education on various thematic areas, and ICT is not an exception. We need to ensure gender mainstreaming in the sector, by promoting digital literacy and the participation of girls in ICT education and training.
The commitment towards the STEM field has been at the forefront of Tech.mt’s agenda. With the ongoing WOMEN4IT project, Tech.mt seeks to deliver training solutions to women to encourage their participation in the technology industry. This and other initiatives will lead to equipping our current and future workforce with the right tools for the digital world.
New technologies and digital trends should benefit all citizens and contribute to the eradication of social inequalities and discrimination. Digital literacy will narrow the digital divide, and as a result also address related issues such as inequality, exclusion and poverty. On this front Tech.mt is contributing with the ICTforTheElderly Project and various other incentives by providing the necessary digital tools and knowledge for the older generation to cope in the digital era.
Digitalisation requires well-trained human resources to take-up and nurture new technologies. We are quite conscious also of the need to develop local talent and provide a pathway from education to high-tech careers. The technology needs smart people, and those who take-up roles in this sector will look forward to rewarding work and enjoying the excitement of being at the cutting edge. There’s something special about a career in tech that offers not only endless opportunities but is open to creativity and innovation and welcomes personnel who challenge the way things are done. At the moment there is a mismatch between the talent that companies need and the talent that is available. It’s something Tech.mt is tackling head on by building connections with local and international Universities and we aim to hold career fairs globally in the near future to tap into potential talent.
Apart from the great relationship established with the University of Malta, Earlier this year, Tech.mt also established contacts with eight Italian Universities. This initiative aims at creating employment networks for graduates, collaboration by way of joint studies, research, training activities and educational exchanges of mutual interest, in various fields of related to technology, with the ultimate aim of future proofing our digital economy.
It is good to note that in the first half of the year, the technology sector was one of three sectors that positively contributed to the economy despite COVID-19. The total GDP attributable to the ICT industry amounted to €1.1 million in 2020, a 15% increase over the previous year. This represents 9% of the nation’s GDP. This momentum in the private sector has allowed Tech.mt to strike a strategic partnership initiative between key industry players and start-ups or small businesses, where local start-ups can come forward with their ideas and they are provided with feedback, knowledge and guidance from partners in the industry. This is a two-way opportunity whereby large companies, through their free mentoring and consultation, can consider even partnering with these start-ups and embark onto the next unicorn…. Who knows?
In recent years, the development of online platforms has increased significantly and though most businesses accelerated their digital transformations in 2020. Vast opportunities are emerging which can assist companies to apply technology in more meaningful ways. Selling online and having a global presence allows businesses the luxury of tapping into a wider pool of potential customers, online data can help business to drive their company into optimising their current processes to sell more efficiently.
We acknowledge that large tech companies, although a vital backbone, have their own challenges to face however Tech.mt can assure that it is present in various fora to influence policy and is constantly finding avenues internationally where to promote Malta’s Tech sector as a choice of excellence. Tech.mt would like to thank the local tech companies who have sustained the economy through the pandemic following increased demand and keep doing so as we speak. For that reason we made sure that financial incentives offered by the Government include also tech companies and now we can proudly say that the tech sector has been included in the eligibility criteria and is able to apply for assistance offered by various Government entities.
As I start to conclude, my message to all those working towards a fair digital transition is to not forget that the man or woman in the street is not involved in the way we are and it’s the job of all of us to make them feel comfortable.
The second point would be to think about the need for highly skilled individuals to advance the tech business. I am making it a personal mission to work with educational institutions to make sure young people are aware of the opportunities open to them in the tech world. Given the rights skills, and the right education, these young women and young men will be fit to join workplaces offering rewarding and exciting futures.
Building on its strengths, Europe needs to continue to implement digital policies that empower people and businesses to work towards a sustainable and more prosperous digital future. We need to support businesses to seize the potential of the digital transformation. We need to provide the right education for young people to have the opportunity to learn about new technologies and be influential on how these are being developed. We need to support the elderly to engage in the digital world and promote trustworthy, digital interactions across society. And last but not least we need to keep working with the private sector to assist in their journey towards success and see further growth in our local tech sector.
Let’s work together, with a common aim, to achieve a fair, comprehensive digital society for everyone.
Thank you, and good luck to you all.