Malta fosters ambition to be ‘best possible environment’ for AI with six new government projects

By on 31/05/2022 | Updated on 31/05/2022
An image of a boats on a strip of water outside Valletta, Malta
Malta's AI ambitions follow its strong record of providing government services online

The Maltese government plans to launch six new artificial intelligence (AI) projects to improve citizen services and further its aim of becoming a major development and testing hub for local and foreign firms specialising in the technology.

The projects will cover transportation, energy, health, education, tourism, and online government services, and will receive €4.1m (US$4.4m) in funding through the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA).

Silvio Schembri, the country’s minister for the economy, European funds and lands, said that Malta’s National Artificial Intelligence Strategy will be the focal point of its efforts to provide ideal conditions for innovation in the field, adding that this was “just the beginning” for the island nation.

“Malta aspires to become a hub of artificial intelligence implementation. The ambition is… to provide the best possible environment for this technology to flourish,” he said.

“In the coming months and years, artificial intelligence will be increasingly used in our daily lives, and Malta should be the leader of such ideas and developments.”

Promising projects

One of the six projects – which is anticipated to cost €1.9m (US$2m) – will see Transport Malta develop a single system incorporating traffic lights, CCTV, and multi-message display panels. Data gathered by the system will be analysed to improve and manage traffic information, which is expected to be usable on other platforms, including Google Maps.

In another, Maltese electricity services provider Enemata, the Water Services Corporation, and the utility services platform ARMS, will collaborate on analysing data on water and electricity usage to spot patterns and assess their implications. The goal is to give providers the tools to make best use of their resources, pre-empt problems, and provide real-time feedback to customers. The project will receive €380,000 (US$406,000) in funding.

Read more: Malta tops European league table for digital government

Investment of €590,000 (US$629,589) will go towards creating an AI-powered chatbot to augment traditional services available via, Malta’s main government service portal.

In the fields of health and education, a combined €450,000 (US$483,255) will be put towards an adaptive system designed to help students get a better education through tailored programmes, as well as easing the sectors’ budgeting and procurement processes through use of AI, in conjunction with the Central Procurement and Supplies Unit. This tranche of the investment divides into €300,000 (US$320,070) for healthcare and €150,000 (US$187,485) for education.

Finally, €800,000 (US$859,040) will go towards enabling the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) to identify trends and prospects in the tourism sector using AI-generated personas that take in demographic data and details about consumers’ lifestyles.

Citizen-centred innovation

In 2021, Malta was ranked top of a list of 36 countries in the European Commission’s league table for online government services. Its position was decided based on the accessibility and ease of use of services on a variety of devices, as well as transparency of information and the presence of key features such as electronic identification.

The government made a €200m (US$227m) investment in new technologies last year to ensure its public services would be accessible to citizens anywhere, at all times of day, any time of year.

Mario Cutajar, the country’s public service chief and principal permanent secretary, said at the time that Malta’s focus on procurement in this area was one of the leading factors in transforming public services for better ease of accessibility.

He warned however that “people must continue to have control of their data” and that the ethics raised by innovations based on AI and other technologies required dedication to securing the public’s trust.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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