27 FEBRUARY 2002
At the launch of the CISCO Networking Regional Academy last week, Education Minister Louis Galea highlighted the governments drive to bring computer literacy to all Maltese.
He explained, "Quality basic computer literacy for all is the key to ward off the harsh consequences of digital divide. The present government, since the early 90's, has recognised the potential opportunities in the IT sector and has invested massively in providing the necessary IT and Communications infrastructure to ensure affordable universal access.
"Government believes that the key to the success of this strategy is in education, training and innovation as much as it is in the raw deployment of technology."
The Education Ministry is currently in the process of networking all computers in all schools while providing safe access to the Internet for teachers and students alike. Eventually as the schools develop into community learning centres, the community at large will be using this infrastructure to have access to e-mail and Internet.
The Minister mentioned the importance that the curriculum was giving to Information and Communications Technology in education. In fact, a focus group is working on the strategic plan for the implementation of the curriculum in this area and is proposing various initiatives aimed at training heads and teachers, providing web-based education resources, continuous upgrading of hardware in schools, identify new software and multimedia resources and more.
Dr Galea also mentioned various other training opportunities offered by the University, the Employment and Training Corporation and other institutions in particular the new training opportunities being offered by the Malta College for Arts Science and Technology - MCAST.
At MCAST, the brand-new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Institute has taken its first 200 students. There are 80 students following the BTEC National Diploma, 60 students following the BTEC First Diploma and 60 students following the BTEC Foundation Diploma. There is a single course made of up of 12 students in Gozo following the BTEC First Diploma.
Although there are a number of initiatives taking place in various sectors locally, we need to create more synergy and to consolidate our efforts to reap maximum benefit and avoid duplication of work, training, facilities and resources.
The Minister said that there is a growing need for specialists and technicians in the IT sector, not only locally but also globally. In Europe alone there will be over 700,000 vacancies in the IT sector. By the end of 2001 forecasts estimated an internet population of 420 million users and the European Retail Market will increase from 8.5 billion euro to 74 billion euro by end 2003, Global Bandwidth has increased by 300% in the year 2001 and by the end of 2002 total Internet generated revenue will be over USD1 trillion. All these figures indicate a fast-growing industry that is up for grabs at least in certain niches.
However, there are some challenges we are facing locally namely limited and expensive international internet connection, and a shortage of qualified system engineers, internet experts and network specialists. This situation coupled with international shortage is increasing wages unrealistically for local ventures and limiting growth in this sector.
The launching of the CISCO regional academy is in itself another step towards giving Malta the goodwill it needs in this sector. Apart from the economic benefits resulting from the attraction of foreign investment, the training offered by the academy will provide the necessary technical and professional human resource to service the local industry allowing it to grow. The CISCO Academy and any others which could follow would also place Malta as an educational hub for IT training especially when one notes that Malta is strategically placed between the developed European continent and the developing North-African region.
The academy will be offering training through local educational institutions such as MCAST, University, Public and Private Secondary Schools, other training organisations such as SDO, ETC and Swatar training centre. As with the training given at MCAST, training is hands-on and skills based, which means that the trained individuals will not need on-the-job re-training just to start working.