The future of Maltas information
Information Technology and Investment Minister Austin
Gatt addresses the HP NSPBU Solution Partner Symposium, during which
he outlines how Maltas information society got to the developed
level at which it is and expounds on where it is heading in the future.
I start by thanking you for granting me this opportunity
of meeting you at a time when you are bringing together in Malta partners
in business, clients and servers as it were, to exploit and synergise
your various talents to identify new opportunities.
It is with great satisfaction that I see Malta become an ever more credible
host where various stake holders in the IT business can come together
and find here solutions to the challenges of the future.
We have had to work hard to come this far. Only 16 years ago Malta was
a technological desert where computers were looked upon with nihilistic
suspicion. In the late eighties and early nineties, the Government I
belong to invested heavily in the basic infrastructural building blocks
that have made it possible for us to build the steps towards the future
we are now climbing.
It all started coming together in the last two or three years. The Government
pushed far up its priority list the objective of making Malta a regional
centre of excellence in the technology sector. That objective was secondary
only and indeed complimentary to the objective of joining the EU at
the next enlargement. We aimed to create new opportunities of wealth
and employment together with opportunities of education and cultural
The new Government, that is now barely a month old, has re-affirmed
that objective. The creation of a specific IT and Investment Ministry
signals the will of the Government to apply technology considerations
to all its decisions at the level of Government. Technology is now ubiquitous
also in the priorities set by Government in the reforms it undertakes
to improve efficiency in its operations and in the operations of all
bodies dependant on it; in the quality of service provided in our health
and education systems; indeed at all levels of our interaction with
Knitting technology in the fabric of our lives is therefore not merely
an economic project. It certainly is that, in that we wish to see more
value added to our business and the creation of better paid, more specialised
jobs. Yet, for us, this is also a social project. We aim to use technology
to have a premier health service. We aim to use technology to ensure
that citizens of all ages learn to access the changes of our world.
Technology is also a political process. It ensures greater efficiency
in the workings of Government, as much as it ensures greater transparency
and a healthier, livelier democracy.
The more targets we reach, the higher we aim. It is indeed significant
that we have passed from the eEurope+ programme that aimed to acquire
a healthy basis for technological advancement in EU applicant countries
to the eEurope programme. This sets for us new ambitions to reach, within
two years, the objectives that Europe has set itself to reach.
It is clear to me that much as we may have a lot to be proud of, there
is no point to sit on our laurels. We have much yet to do. The objective
I have set myself in this area is to bring together the economic, the
social and the political dimensions of our initiatives in the area of
information technology into one coherent national strategy.
And I wish to be very clear about this: by the phrase "our initiatives",
I do not simply mean "the initiatives of the Government."
During the past three years we have built a direct, intimate relationship
with all the stakeholders in this area. Our list of partners includes
all the major operators in the business, be they creators of software,
suppliers of hardware, generators of networking technologies, Internet
providers and all the other elements of the technology loop. On the
other hand we have ensured that all sectors of our society are engaged
in this process. Starting from the obvious clients of these initiatives,
businesses and Government (where effort is still needed to engage small
businesses and the most reluctant, rigid columns of public bureaucracy),
we have also ensured that no one feels left out: senior citizens, young
schoolchildren, women, disabled persons. If anyone is going to do benefit
from the opportunities of new technologies, then it became our mission
to ensure that everyone does.
On the basis of this broad network that we have created, we now want
to construct a strategy on Information and Communications Technologies
which incorporates all the streams of initiative being undertaken by
anyone in this area in this country. I do not wish to imply that there
will be no room for the various component entities to develop their
own views of what Maltas information society of the future should
look like. Quite the contrary we want to adopt those sectored visions
into one global vision of our future.
To do this we need to take a page out of your book. Fundamentally the
contemporary burst of creativity and rapid technological process can
be explained by the fact that around the world everyday people are individually
developing a small step of progress on the freshest invention of the
day before. This electrifying global synergy has changed the rhythm
and the tune of the way progress in our world is achieved. There is
still much importance for giants in the economies of today. They still
contribute a huge share of innovation but they are no longer by any
means on their own. Indeed, Information Technology has shown, if there
ever was any doubt, that small is beautiful.
Probably the single-most self-evident challenge for this sector that
we live with today and which is likely to grow in the immediate future,
is the world-wide shortage of human talent available to keep up with
all the potential growth we have ahead of us. Technology itself has
made it relatively easy for operations of any business to provide its
service from just about anywhere on the globe to anywhere on the globe.
It is hardly a matter of how close you are to where the money is anymore.
It is more a matter of whether you have the people with the right skills
working for you.
This is the future we want to build for Malta. A regional centre of
excellence cannot be understood to have the traditional meanings of
proximity to resources or heavy infrastructure. A regional centre of
excellence is a place where the invisible yet ubiquitous infrastructure
is ahead of the times and where the people know how to exploit that
technology for the improvement of their own well-being.
As Europe aims to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based
economy in the world by 2005, we aim to become the last outpost of excellence
in our region. The targets set by eEurope are ambitious in and of themselves.
Our ambition is to be the best practice model for those working their
way up to these ambitions.
The fact that you are here today is a good start.