EDITORIAL | Wednesday, 28 November 2007
To state that Malta has made inroads in the ICT sector is an understatement. The country has advanced in leaps and bounds achieving a second placing in the European league table. This is remarkable especially when account is taken of the strategic error made in the eighties when by government diktat, computers were only allowed in the country if and when employers guaranteed that, as consequence there would be no job cuts. This all came at a bitter price because it allowed our competitors to surpass us and left us lagging behind. Having learnt from this historic mistake it is comforting to note government’s commitment to this sector. Its vision is paying dividends, culminating in the attraction of smart city to Malta, which on the understanding that our work force is up fir the challenge should create thousands of new job opportunities.
The vision set by minister Austin Gatt in his address last week to the national information Society advisory Council meeting is yet another building block in the ICT edifice in Malta. The vision is packaged in 182 targets, which if achieved will certainly place our country in a position of excellence in the ICT sector. They are very ambitious yet achievable subject to the overriding requisite that our work force is prepared trained and up to seizing this opportunity. This also involves the full backing from and to the university, which is the obvious training ground.
On the strength of the target success achieved in the fist ICT strategy for the year 2006 and 2007 and the potential scheme, government is embarking on an even more ambitious project. Many of the targets are concrete and achievable with wide ranging added value to the country. First and foremost is the measure to increase the number of ICT graduates. The numbers starting from 280 have already been increased to 600 and there is the target set to expand this number to 1,500 by the year 2010. This target creates an incredible opportunity for many school leavers. It also creates a challenge for our university that must have the whole infrastructure in place to achieve this target. The writing is clearly on the wall, this opportunity exists but if Maltese people do not strike this chance, regrettably the vacancies yet to be created will be taken up by overseas persons, as the show at smart city will have to carry on.
As a consequence of an increasing number of government services going online, a declared 500 number of clerks will be assigned to other duties. This shift in services to online effectively means that the services being offered online rather than manually will be provided at a lower cost and the manual operators will be assigned into productive works elsewhere in the public service. This target is in keeping with the exact needs of the country whereby the public service is lean and productive. All advances in this IT sector can only help to make this achievable.
The aim of attracting 200 companies to Malta from the East is most laudable. Since EU membership, all financial operators are openly stating that good blue chip companies are beginning to look at Malta whereas previously we were not on their radar. This is already bringing in more revenue and enhancing the Malta brand. Our English speaking credentials and our quick to learn skills place us in an envious position in comparison with other countries. The number of online companies financial institutions banks and companies being set up in Malta has surpassed all business circles expectations. These targets if and once achieved can only place us closer to becoming a centre of excellence in the ICT sector.
The underlining theme must be to get more and more people connected. Broadband connectivity is in Malta runs at 60 percent of household. While high this is not high enough if we are to carry on achieving our league placing in Europe. The fastest way for penetration is for the prices charged to be made more competitive. Consumers know only too well that It today is breaking class barriers whereby people are no longer as traditionally being classified according to who they are but what they know. The knowledge society is the name of the game, if not knowledgeable today one will be left behind. Hence the desire of people especially in less well off backgrounds to advance. They rightly see IT as a fast line to their aspirations.
The advances made locally also allow us to make a patient history available on an e-health system that would be accessible by every medical prationer from their own clinic. This so long as all confidentiality and data protection norms are protected will be a welcome improvement in an immediate and personalised service for all patients. Equally available could be electronic identity cards, which could enhance the service being offered.
28 November 2007
ISSUE NO. 513