Valletta, Malta — The city of Valletta at sunset, photo by — @mparente

Malta’s AI Strategy

Exploring the AI Launchpad

The strategy for Malta is named A Strategy and Vision for Artificial Intelligence in Malta 2030. The goal is to make Malta the ultimate AI launchpad and was launched October 2019. I will try to map some of the main points of the strategy.

As most strategies the Malta AI strategy starts by explaining what artificial intelligence is. Then it tells of visions and goals, followed by a focus on investments, start-ups and innovation. After this there is a focus on public sector and how artificial intelligence can be implemented within different areas that may benefit the public. This is followed by private sector adoption; education and workforce; the legal and ethical; as well as ecosystem infrastructure.

“Malta aspires to become the “Ultimate AI Launchpad”- a place in which local and foreign companies and entrepreneurs can develop, prototype, test and scale AI, and ultimately showcase the value of their innovations across an entire nation primed for adoption. The ambition is to create the conditions for AI to springboard from Malta to the world.”

To do this Malta sets out goals for 2022 and towards 2030.

Within 2022 they want that:

  • Every Maltese citizen will know what AI is.
  • AI-related activities will generate investment.
  • Companies and government will have started to scale AI solutions.
  • Pilots showcase the benefits that can be delivered.
  • The business community will have developed foundational knowledge.
  • Malta’s workforce will be better prepared for work in an AI-driven world.
  • Laws and regulations will be up to date.
  • Malta will be a model nation that other look up to.
  • Computers will be able to process and understand Maltese text and speech.
  • Policy on high-compute performance access and cybersecurity will have been developed.

Within 2030 they aim to have:

  • Trusted AI solutions part of everyday life across all generations.
  • AI will be a driver that propels R&D activities.
  • Malta wants to be amongst the top 10 nations.
  • AI solutions will help augment public services.
  • Companies of all sizes and sectors will deploy AI solutions.
  • Maltese workers will have the skillset to thrive in an AI world.
  • Robust governance and social protection mechanisms will be in place.
  • Malta is compliant with international regulations.
  • People have better control of their personal data and able to commoditise it for their own need.

Malta’s Pathway Towards an AI Strategy

  1. In November 2018, the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation appointed the Malta. AI Taskforce with the remit of advising the Government and developing a national strategy on AI. Working groups were also formed at the time.
  2. In March 2019, Malta.AI Taskforce published a high level policy document, Malta — Towards an AI Strategy. Laying out key areas of focus for the National AI Strategy.
  3. The national strategy has built on these areas to set out a number of actions that will be achieved by 2022, together with actions to support a longer-term vision of where the country would like to be in 2030.

The Main Outline

The Strategy is looking at the impact commercially and socially, areas of economic opportunity and the need for special consideration, if not regulation, where AI use cases potentially intersect with national priorities, values and citizen’s rights.

They outline three strategic pillars:

  • Investment, start-ups and innovation: sets out initiatives to generate investment and position the country as a hub for AI application.
  • Public sector adoption: explores how AI can be deployed widely across the public administration to improve citizens’ experiences, expand access to public services, and directly improve well-being. Six AI pilot projects covering traffic management, education, health, customer service, tourism, and utilities will be undertaken over the coming three years.
  • Private sector adoption: details initiatives to drive awareness and enable companies of all sizes to use, develop and integrate AI applications across their organisations.

With three outlined strategic enablers:

  • Education and workforce: plans for the impact of technology and automation on the Maltese labour market and proposes measures to:
    -Assist workers to develop new digital skills
    -Increase the number of AI specialists
    -Equip all students on higher education programmes in Malta with AI knowledge
  • Ethical and legal: establishes the world’s first national AI certification programme to provide a platform to practitioners and companies that wish to showcase ethically aligned, transparent and socially responsible AI solutions, building on Malta’s Ethical AI Framework Towards Trustworthy AI. It makes provision for the formation of a Technology Regulation Advisory Committee to advise on laws and regulation in respect to AI matters and the creation of regulatory and data sandboxes.
  • Ecosystem infrastructure: lays out investments in tools to enable Maltese Language AI solutions, initiatives to support data availability and actions to mitigate cybersecurity risks and facilitate cost-effective access to high-performance compute capability among other measures designed to create the underlying infrastructure to support a thriving AI ecosystem.

They start by raising both opportunities and concerns. Stating both labour concerns and upwards economic benefits (as is usual in these strategies). Then it follows to described the different AI directives as well as the investment outlined by the EU.

What Opportunities Are Outlined in the Strategy for Malta?

There is a section in the document that I found interesting.

History as a trading hub. Located in the centre of the Mediterranean, the Maltese islands have been a major regional trading hub throughout their history. Moreover, a strategic location, a clear political commitment to ensure sustainable economic development, and a highly qualified workforce, has ensured that the country is increasingly respected as an attractive investment location. Over the last five years, Malta has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the eurozone. Malta’s economy grew by 6.7% in 2018, making it the fifth year in a row in which real GDP has grown by over 5%.

Member of the EU. Malta joined the EU in 2004 and became a member of the eurozone in 2008. It also transformed its economic focus, shifting from low-end manufacturing to an innovation driven, service-based economy which is recognised as a leading global hub for financial and digital industries, with a re-dimensioned focus on industry aligned to advanced manufacturing, maritime and aviation service, together with significant growth in tourism, construction and real estate.

Diversified economy. The continued diversification of Malta’s economy into new areas is important as the global economy continues to transform. Last year, the country became a pioneer in its creation of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), a regulatory authority responsible for governmental policies aimed at positioning Malta as a centre for excellence and innovation across digital technologies.

The Government of Malta has taken a clear stance on technological innovation: it should be embraced, not stifled; Malta should be a disrupter, rather than a follower. In line with this commitment, Malta firmly established itself as a leader in new, up-and-coming areas such as distributed ledger technology (DLT) and gained global recognition as the “Blockchain Island”. The country has now set out to establish itself in the fields of AI.

Investments in Malta

Malta’s size makes it a viable test bed for pilot projects which can be run across an entire country. In the strategy they claim that Malta can:

“…leverage its natural resources and size, as well as innovative public policy, to translate a bold leadership vision into a set of tools, incentives, resources and collaborative ecosystems that accelerate the journey from AI development to AI adoption, leading to commercial success, social benefit and international recognition.”

Malta has taken a global lead by developing the world’s first national AI certification programme.

Sectors Important to Malta

  • Financial services: AI-driven based solutions are being used for intelligent financial planning, investment and money management services for consumers. They are also helping financial institutions create smarter credit and risk analysis applications and streamline operational performance.
  • Gaming: AI technologies are frequently incorporated into solutions to help detect and reduce fraud, enhance marketing effectiveness, and augment customer service interactions and customer experience functions.
  • Advanced manufacturing and aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul industries: AI-driven solutions are being deployed for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance activities. The solutions draw on the vast amount of data that aircraft, ships and machines now generate.
  • Tourism: AI models are being applied to big data to discover industry trends and sentiment (i.e. what tourists like and dislike) at scale, provide recommendations on places to visit and book, and enable hotels and vacation rental owners to deploy automated pricing solutions based on supply and demand.
  • Real estate: AI solutions are being used to increase the relevance of recommendations users see on websites, display personalised advertising, identify when new properties come on the market, and automatically tag and classify property photos and listings.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 268. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days. My current focus for 100 days 200–300 is national and international strategies for artificial intelligence.



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