In an opening speech at the Malta Blockchain and AI Summit, Maltese parliament member for digital economy and innovation Silvio Schembri welcomed a packed out room.
Even after the massive media attention that Malta drew last year and a host of other competing summits, it seems the Blockchain Island is still commanding the crowds.
A top-10 nation when it comes to technology adoption
But in many ways, it seems as if the concept of the Blockchain Island may cut Malta a little short. Its government is astute. Both its business community and politicians understand that blockchain is not the only emerging technology (nor area in which money can be made). Unlike 2018, this year’s summit has clearly pivoted to include a strong focus on AI.
In fact, Malta plans to become a top-10 nation when it comes to AI adoption. Schembri explained that AI applications would affect many areas and have “workforce, legal, and practical considerations”. He went on to say that the ecosystem must be “wide-reaching and inclusive” so that it “does not leave out any segment of society”.
Why is Malta so enthusiastic about AI?
Schembri explained that being “at the forefront of this technical revolution” will stimulate investment and economic activity from both local and foreign entities. Alongside the Maltese government, these entities will increase expenditure for research and development and the creation of new start-ups and enterprises.
Over the next three years, Malta will invest heavily in AI and launch six separate pilot projects across several sectors, including healthcare, education, customer service, tourism, and utilities. However, “many more will be identified in the years to come”.
Schembri stated that Malta had learned from its experiences with DLT and that “this ambition will be irrelevant without a robust controlled framework for ethical management”.
The world’s first national AI certification programme
To this end, Malta has launched the world’s first national AI certification programme. This aims to provide applicants with valuable recognition in the marketplace and the assurance that their AI systems have been developed in an “ethically aligned”, transparent, and socially responsible manner.
“Since our very first forays into AI, we needed to create a strong ethical AI framework which builds on the work of various national bodies and establishments,” Schembri said. This body will release a set of guiding principles to guide AI practitioners to ensure that the powers of this new technology do not go unchecked.
“We’ve come a long way, a long way in which we have managed to put Malta at the forefront of this technological revolution,” he continued.
“I myself am looking forward to witnessing what this new interesting economic sector will bring, and how the use of blockchain technology in the public sector will better serve the citizens.”
He closed his speech by reminding the audience that “this is only the beginning”. He was fully aware that many challenges may lie ahead. However, he was certain that Malta would witness more and more successes in the years to come. He said that he was anxious to see what “our exciting digital future holds, for the benefit of our country, our economy, but most of all for our citizens”.