Malta at the forefront of technology certification – EU following suit

KENNETH BRINCAT, CEO of Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA)

Last Updated on Thursday, 9 December, 2021 at 10:34 am by Andre Camilleri

Recently appointed CEO of Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), KENNETH BRINCAT, opens up about the entity’s role and the need for certification to Dayna Camilleri Clarke.

“We are Europe’s first regulatory body for the innovative tech sphere.”

Central to its role, the MDIA certifies and ensures any new innovative technological product is fit-for-purpose, in so doing, providing a stamp of approval of trustworthy innovative technology arrangements for users. “At the moment, MDIA certification isn’t mandatory; however, as policies evolve at an EU level, things may change. Notwithstanding, the certification offers the utmost reassurance for anyone looking to work with a new product or client. It’s our intention it becomes an industry standard. As a result, more and more businesses are coming to us requesting certification.”

As with any regulatory body comes a level of enforcement. For example, will the MDIA have powers to implement fines for tech entities that prove to be non-compliant? Brincat explains: “Right now there are no fines since the certification is voluntary; in the future once the EU imposes on its member states the mandatory provision for such innovative technology, MDIA would shape its strategies to be in a position to issue fines for breaches of say security, for example. We are working closely with other authorities and stakeholders to iron out our strategies as we are still a young entity.”

Asked about the island’s reputation and if the focus remains on “blockchain island”, Brincat replied future efforts are geared more towards Artificial Intelligence and ensuring a hotbed of innovation on the islands persists. “The term ‘blockchain island’ attracted many entities to Malta, however, now we are seeing more of a shift towards AI solutions. The MDIA expects to widen its focus from blockchain technologies to AI solutions for a far wider range of uses, leveraging this technology to have a transformative effect across the whole economy.”

Addressing the topic of a skills gap in the digital sector, Brincat admitted “right now there is a shortage of skills in the Blockchain and AI sphere. The University of Malta, MCAST and many other private entities are offering new qualifications in this field, however, until these students graduate and gain experience; we will endure gaps in the knowledge base. We also need to ensure Malta remains competitive enough for them to stay or return to Malta. What is positive is that many experts are relocating to Malta and we also have a great pool of existing talent – some of Europe’s biggest names and top professors are already here”.

On an international level, the feedback received from the establishment of the MDIA and the regulatory framework has so far been “very encouraging”, says Brincat, not only from operators and users but even neighbouring EU countries that have requested shared knowledge in regulatory implementation.

“The feedback is positive,” says Brincat. “I mean they [operators] were working in a wholly unregulated environment. Serious operators want to work within a legal framework. They want their work to be recognised, accepted and embraced. Basically, through this legislation and certification, that is what we are doing. We’re making sure that this type of technology is not only here, but it is here to stay.”

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