Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March, 2019 at 10:57 am by Christian Keszthelyi

Malta.AI Taskforce has started developing Malta’s National AI Strategy to regulate the artificial intelligence (AI) space in the country, enabling the nation to become a springboard of AI projects, Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, announced today at the public consultation workshop of Malta AI Policy, hosted in Corinthia Hotel, St George’s Bay. The strategy should be finished in six months, the task force expects, with the first month being the time for public consultation.

Similarly to its approach to blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), the Maltese government has once again confirmed that they are committed to positioning the country at the forefront of artificial intelligence development. Malta aspires to become the “Ultimate AI launchpad” — a place where stakeholders can develop, prototype, test and scale AI projects.

Wayne Grixti, Chair of Malta.AI Taskforce, during his opening speech for the public consultation workshop, made a reference to how the island nation has gained international recognition as the “Blockchain Island” after the “landmark bills” regulating the blockchain space came into force on 1 November 2018. He added that now they are planning to position Malta similarly in terms of AI.

“AI for us is not robots and machines that will take over the world […] and it surely is not something that will solve our all problems,” Mr Grixti said. He acknowledged that AI is now subtly part of all layers of technology, and in this regard, AI needs to be dealt with in a duly manner. He added that the task force, therefore, is now working on a legal and ethical framework for AI operations on the island.

He opened the floor for everybody to get in touch with the task force in the upcoming month, in order to share ideas as part of the public consultation. Malta.AI Taskforce says that Malta’s National AI Strategy aims to regulate the AI space in the country, with a special focus on maximising the social and economic benefits of the technology.

The task force also says that risks are acknowledged and mitigated in order to create stability and safety in the local markets. The strategy also takes into account the Draft Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI published by the European Commission’s EU High Level Expert Group on AI in December 2018, the task force adds.

Immense AI enthusiasm for such a small country

Mr Schembri during his keynote speech at the public consultation workshop said that for such a small country, enthusiasm and interest in AI are immense, which paints a rosy picture of the future of AI in Malta.

The parliamentary secretary said he believes Malta carries many benefits for the AI progress. Factors such as a technologically up-to-date regulatory framework, English being the national language, a tech-savvy population, and telecommunications infrastructure being among the most advanced in Europe make the country a great place for AI development.

Mr Schembri underlined that their strategy will rest on strong pillars. These include raising awareness about and visibility of AI technology, attracting AI talent from overseas to educate the local landscape, positioning Malta as a technology hub, and promoting technology entrepreneurship on the island.

Mr Schembri also said that they are working on adopting AI solutions in the public sector to make the life of citizens easier. He emphasised that a government cannot expect the private sector to turn to new technologies if they do not do it on their own. He said the government also encourages small and middle-sized businesses to embrace and adopt AI, promises to help local businesses to make the best of AI, and commits help to build trust in how AI works in terms of transparency and accountability.

Education and workforce are the key factors in turning AI into a success story, Mr Schembri said, using the word “enablers”, when describing how the task force sees the role of these two areas.

Parliamentary secretary Schembri also pointed out that AI is not about robots taking the jobs of people, but about technological processes complementing and aiding the operations of businesses and the everyday life of society.

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