Transformation of the Public Service through technology…a vision being realised

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The vision of the Public Service in recent years has been that, through technology, it fully transforms the way it works and how it delivers services to people. That is the reason behind the unprecedented investment of €150 million in technology through which this vision is being realised and will continue to be developed through Artificial Intelligence. A further investment of €40 million is under way to implement the Mapping Tomorrow strategy.

This was stated by Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar when, as part of Public Service Week 2020, he addressed a seminar on the prospects of Artificial Intelligence in the work of the Public Service. A presentation was also held at the same seminar by Professor Alexiei Dingli.

Mr Cutajar listed the main steps in implementing the digital transformation of the Public Service. He mentioned among others the setting up of the servizz.gov website where all government services are to be found together with the relative forms, and the creation of the “maltapps” mobile app where government services are accessible day and night via mobile phones. 

He recalled that in 2014 the first strategy for digital technology was launched in the Public Service – Digital Malta, which set out key principles and strategic actions to be taken to bring digital technology into use, and for it to make a difference in areas such as the economy, employment, industry and small businesses.

In 2016, the strategy on Mobile Government Services was launched. This strategy had a very clear direction, with a vision for government services to be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. The aims of the strategy were to empower citizens, to see that these mservices are used by as many people as possible, and to ensure that public officers themselves use technology internally to provide a service of excellence.

Last year the strategic plan Mapping Tomorrow was launched to cover a three-year period (2019-2021) and to build upon the achievements already reached. Among other things, this plan aims to further increase citizens’ use of online services; to strengthen internal digital systems so that public officers work more efficiently; and above all to put into practice the Once-Only Principle, whereby a citizen using any government service is asked for personal information only once.

Mr Cutajar said that for the future we have to see how to use Artificial Intelligence in our digital systems to design and offer new services that anticipate and meet users’ needs in different areas. The next step is to draw up a new strategy covering from 2022 onwards, always in full respect of ethical issues, such as how and where to use the data obtained, and how to store it. The main challenge will be to choose which services will be provided through investment in artificial intelligence.

For the years to come, Mr Cutajar continued, we must also strengthen the structures through which we invest in technology. We can no longer remain fragmented, with departments working on their own. With immediate effect we are putting in place new structures which focus technology development in the servizz.gov agency to ensure full synergy between investment, design of services and services themselves. We need to ensure that a cycle is created between investment and the service provided in order to keep improving every service and to give permanence for an ever better service.

In his presentation, Professor Alexiei Dingli gave an in-depth look at how Artificial Intelligence touches every sector of the Public Service, and how it is expected to continue to change our world in the next decade. He said that Artificial Intelligence has been with us for 70 years but it was in the last decade that it progressed rapidly and fulfilled itself. He stressed the importance that Artificial Intelligence does not remain in laboratories but is implemented to be able to make big differences in people’s lives.