Malta has once again paved the way to regulate the implementation of systems and services based on new forms of technology by officially launching a national artificial intelligence ("AI") strategy, making it also the first country to provide a certification programme for AI, the purpose of which is to "provide applicants with valuable recognition in the marketplace that their AI systems have been developed in an ethically aligned, responsible and trustworthy manner" as provided in Malta's Ethical AI Framework.
The strategy, entitled 'Malta the Ultimate AI Launchpad: A Strategy and Vision for Artificial Intelligence in Malta 2030' ("AI Strategy"), aims to "put Malta amongst the top 10 nations with the highest impact national AI programme". Furthermore, the AI Strategy proposes to increase investment and economic activity from local and foreign businesses, increase expenditure on research and development and help to create new start-up enterprises.
The AI Strategy, which is to be overseen and governed by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority ("MDIA") sets out a series of actions to be undertaken between 2019 – 2022, and includes three vertical pillars and three horizontal enablers, whereby the former focus on increasing investment, innovation and adoption, both in the public and private sectors, whilst, the latter deal with an array of areas, including the educational and workforce sphere, the area dealing with legal and ethical considerations and that having to do with ecosystem infrastructure.
The AI Strategy has been developed on the following three strategic pillars:
- Investment, start-ups and innovation: Initiatives are to be put in place to boost investment, research and development by start-ups and to enhance Malta's position as a hub for AI application.
- Public sector adoption: The goal is to link AI with the public sector, the aim here being that AI will further enhance these areas, resulting with a superior level of service provided to Malta's citizens and businesses. Six AI-related pilot projects dealing with traffic management, education, health, customer service, tourism and utilities are to be undertaken over the coming three years.
- Private sector adoption: This pillar seeks to promote awareness and enable companies to use, develop and integrate AI within their organisations. Support measures shall be provided in the form of technological expertise, the provision of toolkits and financial assistance.
Each pillar draws on three strategic enablers:
- Education and workforce: All students engaged in higher education programmes are to be equipped with AI knowledge. Moreover, in anticipation of the impact that technology enhancement and automation are to have on the Maltese labour market, measures are to be introduced to enable workers to develop new digital skills.
- Ethical and legal framework: This will include the world's first voluntary national AI certification programme aimed to assure the users of certified AI solutions and applications that said solutions are ethically aligned, responsible and can be trusted. Legal experts are also to be appointed to form a Technology Regulation Advisory Committee which shall have the remit to advise on laws and regulation with respect to matters dealing with AI. A Regulatory Sandbox for AI and a Data Sandbox for AI shall likewise be set up, which shall permit testing of innovative AI concepts and applications.
- Ecosystem infrastructure: This includes, inter alia, investments in tools to enable Maltese language AI solutions, initiatives to support data availability, actions to mitigate cybersecurity risks, and other measures designed to create the underlying infrastructure to support a thriving AI ecosystem.
By implementing this AI Strategy, Malta aspires to become the go to place, where local and foreign businesses can develop, prototype, test and scale AI – leading to Malta becoming the "Ultimate AI Launchpad" by 2030.
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