Only one in three computing graduates are women

Parliamentary secretary makes pitch for more women to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics. • Digital Malta Strategy to be launched over the coming days.

Parliamentary secretary Edward Zammit Lewis
Parliamentary secretary Edward Zammit Lewis

It is no longer justifiable that only one in three computing graduates in Malta are female, parliamentary secretary for economic growth Edward Zammit Lewis said.

Addressing a business roundtable organised by the Economist at the Hilton, Zammit Lewis said it was social and cultural conditioning that led women against studying sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics.

"Research has amply shown that it is not cognitive differences between genders that led less women to choose these subjects. But social and cultural conditioning," he said.

Zammit Lewis insisted that such situation was no longer acceptable: "The country cannot afford to lose out on the creative capital that women can contribute to society."

He said the government's vision in ICT was not just infrastructural but also "an enabling tool".

"It can empower every individuals, irrespective of age, gender, ability, education, economic means and race should grow as a digital citizens with rights, responsibility and abilities to access and use ICT."

ICT contributes nearly 6% of the GDP employing around 3,500 professionals and specialists in 2013, which is equivalent to 3.5% of the country's gainfully employed.

The parliamentary secretary argued that if ICT was a smart driver of innovation in an enterprise business, ICT must equally be a smart means of empowering citizens, improving their quality of life, chances of success and innovativeness.

Malta's SMEs, he said, had a greater chance of success if powered by ICT. This however should go beyond a website or buying and selling online: "SMEs must be encouraged and supported through special schemes to embrace the smart application of web technologies to internationalise, innovate and transform themselves into digital enterprises."

Zammit Lewis announced that the new Digital Malta strategy for 2014-2020 will be launched by the Prime Minister over the coming days. The strategy includes a number of measures tackling various issues such as the need for developing online content, citizen engagement, support for start-ups, safer internet, cloud computing, open innovation, ICT innovation in public procurement, eLearning, digital by default legislation, cross-border interoperability, next generation access networks and ICT educational programmes.

But despite Malta's strength and aptitude in ICT and growing role in the economy, the take-up of ICT was not as wide and coherent as it should be.

"There are still many areas where smart take-up of ICT is somewhat lacking and perhaps where there is plenty more room for innovation and economic growth," Zammit Lewis.

According to the parliamentary secretary, these areas were affected by market failure such as public transport, infrastructure management and energy efficiency.

"Innovation by ICT needs to be championed in more concrete ways by public administration. If we want to give real value to citizens and businesses we must make it easy for them to interact with government by reducing red tape, adopting the 'once only principle'."

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