Muscat aims to position Malta as digital hub for small states

Ahead of Malta's hosting of CHOGM, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Malta should serve as a digital centre of excellence for small states

Joseph Muscat:
Joseph Muscat: "Malta is a leader in all combined internet services"

"Micro states are crying for help to get their people connected, because some of them are finding it incredibly expensive to do so," Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, recounting conversations he's had with leaders from various island states in the Pacific.

Malta, Muscat said, could be well placed to help these nations find better avenues of connectivity and network with relevant stakeholders, particularly within the context of Malta hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November.

He was speaking during a conference on the Internet as a Public Resource, organised by DiploFoundation Malta at St James Cavalier in Valletta over the last two days.

During the conference – which boasted both local and international speakers – Malta was hailed as the ‘Estonia in the Mediterranean’ thanks to what many speakers saw as its successful integration of the digital sphere into government, business and education, which they felt matched Estonia’s success story in the digital sphere.

Fielding topics of efficient national internet connectivity as well as cyber security which were the recurring themes of the conference, Muscat hailed Malta as a digital success story, saying that the country is a "leader in all combined Internet services".

Responding to the question of whether Malta “would make the same mistake” as other countries that attempted to take on the threat of terrorism through mass surveillance, Muscat said that “even if we’d wanted to do that, which we don’t, we do not even have the resources necessary”, adding that he saw the benefit of surveillance as lying in “gathering information, for the purposes of profiling it later if necessary,” and that it should not be used to “control people’s lives”.

Muscat also said that the government is committed to reducing bureaucracy with e-government initiatives.

"I remember one instance of that I experienced as a citizen... I wanted to pay for the license to enter into Valletta with my car. In order to get that I would have had to apply for an e-ID. But then in order to get an e-ID I had to physically go to the office... This is a contradiction, and we should work to remove such obstacles for entry into the digital system," Muscat said.

Muscat also said that the One Tablet Per Child initiative is a positive step towards Malta's digital literacy, which also has the benefit of making children more responsible.

"Once a child gets the tablet, they know it's something they're solely responsible for: they have to ensure it is charged, and they know which apps to download, and which they shouldn't."