Public services to get digital overhaul with €40 million investment

The three-year strategy aims to allow all citizens to access services wherever they are and at any time of day

Public services will be digitised in a three-year process that will revolutionise how clients are served
Public services will be digitised in a three-year process that will revolutionise how clients are served

A €40 million investment to digitise public services will allow government entities to share information and remove the need for people to resubmit details when accessing new services.

The wide-ranging plan will also make public services accessible all the time, from anywhere in the world.

Details were announced this morning by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar.

The investment will see the country get ahead of the curve in embracing new technological advancements.

The vision for the strategy is based on three main pillars and spans across many different services offered by the government, from identity management and health to agriculture and transport.

The first pillar will be to ensure that all citizens are able to access government services 24 hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere in the world.

The second pillar aims to cut red tape by allowing various government entities to exchange information about citizens, and no longer require the same information to be resubmitted when making use of a new service.

The strategy will also be looking to ensure that the public sector is equipped to make use of new and emerging technologies, like distributed ledger technologies and artificial intelligence.

Speaking at the launch, Muscat noted that the investment was a substantial one, especially considering Malta's small size.

He said the strategy was based on 150 measures, all of which had been developed with clear timelines for implementation.

“This is the next step for the public service and the country,” Muscat said, adding that the last seven years had seen a “radical change” in the manner that such services were offered.

Each measure comes with its own timeline in order to increase transparency and for the public to be able to hold government to account.

Today’s announcement, he said, provided a blueprint for the manner in which technology will continue to increase the efficiency and transparency of such services.

He noted that Malta was among the first countries in the world to regulate, through specific legislation, the use and implementation of blockchain – distributed ledger technologies – not only to give it a competitive edge in the market, but also as a way of improving and making people’s lives easier.

One example of this, he said, was the fact that the government’s rental market reform will make use of a database stored on a blockchain to store rent contracts. “It will be a strong breakthrough that will send a clear message to the nation and give a tangible example of how blockchain technology can be implemented.”

Improving the public service was now not simply a matter of increasing human resources, but of improving the systems used by government entities.

Cutajar said that the use of technology was the future of what government wanted for the public service.

He stressed that this did not mean marginalising those who weren’t tech savvy. In fact, he said government had completed work on two public service hubs, with ongoing work on two more.

Over the last seven years, he said, the public service had started to look outwards more than inwards. “The first step was to understand that the public service has clients who need to be properly served.”

Efforts to use services had also received recognition, as evidenced by the public’s high satisfaction with the services offered by the government, he added.

He said that whereas in the past, investment in technology across the various departments was isolated, with very little communication between such entities, the challenge today was to have a single integrated system.

Another challenge, he said, was to collect data in a manner that can eventually be fed into systems like artificial intelligence, so as to ensure that they are adaptable to future needs.

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