The Malta Independent 16 January 2018, Tuesday

Malta’s future has to be digital

Philip Micallef Sunday, 7 January 2018, 09:01 Last update: about 10 days ago

In a global and connected world, no country can improve the competitivity of its industry and the standard of living of its citizens without digitally transforming its economy and society at large. Digital transformation is no longer an option, as today it directly affects the quality of life of all of us and ignoring this transformation and not participating in it will create an enormous digital divide which, over time, will be impossible to bridge.

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The advantages of technology and the digital transformation of citizens and organisations are there for all to see: we are in front of a revolutionary change – in fact the term ‘fourth industrial revolution’ or ‘revolution 4.0’ has been coined – in the way we interact when buying, selling, manufacturing, teaching, learning, delivering services and attending to our daily needs.

The digital agenda has – and is of – enormous importance to the EU and there are no excuses for EU countries not to be on the front line of these changes, competing head on with countries such as the USA, Japan and China if the EU wants to be a world economic leader in the coming decades.

Certain studies indicate that four out of 10 companies will lose market share – or even disappear – in the next 10 years and be replaced by those organisations capable of transforming themselves digitally. Experts claim that the future will bring about irreversible changes created by new technologies. The most important global companies in 2025 have not yet been set up today and 65 five per cent of tomorrow’s jobs do not exist today. New jobs such as data scientists, knowledge directors, consumer managers, online security officers, social media brokers, cyber financial advisors, etc. .... nearly three out of four conventional degrees studied for at university and technical colleges today will become obsolete in a number of years.

Today, we do not have a digital economy and a parallel analogue economy. The economy and society are today digital. The objective of each country must be the nurturing of talent, innovation and employability as the vectors for this economic and social change, which must guarantee that organisations and people do not get left behind.

The Digital Agenda cannot be the political agenda of a single political party but must embrace all political parties, all movements, all unions, all NGOs, all religious and charitable organisations, all hoteliers, all industrialists, all chambers of commerce and industry, educational institutions from kindergartens to tertiary, research institutions, etc. Malta should aim to become a leader in this digital transformation and cannot let such a golden opportunity pass it by. A lot has been achieved but a great deal still needs to be done by improving its international connectivity to other countries and continents, by taking greater risks in the uptake of new technologies at an even faster pace than other countries. Malta is a small country yet needs to capitalise on its size and be ready to act as a test bed for new technologies such as artificial intelligence, intelligent cars, etc., so that these technologies will help us make the leap in the quality of life we all desire. Whether we take up this digital challenge or just keep talking about it depends entirely on us – but it is something we owe to future generations.

 

Ing. Philip Micallef BSc (Eng), C.Eng., MIEE, Eur. Ing., MBA (Warwick)

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