The Malta Independent 14 December 2018, Friday

The digital year

Silvio Schembri Wednesday, 10 January 2018, 08:44 Last update: about 12 months ago

The year we have just saluted brought about significant changes in technology. 2017 was indeed an important year for digital transformation; it has laid the groundwork for the exciting opportunities that are ahead of us and some yet to be discovered in this New Year. In fact, 2017 especially its last quarter gave a taste of what the future looks like, with Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technology are likely to transform the landscape of our businesses. 


Innovation and technology will be the main drivers of growth in the future and this was manifested in the announcements made by our regulators. A few weeks before the festive season, MFSA issued a consultation paper on virtual currencies where the industry had the chance to provide feedback about how this ever-growing sector should be regulated. This discussion paper will lead to a policy framework that will support virtual currencies and related technologies while ensuring effective protection for investors, financial market integrity and stability. At the same time, MGA issued a call for interested parties to register and provide details on Distributed Ledger Technology and Cryptocurrency projects. This clearly shows that our regulators are ready to embrace the opportunities that the digital world will bring about.

As a Government, we have already paved the way for Blockchain technology to which will find its place during this year. Once this technology finds its footing, there will be no turning back.  This will increase efficiency, manage risks better, create opportunities and improve people’s lives. In fact, as mentioned in this year’s budget, we will be investing in MITA’s Blockchain Lab, as well as Blockchain Hub, which will help start-ups harness this technology.  We intend to establish a regulatory body to regulate these technological arrangements including DLT’s that will be start functioning also during this year.

For us as a country, 2018 will be the year of exploring new niches within the financial sector. We plan to establish a task force in aim to attract FinTech and RegTech companies which will not only be of important contributors to our economic growth but also will enhance our financial services in a way that this sector will be ahead of its time. On the other hand, I am satisfied to say that despite the hurdles faced, as a country we’re proud to say that we have a thriving financial sector that is estimated to continue growing during this year, particularly the insurance sector is estimated to experience significant growth.  Government’s efforts to strengthen what we already have and to develop new niches and growth will materialise in the next upcoming months.

Looking at the European scenario, 2017 ended with the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union that boosted technology and elevated digital issues on Europe’s top agenda. In fact it sparked off interesting digital conversations likely to be discussed in the upcoming months such as 5G technology. It was during this presidency when EU Ministries signed a declaration that bounds EU leaders to put EU as the lead market in 5G technology.  5G is a critical element that will enhance connectivity and ensure that more businesses can become more competitive in Europe.  In this view, our aim is to provide operators and partners the ideal ecosystem and resources to continue sustaining the growth of our digital economy.

As a Parliamentary Secretary within the office of the Prime Minister, I look forward to see Malta being at the frontline of this digital transformation that possesses great opportunities for us all.  This is going to be a great year. Hands on deck, let’s embrace the future.


Silvio Schembri is Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy & Innovation.


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