The Malta Independent 26 September 2021, Sunday

More than a software company: Microsoft shaping the digital future

Sunday, 15 April 2018, 09:30 Last update: about 4 years ago

According to Microsoft’s Regional Country Manager PEGGY ANTONAKOU, Microsoft is “more than a software company. We shape the digital future. If you think your future is a digital one, Microsoft should be your partner.” Antonakou was in Malta this week for the signing of a major strategic agreement with the Maltese Government covering areas such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. In this exclusive interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday, she discusses the most salient aspects of this agreement, aligned to support the country’s strategic vision to become a digital economy

Microsoft's presence in Malta spans 15 years. How has it, to date, fulfilled its promise to help Malta strengthen its economy through IT?

Microsoft's mission has always been that of empowering every person and every organisation round the world to achieve more, and this is exactly what we have been doing here in Malta over the past 15 years.

These have been very fruitful years, which have given us the opportunity to empower Malta's citizens, businesses and the country as a whole to achieve more. We have supported all aspects of Malta's ICT eco-system, from the private to the public sector, from the education to financial services. We are proud to have been the leaders when it came to supporting start-ups and education - also thanks to our very own Microsoft Innovation Centre, one of only 40 MICs we have around the globe, where we have hosted more than 150 start-ups and over 12,000 students, teachers and professionals. The fact that, today, Malta is fully prepared to leverage the opportunities of new technologies such as blockchain, AI and Internet of Things is proof that we have fulfilled that promise.

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How do you look at Microsoft's past achievements and how, in your opinion, can Microsoft keep playing a major role in Malta's digital agenda?

What always amazed me about Malta was the confidence and willingness, and the strategic approach, when it comes to shaping the future of your country and its people. Malta's strategy has always been that of embracing change by embracing innovation. In my opinion, Microsoft's biggest achievement in Malta was to harness this will to succeed and to have helped the country and its administrations to be where they are today.

Today, Malta is a pioneer in eGovernment, a leader in the proliferation of ICT usage and a role model in effective programmes to bridge the digital divide. Microsoft's achievement over the past 15 years was built on helping the country embrace and empower this vision.

What are the most salient aspects of your recently signed MoU with the Government?

Through this agreement, Microsoft will introduce technology adoption acceleration programmes, focusing on training and workshops for different audiences. It will establish local communities and provision of networking means and facilities in the areas mentioned. It will also support local businesses with resources that will help them embrace the potential that the Intelligent Cloud unlocks, through worldwide initiatives such as Microsoft for Start Ups which will strengthen the Start-Up ecosystem.

Microsoft is also committing itself to the global dissemination of successful case studies and assisting in the regulation of innovative technologies. Through this agreement, Microsoft will also be supporting the Government in the adoption of new technologies and approaches to drive efficiency and performance in the public sector.

What makes this a significant step forward?

Malta, a small country with a big digital vision, is again putting itself in the lead - embracing new technologies, investing strategically in a competitive advantage and translating this into economic growth and prosperity for its economy and its citizens.

The MoU signed this week between Microsoft and the Maltese Government focuses on helping the country tap into the business and economic advantages that technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things have to offer. It supports the strategic themes as officially announced in Malta's National Digital Strategy, built on three pillars - namely the Digital Citizen, the Digital Business and the Digital Government. We believe that this agreement is a significant step forward because these three pillars represent the direction that the world is taking. We want Malta to embrace this digital direction and it is a step forward for the country.

 

How, in your opinion, can Malta increase its efforts to leverage its IT potential and remain attractive to foreign investment?

Having a vision is important, but governments cannot do this alone. For Malta to remain attractive to foreign investment, it needs to keep showing the same willingness to embrace change, to do things differently and - and even better - and to pursue similar partnerships with leaders in the various sectors it wants to develop. Trusted, responsible partners are essential along the way. Most importantly, it needs to remain an enabler and apply the right technology to help its community achieve economic and social prosperity. It must make sure that everyone has access to the digital dividends of development and growth.

Privacy and protection of data is pretty much a topic of discussion lately. What is Microsoft doing in this respect?

Microsoft is building an intelligent cloud, reinventing productivity and business processes and making computing more personal. Trust and responsibility are what we run on and, yes, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right.

Our work in this regard is based on six key privacy principles. We are putting the customer in control of his privacy, with easy-to-use tools and clear choices. We are transparent about data collection and use so that customers can make informed decisions. We are protecting data via strong security and encryption. We respect local privacy laws and ensure legal protection of privacy. We are not using personal content for targeted advertising. We use the collected data only to benefit our customers and to make their experiences better. These principles form the foundation of Microsoft's approach to privacy and will continue to shape the way we build our products and services.

Where do you want to take your relationship with Malta over the coming years?

When, at the turn of the millennium, Malta started its journey to become a regional centre of excellence, there was innovation at the core. Back then, we were among the first - if not the first - global company to commit ourselves to partner Malta to make its vision a reality. Today, as a company that is helping to drive technology innovation in this new era, we recognise our responsibility to work in partnership with government and communities to help advance social and economic progress. Over the coming years, our commitment and mission will remain that of supporting Malta, its government, its organisations and all its citizens to enter this new era, lead in excellence and create a better future and quality of life for all.


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