Malta is turning to Artificial Intelligence to reduce traffic congestion, improve the distribution of energy and avoid scenarios of out-of-stock medicine among others through an investment of €4 million.

The funds will be injected in six national projects led by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority:

-Management traffic project (€2million). Existing traffic lights, CCTV and display panels systems will be incorporated into one system to be able to draw up traffic patterns and understand better what is causing congestion. The project would eventually help reduce congestion and time spent in traffic as the information will be passed on to Transport Malta's control centre, which will in turn distribute the information among motorists through apps such as Google Maps.

-Understand and better manage energy load distribution across the island by collecting data from ARMS, Enemalta and Water Service Corporation (€376,000). Analysing the data collected through these three entities would allow the same entities to maximise their resources and provide real-time support. It would also become possible to forecast problems by analysing past data. This investment is a stepping stone towards the implementation of a smart grid network that would see energy clients receiving information about possible energy wastage at home.

-24/7 chatbot for and 153 phone clients (€590,000). The chatbot service will be in Maltese and English and will help clients avoid having to physically turn up at one of the branches if they don't find the information they require online.

-Personalised educational programmes depending on children's achievements, skills and their aspirations (€150,000).

-Analysing budget and stock levels of the health services' Central Procurement Supply Unit (€300,000). The system would help forecast demand and supply to avoid out-of-stock medicine.

-A system that creates what is known as digital tourist 'personas' depending on visitors' interests, lifestyle and demographics (€800,000). With the help of these personas, the Malta Tourism Authority would be able to better understand what tourists are actually after and can draft policies and initiatives based on visitors' changing interests.

Nearly all five projects are set to be completed by 2023, with the traffic management project being completed by 2024.

The AI systems are being applied to scenarios that involve a huge amount of data that cannot be processed manually, Minister Silvio Schembri assured at a press conference on Thursday.

The projects, he added, formed part of the national AI strategy, with the ultimate aim being to support citizens in their everyday life, incentivise research and ensure progress in the health and education sectors.

"We aspire to become a place from where companies can set up and develop AI systems. Through these projects we can also show that Malta can adapt to such new technologies."

AI, he noted, could be adapted to everyday processes that most take for granted. The strategy was launched in 2019, but the launch of projects required a lot of research, he said.

MDIA CEO Kenneth Brincat told the same conference that a further €500,000 had been invested in research and scholarships.

Since the strategy's launch in 2019, the authority itself had carried out research and work to ensure that its aims are effectively implemented by 2030.

He added that the authority's most important role was its regulatory responsibilities.

Brincat said that while Malta already had a certified regulatory programme for the AI sector, the EU was still discussing a mandatory regulatory framework.


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