Innovation inherently requires ongoing change and what we are noticing is that companies and organisations tend to learn and react more readily to trends, events and consumer demand.

Microsoft’s vision is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. It may sound a bit opportunistic but coming from the world’s largest IT company, this is a vision that Microsoft has already been putting into practice for many years.

In fact, it is exactly what Microsoft has been doing here in Malta as well over the past 15 years of its presence in Malta.

Much of Microsoft’s economic and social role evolved with its Microsoft Innovation Centre, which opened in 2013. While business incentives tend to provide additional motivation to exploit knowledge and change, the MIC monitors those triggers that motivate the investment in new learning needed for innovation.

Today, as Malta seeks to become the ‘Digital Island’, the MIC has been increasingly busy hosting tech workshops for developers, IT professionals and start-ups who are showing more interest in Microsoft’s Azure Cloud services.

By focusing on initiatives that help us achieve Microsoft’s vision, we continue to help Malta and its people achieve and succeed more. One way in which we believe Malta can continue to succeed is by offering the right breeding ground for start-ups.

Hosting and mentoring start-ups, in fact, has always been a prime focus for the MIC. Over the past six years the MIC has hosted over 160 start-ups, 25 of them only last year. These have developed apps, big data platforms and end-user services. We are now also hosting international start-ups relocating to Malta and focusing on gaming, blockchain and AI.

All this forms part of a very crucial development achieved by Microsoft last year when it signed a memorandum of understanding with the government that enabled us to embark on a more structured vision to keep achieving our mission.

This vision, as set out in its Digital Malta Strategy, provides a foundational framework upon which Microsoft is able to build its initiatives and enables us to effectively use emerging technologies in Malta to lead the country to achieve its Digital Malta goals.

Not one start-up was made up of female developers

The Digital Malta Strategy is based on three main pillars, namely Digital Government, Digital Citizen and Digital Business.

For Digital Government, Microsoft is actively involved in assisting government agencies to implement new technologies such as Microsoft Azure cloud services and modern collaboration solutions such as Office 365 that will assist in making public service processes more efficient.

For Digital Citizen, Microsoft is liaising with stakeholdersto launch initiatives involving emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and Internet of Things in four key areas namely transportation, healthcare, education and culture.

Thirdly, through the Digital Business pillar, we are excited to be partnering with the US embassy and the government on the Next Generation Malta initiative, which aims to help start-ups transition their conceptual start-up ideas into tangible running businesses.

In fact, we keep assisting start-ups in taking their business ideas to the next level and we intend to continue our commitment to the start-up ecosystem by providing participants in the Next Generation Malta programme with access to our facilities including our suite of Microsoft Azure resources – through which start-ups will be able to create proof of concepts of their business ideas.

Through MIC, we have remained true to Microsoft’s corporate mission: “To empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.” Over the past six years the MIC has delivered programmes to educate, encourage, innovate and empower thousands of students, teachers and professionals.

Programmes such as DigiGirlz (Girls in ICT), Women Back to Work, Entrepreneurship, Teacher Training, Robotics and Minecraft Learning have garnered success. A major highlight was the 21st Century Classroom initiative, whereby students experienced virtual reality and Minecraft in the classroom, proving that technology can be a more effective teaching tool.

We also organised virtual reality experiences round Malta and Gozo, coding classes, Lego Summer School, our annual JAYE Social Innovation Challenge, supported the PITCH start-up winners at SiGMA, hosted numerous training workshops and Tech-Spark Community events and delivered talks and masterclass sessions on blockchain, AI bots and cognitive artificial intelligence.

Our DigiGirlz event saw the participation of 80 girls on the STEM programme, whereas a mentoring event held during BPW International Women Day saw the participation of 1,500 girls.

However, even though we have hosted over 160 start-ups at the MIC, not one start-up was made up of female developers. We need to achieve more in this respect. We will continue to actively promote IT among young women.

Kyle Anastasi is an account technology strategist at Microsoft Malta, focusing on services to Malta’s public sector.

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