Our commitment to digital excellence and innovation keeps us relevant in the ICT sector, says Tony Sultana, MITA executive chairman.
What does MITA’s 25th anniversary symbolise?
MITA’s 25th anniversary is a means to commemorate and remember all those who, over these past 25 years, have contributed to our organisation. It symbolises the hard work done by many, in different forms and at times even surpassing the targeted goals and objectives. However, this does not leave out all those who currently form part of MITA and who will eventually drive the organisation forward in the years to come.
How has MITA shaped the ICT sector in Malta?
MITA saw its inception in 1990 as the Management Systems Unit to serve as a catalyst for change in achieving reform in the public sector. In 1997, MSU transitioned into the Malta Information Technology and Training Services Limited with the role of focusing its core business on information technology by providing cost effective and integrated information systems to Government. MITTS became Malta Information Technology Agency in 2009 and transformed its operations from delivering IT and training services to the public sector to an agency focused on digital excellence on a nationwide level.
In all these years, we acted as one of the main catalysts for the achievement of the growing ICT sector which is now a strong pillar of the Maltese economy. In fact MITA has prioritised training and education, seeing this as an incentive not only to capitalise on human resources but also to boost the level of competencies of ICT specialists in the local market, particularly through employee turnover. The last 10 years have seen a rapid growth of the ICT industry in Malta, where it contributes circa 5.7 per cent value added to the national GDP and employs 3.3 per cent of the population.
Further to this, MITA partnered with local ICT sector players such as the Chamber of Commerce, Ministry of Education and tertiary institutions to rethink what ICT skills and competencies students require and ultimately design programmes that address the growing ICT sector.
In these 25 years, what have been the most important accomplishments brought about by MSU, MITTS and MITA?
It’s difficult for me to highlight all the milestones reached throughout these years as it would be a never-ending list. At its time MSU laid the foundations of ICT and some of the milestones reached were that it had worked on the first Information Systems Strategic Plan for Government, it distributed the first 300 PCs in ministries and departments, and it installed the first 30 local area networks at key Government departments. Before transitioning to MITTS, MSU finished one corporate wide area network across Government, known as MAGNET. Keeping in mind that this was in the early 1990s, these were milestones which had a significant impact.
MITTS continued to build on MSU’s hard work and started consolidating solutions in ICT. In this period MITTS achieved an important recognised reward, the ISO 9002 quality certification. Certain major reforms still known to date were born, such as the final settlement system. PCs were introduced in state schools and by 2008 all teachers had a laptop. The first Government website was introduced in 2000. I must also mention that the Foundation for IT Accessibility was established in 2001 by MITA and KNPD – this still contributes heavily within the disability sector.
MITA has an important task: to deliver digital excellence
MITA has an important task: to deliver digital excellence. Since 2009, MITA has deployed over 200 e-services on the eForms platform. We were part of the major roll out of the national electric identity cards system and we are also behind the Student Advantage Programme across state schools. Most recently MITA set up the MITA Innovation Hub at Smart City, a key holder to incite start-ups interested in investing in ICT. Also, I cannot but mention the implementation of the Campus Network at the new oncology hospital and the new parliament building.
Out of these 25 years, how long have you been working at MITA?
I have been engaged with MITA, then MSU, since its inception. Initially, I joined through an internship programme at Villa Portelli assisting a Danish consulting agency on the drafting of the initial ICT strategy foundations, and then formally employed with MSU in 1993. Since then, I never looked back and kept progressing through the career ladder, one step at a time, leading to my current position as executive chairman.
Having lived MITA in the making, I know where our story began, the challenges we have faced and those we managed to overcome. I have also seen the immense dedication and commitment that has helped us keep the agency relevant in an ever-changing external scenario.
How is the agency celebrating these 25 years?
To commemorate this important milestone, MITA has embarked on various activities through the year. We enhanced our logo to show that we are celebrating 25 years of operations. We have held the MITA open day earlier this year to give the general public an opportunity to visit MITA’s data centre and learn about the services offered by the agency. Moreover, 25 school visits were organised for students aged 12 to 16.
We have organised ample team building events as well as the MITA employees’ football league. In July, we celebrated the 25th anniversary with an event for all employees at the Verdala Palace presided by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.
In the coming months we shall organise the MSU, MITTS, MITA Get Together, where all those who formed part of the agency will have an opportunity to reunite, celebrate and commemorate together.
What’s in the pipeline for the immediate future and in the long-term?
The current focus of the agency is to strengthen the existing Government infrastructure and to invest in new technologies. MITA has been entrusted to host the CHOGM systems, so we embarked to set up the necessary infrastructure including storage space, servers and networking equipment to cater for this nationwide event. We will certainly keep investing in the data centre infrastructure and the associated systems that support the operations of the suite of Government business systems and eGovernment services.
We are also planning to launch an internal pilot project to assess the feasibility of implementing the bring-your-own-device concept. This will give MITA the opportunity to gain the required insight to fine-tune to longer-term approach and strategy in this construct. MITA inevitably continues to launch initiatives for start-ups through the MITA Innovation Hub.
As for the long term, MITA will continue to exploit the opportunities offered by alternative models of service delivery, the perceived threats from cloud-based approaches and a more demanding client-base. It will focus on delivering technology that supports business agility and aligns with a wider business strategy. MITA shall streamline and optimise its service delivery models, improving technologies and empowering the public sector.
Which elements of Digital Malta, the national digital strategy 2014-2020, is MITA entrusted to deliver?
As the Government’s IT agency, we have a leading role in the delivery of the National Digital Strategy. MITA owns 47 initiatives and it shall work on implementing them with the help of Government CIOs and other institutions. Examples of particular initiatives are: a pilot project aimed at empowering older citizens with basic digital skills; awarding €15,000 grants for proof-of-concept projects through the MITA Innovation Hub; enhance and improve the eGovernment infrastructure; and increase the number of online electronic forms.
We are also responsible for delivering online services for the Courts of Justice, strengthening competences to service the public efficiently; assisting the Ministry for Education in the one tablet per child project; and implementing the INSPIRE directive.
How is MITA encouraging the take-up of new media as well as, potentially, the internet-of-things?
We will continue to assist government by acting as the catalyst for change to continuously improve end-to-end citizen experience. We will further invest to exploit the use of the cloud, mobile, social media and big data, to deliver digital workflows through the employment of advanced digital and social technologies that will supplement and integrate with the traditional channels and back-end systems.
It’s another challenging opportunity for MITA to work together with the ICT sector to ensure government will succeed to remain at the forefront among EU countries in the delivery and performance of eGovernment services. Furthermore, the agency aims to further strengthen the public service in the delivery of eGovernment services together with an increase impetus to promote the use of these eServices by the citizen.
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