Digital technologies are profoundly changing our life, in the way we work, do business, and the way we travel, communicate and the way we live. When one considers the world in these areas in the past, we will deduce what a better life we live in today. Technology has provided us with fast-digital communications, social media interaction, electronic commerce, and so much more. Digitisation has, is and will steadily transform our world where we can create a lot of value for people to live better, companies to thrive resulting in more high-quality employment, and for training and education to be delivered more effectively. This transformation is as fundamental as that caused by the past industrial revolution.

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) monitors each country’s digital performance and collectively gives the European snapshot. Hence DESI tracks the European competitiveness with other continents. The DESI identifies areas requiring more investment and action. The European Commission undertakes a lot of research and studies on behalf of all European countries. All this work results in a European Digital Strategy, which is represented by guidelines and white papers for different pillars (e.g. White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, SME Strategy, European data strategy). The DESI will then measure the level of activity and results based on these strategies.

DESI is updated annually and optimised in its thematic content which includes Connectivity, Human Capital, Use of Internet, Integration of Digital technology, and Digital Public Services.

In the 2020 Malta ranked 5th out of 28 countries, ahead of Ireland, Estonia, UK, Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain and many others. The buoyant digital sector and robust public policies are reaping fruit. These countries are very strong countries with enormous budgets and resources. No wonder that during the launch of the National eSkills Strategy in March 2019, Mr Gerard De Graaf, Director-General DG-CONNECT in the European Commissioned, envisaged that in the future, Malta will become a leader in Digital Economy, and how right he was! In the DESI 2020, Malta followed Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Connectivity

Malta gained seven places from 2019, ranking 10th in 2020 from 17th in 2019. With 100% of the households covered with NGA and VHC networks, fixed broadband take-up of 84%, and improvements in 100 Mbps broadband connections, Malta can be proud in offering society and the corporate world with one of the best in Europe. International connectivity investments on a submarine cable by one of the main operators will connect Malta to Marseille and Egypt, thus reducing dependence on the Italy connection. Most of the operators either upgraded their communications network or had existing state-of-the-art nodes. MCA is carrying outstanding initiatives to move towards the planning of 5G implementations, including a White Paper and Survey on ‘5G Demand and Future Business’.

Human Capital

Human Resource is one of the most important subjects for all technology providers and consumers. Malta has moved up three places from 9th in 2019 to 6th in 2020. We scored high in many areas. 38% of the people in Malta have above basic digital skills as against the 33% EU average. ICT graduates have significantly increased, reaching 7.9% of all graduates, while there are 4.8% ICT specialists in the workforce which is higher than the 3.9% EU Average. Progress has also been made in gender in the digital sector, where 2.1% of female ICT specialists form part of the female workforce, compared to the 1.4% EU Average. Many initiatives contributed to the progress in the Human Capital ranking. eSkills Malta Foundation launched the National eSkills Strategy 2019-2021 which covers areas of basic digital literacy, quality of teaching, advanced skills, and re-skilling and upskilling the workforce. Career guidance, connecting industry requirements with education, EU Codeweek, Summer Bootcamps, gender initiatives and several studies were main initiatives of the Foundation. The Ministry For Education and Employment, MITA, the University of Malta, MCAST, Training and Education institutions, MCA, Tech.mt and other digital skills stakeholders also contributed well to this ranking.

Use of Internet

Malta placed 6th in the DESI ranking, up by one place from last year. Malta scored well with 85% of the population using the internet, 82% of people read the news online as against 72% EU average, playing music-videos-games with 88% of the population as against 81% EU average, 48% for video on demand as against 31% EU Average, video calls with 64% against 60% EU average, Social networks with a sizzling 82% as against 65% EU average, and 35% of internet users selling online as against 23% EU average. It was nice to note that Malta improved on the number of people doing an online course, with 13% as against the 11% EU Average. Surprisingly, Malta did not score well in shopping online with 67% of the population as against 71% EU average, Banking with 63% of internet users as against 66% of EU average. Credit here goes to the government and the various stakeholders who worked incessantly to get the population to this advanced rank.

Integration of Digital technology

Ranking 7th, Malta performed in the use of digital technologies by enterprises. Big data analysis is used by 24% of the businesses, the highest in the EU. And 43% of enterprises use social media as against 25% of the EU. In e-commerce, 23% of SME’s sell online while e-commerce represents 6% of total SMEs turnover, while Malta is slightly above the EU average in cross-border sales. The DESI also highlights that 41% of enterprises in Malta have high to very high levels of digitisation which is well above the 26% EU Average. In the recent past, the Maltese Government have encouraged and helped the industry with measures to boost digital technologies for competitiveness. These initiatives have amply contributed to this excellent result, and this augurs well to the important and crucial road of the digital transformation, which will actively take place in Europe. The Malta Digital Innovation Authority and Tech.mt were highlighted as best examples in Europe. The MITA Innovation Hub, MITA Emerging Technologies Lab, and the Cybersecurity Summit are worthy of mention as contributors in this theme.

Digital Public Services

Malta scored 100% for the provision of Pre-filled forms and 90% on Online service completion. However, take-up of eGovernment services is still low with 57% of internet users as against 67% EU average. We also scored well on Digital public services for business with a score of 94% as against 88% EU average. But we scored very low on Open data with 42% as against 66% EU average, this underlines an issue and may pose a problem for Malta in the future.

The DESI 2020 is a good marker for us where although we scored very well and ranked with the top countries, however, Malta will need to focus on several issues. DESI is a great tool because it guides us on certain priorities and areas of attention. The rank of 5th from 28 EU countries is definitely a clear indication that the digital economy policies and actions are amongst the best being adopted in Europe. It is a challenge to achieve this and even more to keep up with and improve on that position. From the eSkills Malta Foundation point-of-view, we know our policies, strategy and actions are working. All this can be attributed the collaboration with the private, public, and NGOs partners. They have collaborated with us and understood what we are trying to achieve for a place to a brighter future.

Carm Cachia, Chief Administrator, eSkills Malta Foundation

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