300 free Wi-Fi hotspots by end of year
Minister for Competitiveness and Digital Economy Manuel Mallia said that the IT industry is such a success thanks to important pioneers but also thanks to the vision.
Quoting a DESI score (an index in the digital industry), the minister said that Malta developed faster than the other EU countries in this particular sector and its score is greater than the EU average, along with Austria, Estonia and other countries in the region.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday afternoon, as the House discussed the vote on the budget, Minister Mallia said that the government is working for a greater blue economy. “Our aim is to complete the government’s plan which goes on till end of 2017. We want Malta to be among the top in the world in this sector. The results show we are on the right track.”
On the maritime sector, the minister said that the government understands the vital role of this sector for the economy.
Minister Mallia announced that the government will soon be launching a scheme to help small businesses set up their own website. The aim is to fund half the expenses involved in setting up a website.
He said that the PN Opposition failed to mention the Wi-Fi service in Malta, which he described as excellent. Dr Mallia said that in Malta there are 260 free Wi-Fi hotspots and the government plans to increase this number further. The aim is to have 300 free hotspots by end of year.
Dr Mallia said that the MCA has analysed the financial and physical feasibility for an underwater cable between Malta and mainland Europe. He said that the authority has also started to discuss the idea with the European authorities in this regard.
Beginning the discussion, PN MP Claudio Grech said that government should invest heavily in technological infrastructure, and not leave it up solely to the private sector.
“Back in the 1980s, this country had to build its infrastructure from scratch, rising from a country with barely any phone lines, to one which is technologically advanced. The government must involve itself in infrastructure as the country would lose out if our infrastructure is not able to compete with others,” he explained.
He said that if Malta wants to become a digital hub, then more diverse telecommunication routes are needed. He praised the budgetary proposal regarding an underwater fibre-optic cable link to Marseille.
Mr Grech also said that innovation leads to quality jobs, which in turn lead to sustainable economic growth. He was referring to the need to attract foreign start-up companies. “If government helps these start-ups, we will create a substantial critical mass of start-ups that can generate economic benefits for the country”.
PN MP Kristy Debono praised government’s announcement of the strategy for cyber security. She said that Malta is at risk in terms of cyber security when compared with other EU countries. “I hope that we can reach the targets assigned in this strategy”.
She also spoke of the need to introduce more schemes to encourage businesses to develop an online presence. She stressed that SMEs are the main drivers of the Maltese economy, adding that an online presence will help them become more efficient.
She expressed her disappointment that no new concrete measures were present in the budget for the digital economy.