300 free Wi-Fi hotspots by end of year

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

Clau­dio Grech

Manuel Mal­lia

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