This Business Section falls under the Services Providers Economic Group.
The Information and Communications Technology Business Section aims to:
- Enhance the profile of the Business Section
- Engage with the Education authorities on various issues
- Monitor the State of the Industry Report
Ms Claudine Cassar - Chairperson
Mr Francois Grech - Deputy Chairman
Mr Marcel Joseph Cutajar
Mr Keith Fearne
Mr Roland Scerri
Ms Rachel Bartolo
Dialogue on the Education Strategy for Malta
The eSkills Malta Foundation organised a dialogue with stakeholders on Tuesday 29th April, as part of the consultation process on the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024. Among the speakers was Mr Keith Fearne, Committee member of the Malta Chamber's ICT Business Section who gave a presentation regarding the view of the ICT Industry.
Mr Fearne said that although a good number of students were graduating from the University of Malta, the numbers were not sufficient to meet demand which was on the increase, especially in the area of software development. The ICT Business Section had held various consultation meetings with the University a few years ago, to discuss how the courses could be better aligned for the needs of the sector. The Business Section was pleased to note that the University had taken the recommendations of the Industry on board and had launched a series of new degree courses targeted at filling the gaps in the market.
Speaking about the level of MCAST ICT courses, Mr Fearne claimed that these needed to be further enhanced in order for them to meet the requirements of employers in the sector. At that level of competence, MCAST students should not be generalists but rather more focused and specialised, in narrow areas of competence with a focus on vocational training.
Mr Fearne continued that students should also invest in developing their soft skills which were an important requirement for employment.
Mr Fearne said that “students at an early age are not being given the opportunity to discover whether they have the natural aptitude in ICT” and that emphasis on ICT should be made as early as at primary and secondary levels of education. The Business Section suggested that more emphasis should be made on maths and physics together with the introduction of mainstream computer science subjects such as logic and code development. Mr Fearne conlcuded that ICT should be embedded in all subjects to ensure, that students are given the required tools and are properly equipped to further their studies and careers in ICT.
The ICT Business Section Executive Committee meets Parliamentary Secretary, Hon. Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis
The Malta Chamber’s Information & Communications Technology Business Section Executive Committee held a meeting with Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth, Hon. Edward Zammit Lewis on 20th March. The meeting was also attended by MITA’s Executive Chairman Mr Tony Sultana together with Mr Emmanuel Darmanin, Department Manager of Strategy and Planning at MITA.
The ICT Executive Committee stressed on the importance of regular meetings and consultation particularly with regard to the Government’s policy and vision for the ICT Industry. The meeting discussed important current topics including the centralisation of IT procurement, as well as EU incentives and funding schemes for IT projects and initiatives.
The Hon Zammit Lewis while re-affirming his commitment to support the ICT Industry through Malta’s National Digital Strategy 2014-2020 (launched a few days after the meeting on Monday 24th March) in line with the European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe 2020, looked forward to continue with ongoing consultation meetings with the Malta Chamber’s ICT Business Section.Parliamentary Secretary, Hon. Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis.
The Executive Committee of the Information and Communications Technology Business Section held a number of meetings during 2013. Early in the year, the ICT Executive Committee held a meeting with the Ethiopian Ministry of Information Technololgy. At the meeting, the Committee stressed on the importance of joint ventures and proposed that the Malta Chamber through its Internationalisation Desk, could work in collaboration with the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce to match potential partners. The matter was further discussed with the Malta Chamber’s permanent staff in order to coordinate and work closer with the Malta Chamber’s.
Once the new Government Administration took office, the Executive Committee invited Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth Dr Edward Zammit Lewis, for a meeting with all members of the Business Section. Dr Zammit Lewis was also accompanied by Emmanuel Darmanin, Department Manager of Strategy and Planning at Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA). At the meeting, the Committee presented the Industry’s recommendations, highlighting the importance of having a more specialised skill-base, the possibility of government support to help the Industry set up an ICT Malta, MITA’s strategy on outsourcing, Internationalisation, the possibility of reducing administrative burden for firms to access funding, as well as possible initiatives with regards to venture captial for SMEs. Dr Zammit Lewis assured the Industry of his full support to enhance the sector’s growth through a focused strategy, which MITA and the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) were commissioned to formulate for the period 2014-2018.
The ICT Executive Committee continued in its endeavour to re-instate the publishing of the MITA Procurement Outlook. MITA took on board this request during the year. Later on in the year the Committee invited all of its members to discuss and formulate proposals which were then submitted to MITA in relation to its outsourcing framework. The Business Section welcomed MITA’s stated target to outsource all systems to the private sector while retaining core sensitive critical systems, and further made its recommendations for a comprehensive outsourcing strategy.
The Executive Committee sent its position paper with regards the ‘Digital Malta – National ICT Strategy’ for the period 2014-2018. It was pleased to note that a number of initiatives were in line with the suggestions the Business Section had been recommending for a number of years. Nonetheless, the Committee highlighted the importance of having an adequate budget allocated to the National Strategy including an outline of the allocation of funds to each project/initiative; the development of a yearly strategy outlining the timeframes of when initiatives/ objectives for each year would be met; as well as coordinating and consolidating the numerous committees and their activities under ICT Malta. Finally, the Executive Committee committed to further contribute towards the implementation process and urged the Government to keep the Business Section involved in the consultations to follow.
The ICT Business Section was invited to participate in a collaboration with Malta Enterprise on an EU-funded project for Cluster Excellence. The interested companies forming the cluster discussed the project parameters and clarified expectations. It is expected that during 2014 the Cluster Group with be formally set up with the assistance of Malta Enterprise.
Finally, the Business Section worked on various other issues, events and iniatives to promote and help the Industry during the year. These included a Seminar entitled ‘Tendering Opportunities for SMEs’ which was organised by The Malta Chamber, the Malta Business Bureau and Malta Enterprise as part of the SME week. Francois Grech participated as one of the speakers who highlighted a number of issues in ICT tendering procedures to the attention of the Department of Contracts Director General, Anthony Cachia. Mr Cachia shared the Industry’s concerns and affirmed his commitment in addressing the issues raised in the best way possible.
A number of meetings have been held throughout the year, both at the Executive Committee level as well, whenever this was deemed necessary, of all the members of the Business Section.
Early during the year the Executive Committee of the Business Section held a brainstorming session with its members to discuss what the IT section had achieved to date, any matters of concern, as well as an assessment of particular aims the section would like to accomplish. Among the issues discussed was that of the Training Aid Framework (TAF). The Committee noted in several of its meetings that most of its members had not yet received the funds due to them under TAF. The matter was referred to Malta Chamber’s Secretariat to be handled through Malta Chamber’s HR Committee.
The Committee also focused on the possible initiation of a State of the ICT Industry Report. Following a call for quotations, the Executive Committee unanimously agreed to appoint Deloitte as the preferred bidder. The report will be financed by members and non-members of the Business Section.
Another concern raised by the Business Section members has been the non publication by MITA of its regular Procurement Outlook. This issue has been taken up by the Executive Committee with MITA on a number of occasions.
In preparation for the forthcoming General Elections, the Executive Committee decided to draw up a pre-election document to be presented to the political parties, for consideration in drawing up their electoral manifestos. This was done and the Committee held meetings with the leaders of the main political parties in June to present to them the said paper. Both political parties agreed in principle with the proposals submitted in the Memorandum.
The Executive Committee held a working lunch with the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications and the Chairman of MITA. It also held a separate meeting with the Labour Party's Main Spokesperson for Consumer Rights, Communications and ICT, Hon. Dr. Michael Farrugia. The Committee informed Dr Farrugia on the work carried out by the Business Section; on the importance it laid on maintaining a good relationship with the Ministry responsible for IT and MITA; and on its contribution to the work of the E-Skills Alliance which was giving a valuable input to the industry through its work. The Committee stressed that Research and Development should be given considerable attention due to Malta's weak position in the area. It commended MITA's initiative of outsourcing its work to the private sector but informed Dr Farrugia of existing difficulties being faced by firms on exporting their products, and the need to set Malta on the ICT map to help further in the promotion of exports. Dr. Farrugia shared the Committee's concerns and communicated that the PL was drawing up plans to formulate a vision on how to further promote the industry.
Another focus which the Committee paid particular attention to was the useful work being carried out by the E-Skills Alliance, under the chairmanship of John Ambrogio. Unfortunately, the Committee noted that the momentum of E-Skills Alliance initiatives started slowing down towards the end of the year due to reduction of human resources being made available to the Alliance by MITA.
The Executive Committee has always paid great attention to its relations with the University of Malta. In fact, Committee member John Ambrogio, was commissioned to draft an agreement setting up a Liaison Committee between the ICT Business Section, MITA and the University. The Committee will be a sub-committee to the University Faculty Board and subject to its authority. The agreement is in the process of being finalized.
Another important initiative dealt with throughout this year was the Pooling for Clusters (P4C) Project. The Malta Chamber was invited by MITA and Malta Enterprise to participate in this initiative intended to draw up a plan to form a cluster with the possibility to develop into a sort of ‘ICT Malta’. Executives Robert Tabone Valetta and Marylyn Hili represented the Malta Chamber in Slovenia and Estonia respectively for one week, to learn best practices. Later during the year, six focus groups were set up including one for the ICT sector, in which the sharing of ideas and best practices to find a way forward were discussed. MITA is drawing up a report with recommendations on the best course of action.
In a meeting held between the Executive Committee and Joe Schembri, Chief Officer Trade, Investment & Enterprise Support at Malta Enterprise a number of points were discussed. These included the process of launching an online ICT directory, and Malta Enterprise’s financial help for the employment of staff for internationalisation initiatives. Malta Enterprise also consulted the Committee on its country preferences for the organisation of trade missions. At such an event the participants would jointly participate in the events and meetings of the first road show but would then be free to hold individual meetings as they deemed fit. The Committee endorsed the proposal that Malta Enterprise should organise the first event in the United Kingdom and in fact this event has been scheduled for February 2013.
Another important initiative was the collaboration with MITA in the drawing up of plans for the EU Financial Package 2014-2020. The Executive Committee felt that it was important for the ICT Industry to draw up its plans and try to lay a stake on the highest percentage possible of funds that would be available for Malta in the said financial package. This was important especially in view of the fact that Malta would probably be losing its Objective 1 Status and, consequently, the funds for Malta will be substantially smaller less. The Executive Committee called a meeting for all Business Section members to discuss and brainstorm on the subject in question. The matter is still under discussion.
Finally, during the year the Business Section worked on various other issues, events and initiatives to promote and help the industry. These included a Seminar Session organised by the Malta Business Bureau on Fostering E-Skills for Growth with the participation of John Ambrogio as one of the speakers. The Malta Chamber also committed its support and involvement in the Be Smart Online project.
Information Session on the eskills Alliance
In July, the Malta Chamber, on the initiative of the ICT Business Section, held an information session on the eskills Alliance. The e-skills Alliance is a joint initiative between Government and all related stakeholders set-up earlier this year, to explore the current situation with regards to e-skills in Malta, and to come up with a plan of action for moving forward.
Following a short welcome by ICT Business Section Chairman, Mr. Keith Fearne, the Alliance Chairman Mr. John Ambrogio introduced the work of the entity over the past eight months. Mr. Ambrogio was followed by two members of the executive team, who gave detailed and informative presentations on a number of issues. These included a several action plans, which include that for compulsory education, for the ICT Faculty at the University of Malta and for the ICT Institute at MCAST.
Updates were also given on the preliminary work for an E-Competence Framework for Malta, as well as the eSkills Demand and Supply Monitor. Finally, the potential for an ICT Professional Body for Malta was discussed. At the end of the session participants were given the opportunity to voice their concerns and give their feedback.
MITA and Malta Chamber announce setting up of Outsourcing Framework
In a press conference on 23rd February, Government, together with the Malta Chamber announced the setting up of an Outsourcing Framework that will see some of MITA’s current application maintenance, support and operations being outsourced to the private sector.
Hon. Austin Gatt, Minister for Information, Transport and Communication (MITC) said “In the process of embarking on initiatives that would deliver quality of life improvements, MITA is strengthening its value proposition in a number of key technology areas by outsourcing the provision of a number of functions to the private sector.” The Outsourcing Framework, developed in collaboration with the private industry, is a transparent and effective strategy to engage the ICT industry in providing services previously carried out by MITA.
Mr. Keith Fearne, Chairman of the Information Technology Business Section at the Malta Chamber said that through the outsourcing of critical Government applications, MITA was demonstrating trust in its partners. Mr. Fearne encouraged the local ICT industry to enhance their standards by adopting and promoting international methodologies and best practices. “I believe that the outcome of this outsourcing programme will prove to be beneficial to our members both financially and also in terms of human capital development” added Mr. Fearne.
The new outsourcing process started in March of last year when a tender was issued to identify providers willing and capable of providing software application related services. A total of twelve suppliers are now participating in this Outsourcing Framework and four of these have already been given a number of solutions to maintain.
The outsourcing of the first batch of applications is proceeding as planned and substantial progress has been achieved. A second batch of applications has already been identified and preparatory work is underway to issue Requests for Quotations to the suppliers. This second wave will consist of applications that are much larger in terms of their user base and complexity. The first application forming part of the second batch will be the Vehicle Registration System (VERA) and this will be issued in the coming days.
The Information Technology Business Section Executive Committee was very busy and held seven meetings this year besides organizing various events for the Business Section membership.
During the year the Executive Committee held meetings with a number of stakeholders, including Mr. Joseph V. Tabone of COMNET; the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications Hons. Dr. Austin Gatt and MITA Chairman Mr. Claudio Grech; the Software Developers Association; and the University of Malta. The purpose of these meetings was to exchange views and to seek better collaboration. This year regular meetings were also held between MITA and the Executive Committee, represented by Chairman Mr. Keith Fearne and Committee Member Mr. John Wood, to discuss MITA procurement issues.
On the 20th April, the Business Section collaborated with the Malta Business Bureau to organise a business breakfast on ‘Managing ICT Investments in Challenging Times’. A key-note speech was given by Mr. Herbert Rastbichler, Managing Director and Vice President Enterprise Business for HP for Central and Eastern Europe, who then participated in a Panel Discussion that included Committee Chairman Mr. Keith Fearne, MITA Chairman Mr. Claudio Grech, and Director Enterprise Services for HP for European Emerging Markets Mr. Andreas Wais.
The Executive Committee dedicated a lot of time to drawing up the industry’s reactions to MITA’s consultation document ‘Proposed Contractual Framework governing the Provision of Core Information Systems’ and even organised an information meeting for all Business Section members with MITA on the subject. The Committee was quite pleased that MITA took into account many of its concerns in finalising the document.
Other MITA consultation documents to which the Committee reacted were the ‘Open Source Vision – Nurturing the proliferation of Open Source Software’ and the ‘ITT for the Provision of Maintenance, Support, and Operational Services of Software Applications’.
An important development for the IT industry was the launching of the eSkills Alliance on 13th October 2010 – a multi-stakeholder partnership led by MITA set up to ensure that business gets exactly the skills and human resources it needs. The Executive Committee was consulted prior to the setting up of this Alliance, Committee Chairman Mr. Keith Fearne was appointed by Council to represent the Malta Chamber on the Alliance’s Board of Governors, and Committee member Mr. John Ambrogio was elected in his personal capacity to chair the said Board. One of the first activities of the Alliance was to hold a Consultation meeting with the members of the Business Section on the 30th November.