CHRIS VASSALLO CESAREO – Deputy President, The Malta Chamber
Digitalisation has been on the agenda for many years now, but it was the COVID-19 pandemic that brought this sector to the forefront of the world’s priorities. Thanks to the pandemic, Governments and businesses throughout the world identified gaps that had to be overcome in a short period of time, just to be able to continue functioning in an ever-changing landscape.
Indeed, the European Union has included digitalisation as one of the main pillars in its journey towards a green, digital and resilient economy, The EU has identified investments in key digital technologies, including AI, as the means with which to achieve its ambitious targets for 2030.
In yet another validation of its strive to be the most relevant and cross-sectoral voice of the business community, The Malta Chamber has in recent years been very vocal about the need for the local business community to digitalise its operations. I would also add that, in fact, in March 2019, a public-private partnership between the Government and The Malta Chamber – tech.mt – was launched to help Maltese technological companies grow in areas such as AI and Big Data.
Digitalisation and AI have a role to play in many sectors, and indeed, in its recommendations for the Next Legislature (Time to Step Up). In this publication The Malta Chamber stresses that investment in digitalisation, including enforcement agencies and the law courts should rank as one of the top priorities of Government in this legislature. This was re-emphasised in our recommendations for the 2023 National Budget, wherein we proposed that local businesses should be incentivised – through reductions in enrolment fees or tax incentives – to invest in their employees to undergo specialised IT related courses. We also stated that techmt should be further resourced to assist in internationalisation strategies and that grant incentives should be provided to promote and support cybersecurity.
Nevertheless, we strongly believe that any digitalisation and AI should still be human focused and led. Social dialogue continues to be vital for a strong democracy and good industrial relations. Through this partnership, The Malta Chamber and the General Workers Union acknowledge the importance of the digital transition, the opportunities it brings to the workplace, but also the impact it may have on workers.
And this is what brings us here together today. The Malta Chamber and General Workers Union with the support of the Malta Business Bureau, are participating in the EU Transformwork Project to further the social dialogue on some important issues, including digital skills, the right to disconnect, artificial intelligence and the human in control principle, and the use of surveillance at the workplace. In today’s event we are addressing the growing importance of AI technology for business operations and its impact at the workplace. There are also important regulatory initiatives currently being discussed at EU level in relation to AI, such as the AI Act and the AI Liability Act, which we will learn more about through the esteemed guest speakers that we have brought together today.