Technology is all around us and with every passing day, it appears to be causing our society to change at an ever increasing pace. The digital transformation that has been taking place undoubtedly affects the lives of each and every one of us.
A conference that was held to mark the 20th anniversary of the Malta Communications Authority looked into the various aspects of this digital transformation and the best ways of tapping into opportunities for enhanced connectivity. Entitled ‘Unlocking Digital Value for Society’, the conference also focused on ways of mitigating threats in the digital age.
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Improving the everyday lives of all citizens
Speaking at the conference, Philippe Defraigne, Founding Director of Cullen International, an independent regulatory intelligence provider, emphasised how “digital transformation is not just something for big tech companies or for technophile societies like South Korea; it’s really about improving the everyday lives of all citizens”.
Representatives of the MCA highlighted the fact that the Authority was set up with the task to promote and safeguard an environment that is conducive to investment, innovation, economic growth and social wellbeing, a mission that remains valid till this very day.
Defraigne focused on some of the benefits of making the most of the digital transformation. He spoke about the way that technology offers solutions to the multitude of challenges that we face in the different sectors of society.
Enhancing the health sector & improving medical staff efficiency through communications technology
In healthcare, for instance, as we deal with ageing populations, technology can help to augment the capacity and improve the efficiency of the increasing shortage of medical staff.
As we look into ways of delivering care in patients’ homes rather than in hospitals for certain cases, we can have doctors and nurses using predictive analytics to act preventively before something happens.
Defraigne said that in the agricultural sector, “something we’re experimenting with back home in Belgium is the use of drones and 5G to massively reduce the amount of pesticides used in agriculture, which is of course good for the environment, but it’s also a good way of reducing costs for our farmers”.
And in the education sector, because we all learn in different ways, technological solutions like blended learning can help to make education more customisable for students, allowing for a system that caters for students’ different needs.
Building robust societies
On the need to build robust societies in our digital age and to safeguard against threats, speakers who participated in the two panel discussions during the morning session of the MCA conference stressed that improving the quality of our political debate has never been more important at a time when technological change is increasing at a very fast pace.
Defraigne summed it up quite nicely: “We should of course never let technology dictate our values. It is for us human beings to reflect more deeply on our values and choose what we want, and this requires a renewed vigour and energy in our political debate. It’s all well and good to use technology to fight harmful content, for example, but we also need to harness the power of the human intellect in doing so.”
On the subject of environmental sustainability, while technology can help other economic sectors become more sustainable, we also need to be looking to ensure that we can create a greener’ ICT sector. It’s all good to create great technologies, but there won’t be much point in doing so if we’re destroying the planet in the process.
The speakers who participated in the panel discussions on leveraging opportunities and safeguarding against threats during the conference spoke about the importance of ensuring that citizens can see the real benefits of their involvement in the digital transformation. At the end of the day, we will all ask “What’s in it for me?”
Collaboration & strong regulatory frameworks are crucial
Legislators and regulators have a huge role to play in building trust and therefore look into ensuring that we have a strong regulatory framework on matters such as security, privacy, liability and fair taxation, among others.
Defraigne said that if, for instance, “we want our citizens to embrace artificial intelligence, we really need to develop strong, ethical, sectoral rules for the use of AI. Otherwise we will face a techlash that will take us back 10 years”.
The morning panels delved into the opportunities and challenges of our era, related to the economic, political and sustainability dimensions, with one of the overarching themes that emerged being the need for greater cooperation between academia and the public and private sectors.
Speakers placed great emphasis on the importance of different entities aligning strategies better in order to be able to share best practices, and effectively collaborate on different projects such as tapping into the numerous funding opportunities. This, along with clever, targeted investment by both the public and private sectors, will turn great technological tools into something tangible for citizens.
The full MCA20 Conference is available online here.