In an AIBC panel discussion, four of the leading experts in Maltese innovation discuss the importance of creating a regulatory environment that protects society as a whole while not snuffing out innovation
Opening the panel, Efrem Borg introduces himself as the Chief Technologist of Malta’s Digital Innovation Authority. As a computer scientist by background, he represents the interests of the ever evolving industry in an age of strict regulation and legal compliance. He worries that overzealous regulation stifles innovation by denying creators and entrepreneurs from the opportunity to create new solutions and novel ideas to tackle the issues of the age. This being said, he is optimistic about the potential of sticking a balance between the two opposing forces.
Following this, Professor Gordan Pace who lectures at the Centre for Distributed Ledger Technologies and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Malta, also elaborated on his area of expertise. With a solid background in Cybersecurity and working with the public sector in several areas, Professor Pace was also proud to say that he is a technologist at heart with an eye towards a more innovative future. This being said, he also stated that we should not understate the importance of a proper degree of regulation when it comes to emerging technology.
If we go too heavy on the promotion, leaving a free hand on promoting innovative technology to be built in an unregulated manner, then we’ll have chaos and social distress. On the other hand, if we overregulate, then we have a stiffening of innovation since innovation obviously needs a free hand to be able to implement.
Continuing, he illuminated that the actions of the Authority (MDIA), seek to find the correct balance with both the technology department and the regulatory department coordinating to that end.
[We] come up with initiatives related to the creation and promotion of opportunities to be able to instill innovative technologies such as AI, Blockchain and Big Data and proliferating them within the public, private and start-up domains.
Trevor Sammut, Chief Regulatory Officer at Malta Digital Innovation Authority, took the reins of the conversation by moving towards regulation as a tool for bettering the technological ecosystem. Noting the broad variety of speakers within the panel, Sammut stated that he wished to avoid himself and Dr. Gauci coming off as the “This is why we can’t have good things” party. He argued that if an innovation was truly fully good, with no potential for being used maliciously, then the regulatory boards would have no issue with them. His background in the Maltese police force has led him to adopt a well-meaning but skeptical perception when it comes to emerging technology. Reflecting on his exploration of the AIBC expo, he noted that each stand offers a claim. From a more secure system to a fair transactional medium, each claim needs to be scrutinized and evaluated. Each innovation should be subjected to a degree of due diligence in order to ensure the end-product benefits society as a whole.
Following this, Dr. Ian Gauci took the lead. A managing partner of GTG Associates who has both lectured at the University of Malta on the topic of DLTs in a legal context as well as a member of the National Blockchain Task Force within the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr. Gauci stood as the legal counsel within the panel. Reflecting on his work crafting the policy the island-nation was taking towards emerging technologies, Dr. Gauci stated that Malta is highly innovative in its approach towards disruptive industries. He also elaborated that we are in an exciting time in the implementation of new technologies.
We are seeing a lot of convergences. Metaverse convergence, convergence in technology, convergence in habits, convergence in service provision and all the chaos that we are seeing is a result of existing laws and regulations in an ever evolving environment.
He also delved deeply into the need for the element of trust that would be provided by government-backed regulation when it comes to all elements of an innovation ecosystem. This included trust by the users to become clients and trust by investors to provide the capital.
Moving back to Professor Pace, he argued that technology failure has also been a massive force in the regulation of emerging technologies.
We’ve seen rockets explode, we’ve seen medical devices fail and we’ve seen people die. We’ve seen a lot of funds lost because of technological failure.
This is already an vital incentive for both users and inventors for technology assurances. He also noted that a third party that benefits from technology assurances are the technology creators themselves.
As technology creators, we know that we depend on other technologies. What types of assurances do we want to be able to ensure that our technology works as advertised.
He also elaborates that, with the advent of technologies such as smart contracts, we may need to see regulation that is specifically tailored towards the nuances of each specific technology. He notes that this is even more important when it comes to emerging technologies such as AI, DLT based solutions, Iot based solutions or any other technological disruption. In reference to the first one, he indicated that the European Commission was already beginning to work on legislation aimed towards the regulation of artificial intelligence in European markets.
Borg also elaborated on the fact that the European Commission was taking an active role in the regulation of disruptive technology. In the same way that the Commission had taken part in the creation of a cybersecurity ecosystem in Europe, legislation such as the IAI may indicate that it intends to tackle AI with the same vigour.
Concluding on a review of the entire panel, the speakers noted that the MDIA was taking an active role in the shaping of Malta’s innovative ecosystem and that cooperation between technologists in the field and lawyers well-versed in the need for compliance is a necessary balancing act in any economy.
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