|Topic:||A telecommunications revolution|
|Title:||Minister for Competitiveness and Communications|
Mr Censu Galea is Malta’s Minister for Competitiveness and Communications. Mr Galea is responsible for Competition Policy, Small Business and the Self-Employed, Trade Services, Consumer Protection, Malta Standards Authority, Intellectual Property, Civil Aviation, Malta Maritime Authority, Malta Communications Authority and Wireless Telegraphy. Mr Galea has been an elected member of Malta’s parliament since 1987. Mr Galea has served his country as Minister for Transport and Telecommunications, as shadow Minister for Transport and Ports, as Secretary and Whip to the Nationalist Parliamentary Group, as Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries responsible for Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Housing, as well as parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry for Social Security. While still at school, Mr Galea served as Secretary of the Nationalist Party Club of St. Paul’s Bay and as Secretary General and President of the Youth Section of the Nationalist Party. Mr Galea studied at the Lyceum and at the University of Malta, where he graduated as an architect.
The liberalisation of Malta’s telecommunications sector is a government priority, as it ensures the country’s competitiveness, plays a strategic role in reducing poverty and promotes long-term sustainable development. The government believes that telecommunications–broadband, digital broadcasting, 3G mobile telephony–will reduce the digital divide, improve the standard of living and boost Malta’s economic activity. Today, 76 per cent of Maltese own a mobile phone–outnumbering fixed lines–compared to 6.3 per cent in 1999. Over 75 per cent of the people have Internet access.
Imagine living today without the use of phones, mobiles, the Internet, television and the myriad other ways, means and facilities of the world of telecommunications. Can you? Think again. All these have become an integral part of the way we deal with the needs for everyday life in the household, business, industry, education or scientific research and development, merely to mention a few. Malta has undergone a telecommunications revolution. We have, over the past few years, aimed at and succeeded in, attaining a society where telecommunicating is one of its main pillars. Our main objective is to oversee a well-managed process of continuous liberalisation within the telecommunications sector of Malta. Today, all of the nation’s key players have recognised that this is fundamental in ensuring our overall competitiveness as a country. This policy is a priority for the Government of Malta. The government’s telecommunications policy has been given a substantial overhaul in order to eliminate the major problems encountered in the past and large investments have been made as a contribution to the modernisation of existing services. The theme Emerging Technology, Emerging Hope reminds us that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) serve as crucial tools for achieving economic progress. This should be attained at all social level, thus ensuring that, through communicating, peoples get closer. Governments, social partners and the private sector throughout the world are all working jointly to achieve such an environment. This is happening in Malta too. As members of a European single market encompassing over 450 million citizens, we have to play leading roles in the provision of such services. This encourages our competitiveness as a nation whilst ensuring that domestic consumers are provided with the best quality of service and competitive tariffs throughout the sector. World leaders are also focusing the strategic role that ICTs can play in reducing poverty, creating opportunities for a long-term development. Sustainable development can be defined to be of the kind that meets the requirements of the present without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Modern telecommunications systems and services have resulted in a new global paradigm–relegating the concepts of geographic borders and physical distance to the scrap heap of history. Malta has well recognised the opportunities offered by such electronic communications technologies and is working, and will continue to work hard, to ensure that this adoption is linked to future sustainable development. Our aim is to promote, in greater detail, issues surrounding telecommunications, broadband adoption, digital broadcasting and 3G mobile telephony. In particular, issues relating to the enhancement of existing infrastructures and the introduction of emerging broadband technologies will be focused upon. One vital aspect of Malta’s progress in attaining a world-class information society and economy is currently being discussed. The model proposed leads to a number of strategic objectives and lines of action. Including both the demand and supply of broadband, the strategy identifies key deliverables leading to an increased usage of broadband technology. This will result in an improved quality of life for citizens and, in parallel, a boost in the economic activity of Malta. The work, which was the result of a concerted joint effort between the Ministry for IT and Investment and the Malta Communications Authority, sets the parameters for various initiatives, which will be coordinated by government, the private sector and other stakeholders, in other words, all the main key players within this environment. The strategy is based on the objectives set within the eEurope 2005 action plan and takes into consideration our particular characteristics as a country, to which submissions and comments received from stakeholders during the consultation process will be subsequently reflected in the final strategy document. The widespread adoption of broadband will assist in narrowing the digital divide and increase the possibility of maintaining sustainable development. Small and medium businesses drive the vast majority of Malta’s commercial activities and are the backbone of our economy. One key area that ought to be scrutinised better for its potential applica- tion in Malta is that of remote, or teleworking. This utilises the power and advantages of broadband connectivity to extend the reach of corporate networks to homes and remote offices. This would make it possible for workers to telecommute, resulting in better productivity working within a timesaving environment. Businesses could even extend their service coverage to beyond normal office hours if employees have access to their business email and corporate network from home, thus improving responsiveness and enhancing customer relationships. Within this context, a new working concept is developing whereby a sector of society, which cannot or does not wish to engage in full-time work at a fixed location. These people could utilise their skills and knowledge to work from the comfort of their own homes. Providing wider access to the Internet will open new lines of communication for an even larger part of the population. It will also bring new technologies and business opportunities to Malta, which will enhance the quality of life for all. Very recent statistics have given proof that communications is at the core of our behaviour and its usage, within the several forms it presents itself in, has been on the increase. I have always maintained that one should not fall into the trap of ‘technology for technology’s sake’. Nevertheless there is clear recognition of technology as a tool to help deliver socio-economic, educational and environmental progress. This Ministry, together with the Malta Communications Authority and other key stakeholders, will continue to work hard to develop and enhance a framework that will help ensure that our plans, policies and projects are being consistently implemented to promote a better quality of life through the use of electronic communication systems. Telecommunications is at the front burner of our daily life. It vital to anything we think, say or do. Our commitment to achieve more has been, and remains, a priority of the Government. The goals that lie ahead are common and our gains too. Gone are the days when mobile phones were status symbols; today 76 per cent of Maltese own a mobile phone. This is an incredible increase compared to the 6.3 per cent of the population that had mobile service at the end of 1999. Mobiles now outnumber fixed lines, with more traffic flowing through mobile networks everyday. This is due to the fact that we have recognised technological advances in our daily life and our symbiosis within a globalised world. The Internet has revolutionised the telecommunications sector in Malta. Internet subscriptions have multiplied and it is now calculated that over 75 per cent of the population have access, at home or otherwise, to this means of communication. Our next challenge will be to continue improving access to the Internet by making broadband more accessible and affordable. In developing its broadband strategy, the Maltese Government is seeking to adhere to the key principles that it is using in respect to all the aspects related to the development of the Information Society. The government’s insistence on increasing broadband take-up is already bearing its fruit and there has been a substantial increase in broadband subscribers. In fact, in Malta there are now 32,000 broadband connections, which is equivalent to 8 per cent of the population. This exceeds the EU 25 average. The effective use of information and communication technology is the key for improved competitiveness and the growth of productivity in Europe. Malta is not alone. Since our independence, we have strived to establish ourselves as a country with one of the highest standards of living within our region. It is now our duty to further intensify our efforts in this respect. The electronic communications sector has a strategic role to play in providing innovative services allowing the economy and society as a whole to realise the benefits of the Information Society. With a state-of-the-art telecommunications sector in place, Malta’s joining of the EU is allowing us to compete more actively for business and thus further foster our prosperity. I am confident that we can play a more active role in the evolving global political economy in the years to come. EU membership is enabling Malta to project itself even more as a facilitator in the building of economic and political bridges across the Euro-Mediterranean area. The more Malta opens its doors to strategic alliances in telecommunications, the more consumers will benefit from better services at cheaper price. In the near future, humanity will be totally dependent on the telecommunications sector within all aspects of life. This is today’s reality, which we have worked for together and intend to pursue. Success depends on our individual and collective participation.