Getting artificial intelligence (AI) systems to work for people, the environment and ecosystems is a fine act to balance, which is why AI is sometimes referred to as a ’Pandora’s Box‘ that may unleash unexpected and undesirable events. At the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), however, we believe that AI technologies could also create positive change and prosperity for society – provided they are designed, developed and used responsibly.
Why ‘AI cornucopia’? AI technologies have the potential to generate a world of abundance and prosperity, much like the mythical ‘horn of plenty’ or ‘cornucopia’. Success hinges on being ready to embrace the opportunities presented by AI while maintaining a responsible approach to its development. Proponents of this notion believe that AI technologies can improve efficiency, productivity and innovation across numerous sectors, from healthcare to transportation, while also addressing some of society’s most pressing challenges, such as climate change and energy efficiency.
Malta has been at the forefront of AI policy making and we are participating in active discussions on new EU-wide legislation – the EU AI Act.
We are aware of the concerns regarding the risks linked with the unrestrained growth of AI and the requirement for regulation and monitoring to mitigate these dangers. Nonetheless, we remain focused on developing an effective and supportive regulatory framework in liaison with the EU and other international partners because we understand that AI is bigger than 250 square kilometres and shared issues are best tackled through shared solutions. Malta has been at the forefront of AI policy making and we are participating in active discussions on new EU-wide legislation – the EU AI Act. The purpose of the proposed law is to improve the functioning of the market by laying down a uniform legal framework for the development, marketing and use of AI in conformity with our values.
By adopting a risk-based approach, various regulatory requirements for AI systems are being differentiated according to the possible threats posed by those systems to health and safety, fundamental rights and other public interests. The plan in place also contains standards for openness and accountability, such as providing users with easy-to-understand information regarding the operation and limits of AI systems and mandating human oversight for specific high-risk applications of AI technology.
Malta was one of the first nations to establish a national AI Strategy.
The proposed legislation is presently being reviewed by both the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, and discussions regarding the matter are still taking place. The European Parliament recently adopted its stance on the proposal, suggesting revisions to improve protections for fundamental rights and to widen its scope to embrace additional uses of AI.
The Artificial Intelligence Act is expected to be confirmed by the European Union (EU) by the end of 2023. Following its finalisation, the Act will need to be accepted by both the European Parliament and the Council before it can become law. Malta, by way of the MDIA, has played a highly active part in talks on the matter. The existing legal framework on a national level is not yet neutral towards technological advancement and does not cater for legislative initiatives being considered at the EU level. However, in the upcoming weeks, a new legislative framework will be proposed to extend the Authority’s remit to encompass additional domains, including AI.
Malta was one of the first nations to establish a national AI Strategy, and we have made great strides towards putting it into action. In fact, over 70 per cent of it is already in place. Additionally, we have developed a Technology Assurance Sandbox on AI with five accepted applications, all of which contain AI solutions. Through these initiatives, we can test and steer new advancements in AI in a controlled environment, focusing on safe innovation.
At the MDIA, we understand the significance of developing and deploying AI responsibly, and we are dedicated to fostering an environment that encourages innovation while also ensuring that AI technologies are created and deployed in a manner that is both ethical and responsible. The principles of equality, non-discrimination, privacy, data protection, accountability, responsibility, legal liability, transparency, human oversight, safety and safe innovation form the foundation of our approach – thereby guaranteeing that AI systems are built and deployed in a way that benefits individuals and society as a whole, while also minimising risks and negative consequences.
We believe that AI technologies have huge potential to bring about significant change and prosperity in society, and we are striving to ensure this is done while curtailing the dangers that may be associated with the use of AI. While we are aware of the risks and possible unfavourable outcomes triggered by AI technologies, we are adopting an evidence-based approach to AI so as to recognise its capacity to bring about constructive change. At the MDIA, we are committed to being ready to regulate AI technologies as soon as the European Parliament finalises the relevant legislation because we want to ensure these technologies are developed and utilised responsibly, with the ultimate objective of producing an “AI Cornucopia” that benefits individuals as well as wider society.
Kenneth Brincat is the CEO of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority and Co-chairperson of the National Cybersecurity Steering Committee.