Covid-19 has accentuated the need for countries to focus on digital industries and emerging technologies in order to shape economies which are sustainable. These technologies need to be pushed across the business realm, as well as within government and everyday social life. Carmelo Abela, the Minister responsible for sustainable development, highlighted this point during the 19th Digital Meeting on the Sustainable Development Policy of the OECD.
“At present, we are experiencing a difficult period which has led to an abrupt and drastic change in our daily lives. We were not prepared for this reality. We should not take things for granted, we have to plan ahead long-term, a key principle of sustainable development.”
In his remarks, Minister Carmelo Abela stated that this is the time for countries to look forward to innovative approaches towards new economic sectors, for life post-Covid-19.
When detailing the impacts of a digital economy, he said that this will fundamentally change the way people live, work and communicate, and how they shop for and produce goods and services. It will change the way companies are run, how customers are acquired, and how enterprises do business.
Referring to the importance Malta gives to the concept of the digital economy, he said that, as a small nation with limited resources, Malta realised the potential of technological investment across various sectors, and has been investing in the digital agenda for the past six years.
“The digital economy includes blockchain, AI, the internet of things. Some of them are still controversial in some countries, but if we want to say that we have learnt something from Covid-19, this is the way forward. A new system that can withhold new pressures – that can work remotely, that can alleviate the need for action from the state on interactions that can be facilitated by technology, especially in moments when the state is fully dedicated in the effective running of more vital operations. Countries need to be more concrete and provide more attention to digital economy.”
“We strongly feel that this approach altogether maximises the three pillars of sustainable development,” said Minister Abela. Speaking on sustainable development, the Minister emphasised the importance that the government is giving to the fulfilment of its commitments towards the mainstreaming of sustainable development across its workings. Minister Carmelo Abela remarked that, as part of its remit to ensure that sustainable development is streamlined across itself, the government will be embarking on a process which sees that the United Nations Agenda 2030 is translated into the national budget process, which sets the government’s annual objectives and priorities.
On this aspect, the Maltese government is also seeking the technical assistance of the OECD. The OECD has already provided specialised training sessions to public service officials on how to link Malta’s budgetary measures to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Minister Abela also stated that the Maltese government is currently working on the development of a new Sustainable Development Strategy and Action Plan, with a horizon of up to 2050. In fact, a vison document that characterises the foundations upon which the new Sustainable Development Strategy will be underpinned was published for consultation towards the end of 2018.