The year 2020 - An incredible and unprecedented year for eSkills Malta Foundation.

Publication Date: Feb 01, 2021
 
The Skills Malta Foundation was set to acquire knowledge on the state of digital competences on the island, translate this information into reform within ICT education, expand training programmes, and to increase the IT professionalism of the tech sector.

Moreover, the entity, which was established in 2014 – in collaboration with the Ministry for Education and Employment, the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA), the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), Malta Enterprise, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Malta Chamber of Commerce Enterprise and Industry – uses its remit to lobby the Government and leading industry players to effect changes to eSkills policies.

The eSkills Malta Foundation, is also dependent on the collaboration of its founding members and its stakeholders, to drive the progress of Malta’s digital skills. Today, the Foundation is considered to be the best practice in Europe. When established, the Foundation was given a list of important mandates. Apart from advising Government and industry stakeholders regarding digital skills policy, it was tasked with setting in motion ICT educational reforms, boosting the capacity of the local ICT education industry, developing the ICT profession and supporting campaigns by other entities related to digital skills.

 
Cybersecurity Conference 2020
To achieve its mandates, the Foundation started the year of 2020 with a Cyber Security Conference in collaboration and partnership with MITA, University of Malta, MDIA, Cyber Security Malta and Keith Cutajar.  This event was an opportunity to highlight the importance of Cyber Security and how vulnerable systems can be.
However, as the pandemic advanced and lockdowns ensued, it was of paramount importance to adapt to the new situation. Therefore, the eSkills Malta Foundation swiftly launched the Free Online Education page on the Foundation’s website to assist students during the onset of COVID-19 lockdown.  The free online education links provide invaluable learning opportunities and material which is instructive and fun for the students.

COVID-19 Free Online Education
The Foundation immediately switched all meetings and collaboration online making good use of the Government’s digital transformation infrastructure handled by MITA. 

In 2020 the Foundation held an online webinar “Challenges and opportunities for SMEs: a post-COVID-19 perspective” followed by three eLearn modules in collaboration with Pricewaterhouse Coopers which addressed in more detail the concerns mentioned in the organised webinar.

The “Elements of AI” initiative had the aim of incentivising the public with new and upcoming trends in technology and how to make use of these in the current circumstances.  The “Elements of AI” is a free online course created by Reaktor and the University of Helsinki. The aim of this was to equip as many people as possible, especially those not in the technology sector, to learn what AI is really all about, how it can be applied to real-life applications and what the implications of this technology are for individuals, companies and society.

Elements of AI

In 2020 the eSkills Malta Foundation and the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) signed a memorandum of understanding thus creating a synergy between the two entities. This MoU allowed the two entities to work together and to offer the eBiznify eCommerce training programme in a concerted effort for the benefit of society.
  

"The pandemic revealed the need for digital skills for so many while pushing businesses to embrace technology such as e-commerce much faster than they had anticipated. This may also have a silver lining, however – the local digital sector has been given a major boost in the past few months, and this may otherwise have taken years to achieve’’.


Carm Cachia, Chief Administrator


The “eBiznify” training programme brought Maltese entrepreneurs closer to the concept of creating a future-proof platform for SMEs. The "eBiznify" aimed to address a gap in the market in a direct manner as it offered attendees an accredited training programme that was offered online and at no additional cost to the attendee.



The eSkills Malta Foundation also participated actively in the “Ġemma” initiative. “Ġemma” and the eSkills Malta Foundation jointly carried out educational initiatives on digital skills and scams and fraud.  They also worked on and promoted the “ĠEMMA Little Black Book of Scams and frauds” that account for the new and evolving threats as technology evolves and becomes more pervasive through Smart technologies, Internet of Things, and other emerging technologies.
GEMMA
Another initiative made possible in 2020 was the Amazon Web Services (AWS) scheme which gave 65 individuals in Malta the opportunity to level-up with cloud technologies for free and enjoy online world-class training.  This initiative was fully supported by the Melita Foundation and carried out by ICE Malta.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)
The annual celebration of coding, computational thinking, creativity and innovative mindset also like many other events moved online in 2020. EU Code Week introduced virtual events to help teachers, parents, librarians and others to organise activities despite the pandemic. Like every year the Foundation coordinated the country’s participation in the EU Code Week initiative.  Malta also held all its activities online and placed 4th in the 2020 edition.
EU CodeWeek 
The eSkills Malta Foundation also pioneered educational initiatives such as the Summer Bootcamp and Women in ICT events for the first time last year.  Both events consisted of several online courses aimed at various specific segments of society using various technologies from children coding games with Scratch to Office 365 essentials for adults. The Foundation is pleased to state that all the sessions were delivered free and were fully attended to. One can safely state that these events were an outstanding success.  

In 2020, the Foundation also commissioned a study titled “Analysis of the Gender Gap in the Digital Sector in Malta”. The study was a local continuation of another study carried out by the eSkills Malta Foundation, namely “Guidelines to Increase and Retain Women in ICT​” carried out in 2018. The Foundation firmly believes that the increase of women in the digital sector can contribute to the decrease of the supply and demand gap and that they can also bring more diversity and success to products in industry, government and education.

Analysis of the Gender Gap in the Digital Sector in Malta  
Many organisations have had to adapt to the COVID-19 situation, and the Foundation has turned this to its advantage by focusing further on skilling, upskilling and reskilling using the online virtual environment. Consequently, it held online school visits and information sessions for Career Guidance Teachers.

Looking ahead, while Malta has made great strides in raising the bar – even ranking fifth out of the 28 EU member states in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2020 – work for the eSkills Malta Foundation continues.  eSkills Malta Foundation plans to continuously strive to increase its efforts and be of further effective service in the digital economy.


The year 2020 was such an incredible and unprecedented year!!  It presented numerous challenges but also presented innumerable opportunities and achievements.  It has showcased the country’s resilience and adaptability in the face of uncertainty.  This vigour and tenacity shown so far augurs well for the country’s thriving economic future.