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Malta Lays Out Pioneering Plan To Help The World Trust Artificial Intelligence

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Malta is set to become the first country in the world to certify Artificial Intelligence software, a move intended to give users peace of mind that the technology has been vetted by a state authority.

“Malta has firmly established itself as a leader in new up-and coming areas such as distributed ledger technologies and gained global recognition as the Blockchain Island,” parliamentary secretary for the digital economy Silvio Schembri said in a speech at the DELTA Summit. “Now it’s time to put Malta on the map in the fields of AI.”

The responsibility for certifying AI will fall on the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), an authority which was set up a year ago to certify blockchain technologies. Companies utilising non-financial blockchain software can choose to send their technology to the MDIA, which will then pass it on to an accredited systems auditor for an intensive due diligence process.

The MDIA also receives applications from the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) to vet risky financial blockchain software, such as crypto-exchanges.

Parliamentary secretary for the digital economy Silvio Schembri

Parliamentary secretary for the digital economy Silvio Schembri

If the software passes the systems auditor’s test, the company will have the option of getting it officially certified with the MDIA against a fee of €40,000, which will have to be renewed after two years.

There are currently four accredited systems auditors – namely KPMG, PWC, BDO and STIS.

While it is purely voluntary for non-financial blockchain companies to submit their software for due diligence, the MDIA’s argument is that it will soon be in the company’s own best interest to do so.

This is because companies with certified software will be able to use the certification as proof to investors and consumers that the technology does what it promises to do and that it has passed security testing.

This will give these companies an extra layer of trust, a crucial factor for such a new technology that the world is still coming to terms with.

Stephen McCarthy, CEO of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority

Stephen McCarthy, CEO of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority

“We are seeking to position ourselves as enablers of safe and dependable technology, a jurisdiction where due diligence goes beyond that of the individuals participating in it but delves into the underlying technology itself,” MDIA chief executive officer Stephen McCarthy explained today. 

“We believe that software assurances are key… All too often, software claims do not match actual functionality and, given our ever-increasing reliance on software, we need rigorous guidelines to safeguard users and investors.”

And now the MDIA will soon apply this same vetting process to AI software, making Malta the first country in the world to actually certify artificial intelligence as trustworthy.

Companies won’t need to have a presence in Malta to submit their software to the MDIA, although they will need a registered Maltese agent, potentially paving the way for a flow of submissions from companies operating in all corners of the world.

If the plan works out, the potential benefits for Malta could be twofold. Companies will have to pay a sizeable fee to get their software vetted, money that will enter the Maltese economy, and Malta as a nation will gain a reputation among people and businesses in the field of AI.

The government also hopes companies developing AI will be encouraged to actually move their operations to Malta.

“Our vision is for Malta to become the Ultimate AI Launchpad, a place in which local and foreign companies and entrepreneurs can develop, prototype, test and scale AI, and ultimately showcase the value of their innovations across an entire nation primed for adoption,” Schembri said today. “The ambition is to create the conditions for AI to springboard from Malta to the world.”

The full AI certification programme, which is up for public consultation until 1st November, can be accessed here.

What do you make of this plan?

READ NEXT: What Do You Think About The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence? Malta’s Government Wants To Know

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