This book aims to investigate AI readiness within the Maltese public administration following the launch of Malta AI Strategy (Government of Malta, 2019), whereby the Maltese Government has committed to pilot 6 citizen-centric projects, assist private organizations to invest in AI technologies, and introduce AI-related topics as part of the education system among other activities. The benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) have long been established by researchers. The strategy sets a clear vision of the strategic undertaking to prime Malta as a test bed for AI innovations. In this regard, a certification process is available for innovators, start-ups and AI enthusiast to test, certify, and launch their products worldwide. Embracing such ambition is bravery. Taking into consideration that the Maltese public administration will be the driving force behind the acceptance and integration of AI solutions nationwide, the research deemed necessary to understand whether the public workforce itself is ready to face the oncoming AI revolution.
The researchers applied a mixed-methods approach to gain insight and a wider perspective of the status quo in relation to AI adoption. Through semi-structured interviews with all of the 14 Chief Information Officers (CIOs) employed with the public service and 4 Information and Communication Technologists (ICTs) engaged with the public sector, the initial research established the perceptions of those facilitating AI processes within the government. Ensuing, an open and closed-ended survey was drawn from the interviews’ responses, of which the survey was addressed to all the public employees, totalling more than 50,000 people. A triangulation design was applied for the analysis of data, whereby the quantitative outcome was assessed against the results that stemmed from the thematic approach of the qualitative research. Additionally, the aftermath of these findings was also gauged vis-à-vis the Malta AI Strategy and related literature.
Ethical considerations, trustworthiness, and self-perception were considered throughout the research as well as sampling validity and reliability. Moreover, a number of important considerations stem from this study, in relation to the adoption of AI technologies, mainly the need for increased AI awareness among public administrators. This is reinforced by 68% of respondents reporting a lack of awareness regarding AI and its deployment, while 90% feel that the general public requires more knowledge about these technologies in order to trust them. Acknowledging and understanding AI-related advantages must be accompanied by a robust instructional effort at all levels of education, including obligatory, further, and higher education. In fact, 82% of survey respondents feel that early inclusion of AI-related courses in the Maltese educational system will aid in the development of a future workforce that is AI savvy. Furthermore, upskilling and reskilling the public officers will address the need for knowledgeable human capital and proficiencies that are required to effectively integrate AI solutions within society as 85% of the survey respondents agree that public servants must undergo retraining in order to be ready for AI-related changes in their roles. This is especially important as 52% of the survey respondents do not view AI solutions as a threat since public employment provides them with security, while 64% believe their work will not be taken over by AI. Additionally, 56% believe that additional government employment will be created, hence the need for an AI-skilled workforce.
In conjunction with this, the findings indicate that a number of critical organizational reforms within the public administration could potentially influence the AI readiness factor, namely a defined structure for data collection, processing and analysis, the restructuring of the established ICT class and the formation of a single public service agency that would facilitate AI-related knowledge to the government while fostering knowledge retention and sharing for the long term. These efforts may be reinforced by maximizing collaboration with the main educational institutions in adopting a cross-disciplinary perspective to applicable AI techniques, while also aiding the government in its national initiatives.