Established  in 2018, the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA) promotes and regulated innovative technologies, encouraging their uptake while protecting and supporting users. As CEO since October 2021, Kenneth Brincat leads this strategic entity, ensuring that Malta’s innovative technology arrangement regulatory framework continues to meet the demands of users, related sectors, international standards, emerging regulations and rapidly advancing technology.

When Kenneth Brincat took the helm at Malta’s main strategic entity on technology, the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), the digital world was entering a new era. By October 2021, Malta was several waves into the COVID-19 pandemic – an event that history books will remember for its monumental impact on technology. That same month, Kenneth began his new role at the MDIA eager to address the sector’s extraordinary challenges and opportunities.

“It was a shift from my previous role, moving from one public sector entity to another,” recalls Kenneth, speaking of his more than three years as COO at the Malta Business Registry before his move to the MDIA. “It was a smooth transition, as many consider the role of COO as comparable to that of CEO in terms of visibility. Working in a different sector, however, meant new challenges.”

Channelling his more than 18 years of experience in operations, management and projects, Kenneth set about building upon the significant success the MDIA had already achieved. Bringing to the table a passion for learning, he had already gained a Master of Science Degree in Human Resources and Training from the UK’s University of Leicester. Now, he is continuing his studies via a Doctorate in Business Administration. “Attaining a doctorate has been on my bucket list ever since I completed my Master’s degree in 2007, and I aim to complete it by the end of 2023,” he says. “I didn’t pursue it earlier due to family commitments, but now that my son is older, my schedule is more accommodating. My goal is to finish it before he starts his GCSEs.”

Between his threefold responsibilities of CEO, student and family life, Kenneth must also master the art of time management and work-life balance. “When I’m home I try not to think about work, which is not an easy task!” he exclaims. “It is about managing my schedule between work, home and study. I try to find time for my passions as well, such as travelling and family breaks – a healthy lifestyle needs all.”

Time efficiency, meanwhile, is also central to his leadership approach at the MDIA. “My work ethos revolves around reliability, taking the initiative, and working diligently and consistently. I try to instil these traits in the MDIA team – and our latest HR Award shows that such values are in place,” shares Kenneth, pointing to the prestigious HR Quality Mark the Authority received from the Foundation for Human Resources Development (FHRD). “As CEO, I make tactical decisions and execute them, but one of the challenges is knowing how to step back and let go, empowering others to contribute, grow and innovate.”

Innovation is a crucial part of the Authority’s remit, which powers its ongoing success as a pioneer in technological assurance, helping shore up Malta’s Innovative Technology Arrangement regulatory framework against the ever-changing tide of the sector. “Aside from the HR Award, in my first year as CEO, the MDIA won the national call for the eDIH proposals,” he recalls. “Malta ranked an impressive sixth place in the 2022 edition of the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), with several MDIA-realised projects on national AI strategy, AI scholarships and AI research grants contributing to this milestone. The 2023 result should improve on it, with other MDIA projects designed to close the digital divide.”

Born of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act and the Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Act in 2018, the MDIA has excelled in a few short years in its dual role as both local regulator and promotor of innovative technology. Through the launch of various initiatives, it encourages the uptake of new technologies, supporting users throughout the process. However, its responsibility does not end there. The Authority then trailblazes the regulation of these newly deployed solutions, ensuring they comply with recognised standards via its certification programme and providing technological assurance to stakeholders from investors to developers, and businesses to the public.

Meanwhile, as the primary Government entity focusing on technology, the MDIA promotes Malta as a centre of excellence for technological innovation, merging local compliance with international obligations. As the first Authority of its kind worldwide to certify technology and provide a regulatory framework, the MDIA also sets the standard for the digital future. “To attract investment, every country wants to be the ‘first’ – however, being the first does not make you the best,” remarks Kenneth.

Others have rushed to dominate in this area, but their haste has resulted in having to take a damaging regulatory U-turn later. Malta, by comparison, has had a diligent and robust regulatory framework from day one. We have been intuitive enough to regulate technology alone – growing, promoting and facilitating it beforehand. Malta had the vision to create a forward-looking legislative tool that is adaptable and flexible to whatever the evolving market requires and to new tech as it emerges. Technology is fast-paced – and it cannot wait. With technical assurance, a Cybersecurity Act already in place, and an AI Act under discussion at EU level, the nation has a level of readiness that is fundamental for attracting investment.”

Two key projects that were launched or further developed in 2022 have also helped the MDIA solidify its position as a leader in the global tech market. “In June, we launched the updated version of the MDIA’s new flagship utility, the MDIA-TAS (Technology Assurance Sandbox),” explains Kenneth. “Designed with start-ups and smaller players in mind, it guides solution owners throughout a residency of, at most, two years, as they gradually align their solution with established control objectives based on international standards. The Sandbox enables these companies to test concepts in a safe environment to reduce the overall risk.”

Another project, announced in December 2022, invites Maltese e-commerce platforms to take an assessment by tech experts. “In the ‘Mind the Gap’ project, a platform can conduct a self[1]assessment, and technology experts then identify any gaps relating to security or privacy, for example,” elaborates Kenneth. “ plans to also launch a funding scheme in early 2023 to assist platforms that would like to address these gaps – offering peace of mind for customers.” Also in 2022, the MDIA kickstarted its three-year strategic plan for the sector, closing in 2025, and secured funds for Malta’s European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH), which the MDIA will manage and in which SMEs and entrepreneurs can find the facilities to test before they invest.

With global events in 2022 spurring cost increases, amid continuing component shortages and challenges related to COVID-19, Kenneth foresees a push across the sector towards sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals in 2023. Likewise, inspired by the pandemic’s tech revolution, he predicts that the rise of AI may yet include natural language advancement, alongside increased uptake of blockchain. At the MDIA, he means to capitalise on these opportunities, while addressing the digital gap at a grassroots level. “COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation, increasing the need for tech assurance. Businesses now prioritise cybersecurity as prevention rather than cure. Through 2023, our drive at the MDIA is to become one of the most important Governmental entities in Malta and a national focal point for innovative technology,” the CEO concludes.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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