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Network News • 01-07-2021

MCESD – What are the chances of attracting multinationals?

Author: George Mangion
Published on Business Today on 1st July 2021

Speaking at an MCESD event, concerning the submission of our recovery and resilience plan, parliamentary Secretary Zrinzo Azzopardi explained that various initiatives will be taken towards digitalisation.

MCESD chairman James Pearsall further commented on other pillars in the plan such as ‘smart’ and resilient economy measures still to be taken. Once approved at the EU Council level, such funds will also be invested to strengthen the quality of our educational sector.

The EU’s €672 billion recoveries and resilience plan will provide a combination of grants and cheap loans to EU member states, subject to the approval of national plans. Malta’s share will be €320million (loans and grants). The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is at the core of the Commission’s Next Generation EU instrument and aims to foster sustainability amongst European economies and to support the transition towards green and digital economies.

For us, it is pennies from heaven coming so close to last week’s fatal blow when the FATF tarred us with its brush as a grey-list country. Be that as it may, analytic and predictive tools have become more powerful, so local businesses will need strong data management strategies to compete and survive. Readers appreciate the need for Malta to seriously upgrade its digital footprint now that 5G bandwidth is freely available.

As pervasive as the digital transformation may seem—especially during a time increasingly dominated by a slow down due to a pandemic ( hopefully on its way out )—the fact is, we have really just scratched the surface in our quest to build an all-digital, all-connected future. Digital transformation isn’t only a way to stay competitive — it is a prerequisite for success in a 21st-century economy.

The uncertainty created by COVID-19 has shown more than ever that countries must be adaptable if they’re to succeed in the long term. What will this mean for us now and beyond, especially as the world adapts to the “new normal” following the pandemic?

We need to attract multinationals of calibre. To make up for lost time, maybe we need to look to partner with giants such as SoftBank loaded with its dominant digital competencies. Typically SoftBank Robotics launched the chest-high Pepper robot in 2014 and notice the meteoric rise of its founder vision of a technology-powered future as he built his overseas investing operations.SoftBank “will continue to make significant investments in next-generation robots to serve our customers and partners,” the French robotics business said in a statement.

On a superlative note, SoftBank was ranked second globally for a voice app experience, which measures the quality of experience for over-the-top (OTT) voice services — mobile voice apps such as LINE, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, among others. SoftBank has strived to improve telecommunication quality and speeds so customers can enjoy mobile communications, the Internet, video streaming services and social platforms stress-free.

In a true spirit of resilience, SoftBank will continue to build a telecommunications environment that is convenient for customers, as well as provide services and solutions that meet their needs. SoftBank was the global winner for video experience, a metric that measures the quality of video streamed to mobile devices by measuring real-world video streams over an operator’s network, and games experience, a new category that analyses latency and the overall gaming experience when using an operator’s network.

Moving on, we note how a new invigorating spree has seen SoftBank buy a 40% stake in Norwegian robotics company AutoStore in a deal worth €2.4bn. This is a scoop and adds another feather in Softbank’s cap. It comes as no surprise that AutoStore is a prodigy company that develops warehouse automation technology. It is well respected for its cuboid systems that reduce the space needed to store goods.

It is no exaggeration to laud AutoStore when it proudly admits that it has deployed 20,000 robots across 35 countries. Its top clients include Puma and Siemens.

A sister subject to digital transformation is the disruptive technology of AI. Experts assure us that when harnessed it has a benign purpose and is helping in various ways, for example, to link various civilisations, improve crop yields, scan persons for traces of infection in airports, schools etc. and speed up progress in complex human genome classification.

It has become a cliché how digital transformation in advanced Western countries has opened the path to artificial intelligence. Such machines can do medical assessments during epidemics when over-worked doctors are busy tending the sick. Imagine how – soon – there will be robots that are efficient and devoid of emotions quietly supervising hundreds of complex factory operations-possibly during the temporary absence of workers cordoned off under extended quarantine mandated during pandemics.

Both digital giants and new, emerging market entrants are led by digital mindsets, driven by how to disrupt their existing market or an entirely new one. Incumbents, who often seek to subtly adapt, need to break free from the shackles of the past and act boldly to seize the opportunities of the future.

How can Malta take a giant leap forward in the digital world when its research and development fund is so lilliputian?

With meagre funds of 0.6% of GDP allocated to R&D, this topic is a non-starter unless we manage to attract multinationals that can transfer such technology.

The exploitation of  5G  in the cloud is also a potential area for local industry to avail itself more of such facilities. On a global scale, according to research and markets, it is expected to reach $10.6 billion by 2028, growing at 79.2% annually.

In another development in the US, we read about Verizon working on connected drones that could be deployed at locations hit by natural disasters, avoiding putting a human in danger and controlled by a single operator from hundreds of miles away, with live video and thermal imagery available to anyone in the world.

In conclusion, the resilience and recovery plan (when it is approved) secures funds for a digital and a green transformation.

Such a post-COVID-19 revolution allows businesses to implement a digital transformation, keeping in mind that this is not only a journey to adopt new technologies but also reformulating day-to-day operations and the way they connect with international buyers.

Author: George Mangion
Published on Business Today on 1st July 2021
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