Communications Minister Austin Gatt said the MIC will be opening its doors to anyone needing help in starting-up
The government partnered up with Microsoft to create a Microsoft Innovation Centre which expected to train students and professionals alike while introducing Cloud Computing to businesses in Malta which is expected to be the "next wave in computing".
Communications Minister Austin Gatt said that after signing the Vertical Strategic Alliance with Microsoft in 2011, most initiatives were related to education and focused on improving the future for youths and the development of an innovative economy.
"A very important, if not the most important, initiative that forms part of our alliance with Microsoft is the set up of a Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) in Malta representing an investment of more than €3 million over a three year period," Gatt said.
During a conference held this morning, Gatt explained that once up and running, the centre will provide services to the business community, ICT professionals, start-ups and ICT students based on Cloud Computing. The MIC in Malta will be among the first of over 100 MICs worldwide to specifically focus on this technology.
"We want to involve the business community, financial services sector players, educational institutions and other key stakeholders to actively contribute to successfully setting up this MIC.
"This investment will be spent on premises, technologies, staff, and other activities generate by the MIC. Microsoft plans to open the centre October 2012," Gatt said.
Gatt explained that targets for the centre established by Microsoft include the creation of 100 jobs as a result of the work by MIC - not recruited by MIC, the assistance of 14 start-ups and training of 500 students and 300 ICT professionals over the next three years.
"Jobs and education are Government's number one priority and we're doing our utmost in this respect with great responsibility and vision. The MIC will primarily serve to support the increase of local ICT start-ups," Gatt said.
The MIC will be offering specialised training on cloud computing to students, ICT professionals and businesses on a cost-recovery basis expected to increase the diversity of local ICT skills knowledge, and increase the "uniqueness" local ICT experts.
Gatt said that there are local ICT businesses that already use the cloud and have developed cloud solutions. "This is encouraging but these companies are a minority. Through the MIC, we'll increase the local capacity in cloud computing significantly and enable even those individuals and businesses with less means to gain essential skills to be more competitive."
The MIC will offer concrete support to individuals and start-ups with a good business plan by providing expertise, technology, and facilities to turn an idea into a cloud computing solution ready for the local and international market.
Adriana Zammit, Microsoft Malta's country manager, said: "Malta is innovation driven and the MIC will focus on developing the already present strengths and closing the gap between ideas and making it into a reality.
"The three pillars for the centre will be to empower through education, create using whatever's available and promote on a global level because Microsoft puts us in a unique position. Cloud computing will also help drive this further because we believe it is the next wave of computing."
The CEO of Altaro Software, David Vella, shared his experience of opening a software company in Malta which involved plenty of sacrifices. "We were four guys who sold our houses to get the €45,000 to invest into the company t raise the capital and step down in our quality of life by cutting costs."
Vella explained that were plenty of challenges along the way including within the market itself which resulted in both disappointments and challenges. "We were three full-time employees wearing many hats while outsourcing for services we were not knowledgeable about."
Vella said that by 2012 they created and sold back-up software to create a client base of over 6,000, 90% of which are based abroad. "We fully support Cloud computing which will allow us to eventually employ people and not solely rely on just three people."
Edward Portelli, Microsoft Malta's business development manager, said the Cloud will not replace any offers already available by Microsoft but will simply expand. "New initiatives will include students at all levels of education and start-up companies. We will see innovation to solve a number of challenges in a competitive environment beginning from a young age all the way up to the creation of business," Portelli said.
Portelli explained that the MIC will also organise workshops and events, provide specialised training and competitions. "Minister Gatt actually provided very minimal figures. Microsoft's estimates are actually much higher with 1,000 people to be trained, 150 new jobs created, and 50 start-up companies.
"We are currently still short-listing the location for the premises but once the centre is fully functioning we will provide the ICT sector with the facilities to promote and expand their services."