Friday, June 14, 2024

This tiny island nation has more AI startups per capita than the United States

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  • Malta, a small Mediterranean island that attracts wealthy tourists, might be the next AI center.
  • It’s using AI to automate tasks, improve education, and solve traffic issues.
  • Malta aims to be an AI hub by 2030, with 56 startups already active in the small nation.

Silicon Valley isn’t the only hotspot in the AI boom.

Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, is leaning heavily into the technology. Its businesses, universities, and the government are embracing AI as a way to automate tasks, improve education, and even solve rush hour traffic jams.

The country has a population of just over 500,000, but it already has 56 AI startups, according to startup tracker Tracxn Technologies. That’s about 1 startup for every 9,500 people. Meanwhile, the United States, which has a population of over 330 million, has around 24,000 AI startups by Tracxn’s count. Or 1 for about every 14,000 residents.

The country has long made headlines as a hot spot for wealthy tourists. Its “golden passport,” which gives rich foreigners citizenship in exchange for investing a certain amount of money in the country, was the second most sought-after foreign passport program for Americans last year.

It also began pouring money into artificial intelligence before the ChatGPT-fueled AI arms race began.

In 2019, Malta outlined a vision to be the “Ultimate AI Launchpad” by 2030. The goal was for Malta to become “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.” AI would “springboard from Malta to the world.”

Those efforts stalled between the pandemic and a turn of the political administration. Now, under the EU’s AI Act — the region’s sweeping AI legislation, which bans unacceptable use cases — Malta is working on a new AI strategy, Bloomberg reported.

Those at the center of this renewed effort are focused on safely deploying the technology. They’re developing initiatives to combat job displacement and ethical frameworks, for instance.

“Foresight in recognizing the importance of AI has given Malta a head start in the field of AI, and it continues to be a leader in the industry today,” Alexiei Dingli, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Malta, who’s leading Malta’s endeavors, including the traffic jam project, told Bloomberg.

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