When the Government of Malta announced the launch of a legal framework for Blockchain technologies on February the 16th, 2017, it was a major goal for me, personally. It represents the culmination of almost twenty months of work.
This is a brief recollection of the major of how Malta’s Blockchain strategy came to be and how it unrolled to this event.
The timeline of events looks like this:
- June 17, 2016 – As a speaker at the MBR Finance and Investment Forum, where I was delivering a talk on “Blockchain: The unstoppable disruption of the financial services industry,” I was briefly introduced to Hon. Cardona, the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Business, who was a key note speaker. In a typical “elevator pitch” I talked about a paper I was writing for the Fintech Innovaton & Future Commerce which I was taking at the time at MIT. The paper, entitled “Vision 2026: Fintech Regulatory Integration” was all about using Blockchian technologies to improve regulatory efficiency in the financial services sector. I happened to say that Blockchain technologies could also be used to underpin the global competitiveness for a country as a whole; at which the Minister invited me to his office to explain more about this vision.
- July 7, 2016 – I met Hon. Cardona, and sketched out the vision about Malta becoming the Blockchain Island. I explained that since Blockchain technologies are cross-industry and not specific to any particular economic sector, pursuing and encouraging the development and the adoption of the technology would help the entire Maltese economy. The Minister asked me to turn this vision into a project brief.
- August 5, 2016 – I presented a project proposal to the Minister; and I was immediately engaged to design and write Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy.
- October 31, 2016 – I presented the first draft of the National Blockchain Strategy to Hon. Cardona. It was deemed of strategic importance, and it was decided to turn it into a Memorandum to be presented to Cabinet. Naturally this required taking into account current legislation and regulation. Therefore I invited Dr. Max Ganado, of Ganado Advocates, to join in my work, and take care of all the legal aspects.
- February 23, 2017 – The Prime Minister, Dr. Muscat, in a keynote speech at the CEPS Ideas Lab conference, commented that “Europe should become the bitcoin continent.” The comment came as a surprise. Certainly that the “island” had become the entire “continent” was compelling; yet the focus on “bitcoin” rather than on “Blockchain technologies” was diminishing the original vision. A lot of work had to be done to refocus the project on the idea that Blockchain technologies, and not crypto-currencies, had to take the center stage (notwithstanding, of course, that crypto-currencies and all related challenges had to be catered for in any case).
- April 17, 2017 – After lot of ground work to ensure that all stakeholders understood the vision of the Blockchain Island, the Cabinet of Ministers unanimously approved Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy.
- April 20, 2017 – At the Economic and Financial Affairs, Parliamentary Committee/EY, the Prime Minister officially announced the Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy.
- June 8, 2017 – Parliamentary Secretary Hon. Silvio Schembri was entrusted the task of executing Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy. In the meantime, the global phenomenon of ICOs had been growing. The parts of the strategy regarding crypto-currencies became more prominent.
- September 11, 2017 – I was appointed to Malta’s Blockchain Task Force which was put in place to adivse the Government on the best way to actually implement Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy.
- September 22, 2017 – The Ministry of Education and Employment (MEDE) announced a pilot project to put educational and academic records on the Blockchain. MEDE had been working on this since December 2016.
- October 9, 2017 – The Budget for 2018 allocated funds to promote the use of Blockchain technologies. In particular to create a Blockchain Laboratory and to promote a Blockchain Startup Hub, both under the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA).
- December 7, 2017 – Hon. Silvio Schembri, at the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Malta, for the first time announced one of the major novelty’s outlined in Malta’s National Blockchain Strategy, namely that it was Malta’s intention to create a “Distributed Ledger Technologies Regulator.” One of the key pieces of the strategy was coming into place.
- February 15, 2018 – Hon. Silvio Schembri called a press conference to announce the publication of a consultation document on “The Establishment of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority; the Framework for the Certification of Distributed Ledger Technology Platforms and Related Service Providers; and a Virtual Currency Act.” The document proposed three distinct, but related bills: the Malta Digital Innovation Authority Bill (MDIA); the Technology Arrangements and Services Bill (TAS); and the Virtual Currencies Bill (VC).