The master plan and model of SmartCity Malta were unveiled by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi in the presence of senior Tecom Investments executives at the Gitex Technology Fair in Dubai yesterday. Gitex is the leading IT fair in the Middle East and is visited by thousands of people interested in IT and communications business. It is being held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Demolition work at the Smart-City Malta site in Ricasoli is expected to start next month. It is understood that the contract for the work has been awarded and construction is expected to start in the first six months of next year, possibly during the first quarter. Ahmed bin Byatt, executive chairman of Tecom Investments which is behind the project, said SmartCity and the acquisition of Maltacom, now Go, were not the only investments Malta would see from Tecom. The company was looking for more investment opportunities in the country, and though he would not elaborate, he stressed that the company was pleased its investment was already yielding results. Tecom would be working with “a few of the thousands of companies” that already operate from Dubai Internet City in a bid to entice them to start operating from Malta even before the SmartCity project starts operations. “In this way, we would already have companies on the ground in Malta which would be ready to move in as soon as the first phases of the project are completed. The initial feedback we have is already very positive. Before we embarked on the project we had already conducted market research to gauge the attraction such a project would have for the ICT industry and, as that was very positive, we took the project further from there,” he said. Dr Gonzi, who was accompanied by Investments and IT Minister Austin Gatt, said he was extremely pleased to be unveiling the plan and model as this was bringing to fruition the efforts that have been made by Malta and Dubai over the past months. “The event is another in a series of projects and events that forms part of the government’s vision to see Malta as a centre of excellence in IT by 2015,” he said.
Mr bin Byatt said Tecom had chosen Malta because of the government’s eagerness to make Malta an IT hub. “Now that the deal has been concluded, we have to move to the implementation stage, where there is a lot to be done,”, he said, adding he was sure that the project would be of very high standards and a hub for IT activity. Dr Gatt said Tecom officials would be holding discussions with Malta in the next two weeks and he was confident that the agreed timeframes would be met. “As a matter of fact, we are slightly ahead of schedule, which augurs well,” he said. Fareed Abdulrahman, SmartCity’s executive director, said the main component of the master plan was a commercial complex that provided over 100,000 square metres of intelligent office space. “Designed to the highest global standards of commercial and sustainable development, this complex will form the core business infrastructure for Smartcity Malta’s knowledge-industry community,” Mr Abdulrahman said. Over 30 per cent of the land at SmartCity Malta will be open to the public. The public features will include green boulevards and avenues, an amphitheatre, a lagoon, a coastal route and vista points on the edge of the coastal cliff.
There will also be outdoor cafes and restaurants, a small scale conference centre, hotels to cater for the business community and visitors as well as a residential complex. The lagoon area will be the first to be developed, around which some of the office space would be built. The first 1,500 square metres of office space have to be completed within 18 months after the permit is issued, Mr bin Byatt said. SmartCity is projected to generate four per cent growth in the Maltese job market. Chris Cole, Tecom’s chief operations officer, will be in Malta next week to co-ordinate all the necessary demolition and construction work as well as to meet mayors from respective local councils, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and other officials in connection with the project.