Updated November 2, 11.45am

Malta is mulling granting "certain citizenship conditions" to robots, Digital Economy and Innovation Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri said on Thursday as he unveiled a new vision for Artificial Intelligence.

“We still need to see how it will work,” head of the AI task force Wayne Grixti said.

Granting citizenship for robots in Malta will also grant them access to the European Union, he pointed out.

Authorities will explore a pilot project to create a citizenship test for AI Robots with SingularityNET, the company behind Sophia, the world’s most expressive robot.

Mr Grixti said the idea came after Sophia, who was present for the launch, was given citizenship in Saudi Arabia.

In a clarification sent on Friday, the Office of the Prime Minister said that the citizenship test would be a way for researchers to measure just how much a robot could "understand the way citizens work together and the civic rules respected by human beings in our day to day life". 

This information, the OPM said, would be useful when drafting new regulation for artificial intelligence. 

"A citizenship test is not a means for the granting of citizenship," the OPM spokesman added. 

Parliamentary secretary Schembri said on Thursday that a National AI strategy would be launched in 2019.

The government's objective was to understand how AI could be applied to provide better services to citizens, he said. Malta was also very similar to a cosmopolitan city and could allow companies to test their products in a real-life scenario.

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

New technology could be used to develop AI applications that would make life easier, Mr Schembri said. For instance, the government was looking at how Artificial Intelligence could be used to improve traffic management and help with route optimisation.

AI could also help with improving traffic flow through cameras on the road and automated enforcement, Mr Schembri said adding that the government wanted to create a centre of research, development and application of AI.

Read: Robots to start assisting Mater Dei doctors during surgery

The plan was to introduce AI in a strategic manner conversant with other strategies being pursued, such as that of distributed ledger technology.

The message was simple - Malta was open for business, the Parliamentary Secretary added.

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