Established in 2001, the Malta Communications Authority regulates the island’s electronic communications sectors – from fixed and mobile telephone to internet and television distribution services, as well as postal services and the e-commerce sector. As the authority’s CEO since 2019, Jesmond Bugeja has already steered Malta’s communications network through a global pandemic. Today, he and his multi-disciplinary team continue to connect the nation with the technologies of tomorrow.

“Sailing is one of my great personal passions,” begins Jesmond Bugeja, CEO at the Malta Communications Authority (MCA). “There is so much to learn in life from dealing with such a force of nature as the sea: the discipline, the importance of teamwork. Sometimes we need all hands on deck and each set of hands, no matter their level or experience, is uniquely important. This has very much become my management credo. That, and my fascination with the horizon – it is a moving target and so is life!”

Chasing the horizon is a theme already embedded in Jesmond’s long career within Malta’s communications arena. Following his secondary education, he joined an extended student training scheme and became, as part of his studies, a technical apprentice with the then-national telecommunications operator, Telemalta Corporation. Soon after completing the course, Jesmond joined the organisation as a telephone technician – a life-changing experience that would also inspire an enduring passion for learning and for the fast-paced world of technology.

“Technology and telecoms have always been close to my heart. I quickly became fascinated about finding ways to use them to improve people’s quality of life and to design a better future for society,” he explains, describing his ascent up the career ladder via operational, managerial and senior executive management roles with Ericsson AB in Stockholm, Sweden, and in various diverse industries in Malta, as well as his time as Group IT Manager for Gollcher Group and as Head of Malta’s Passport Office. “Through all of these roles, I developed an even stronger background in telecommunications network management and policy development, and I look back on them with immense pride and gratitude.”

Coupled with more than three decades of personal and professional growth across his impressively varied resume, Jesmond has also pursued extensive academic qualifications. He holds a Master’s degree in Leadership and Management from the University of South Wales, while he has also achieved a post-graduate Diploma in Digital Marketing and a certification in Prince 2 Project Management Professional – and he is a fully qualified Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.

“Yes, it is a lot of work to study at the same time as progressing professionally, but if you are all-in on something like this, then you find the time and make the sacrifices to ensure it happens. Once you finish, then you have the satisfaction of having done it; of having achieved something special. My only regret is that I didn’t pursue my Master’s earlier in life,” he admits. “With a positive, can-do attitude, anything is possible.”

In the spirit of continuous improvement, Jesmond remains resolute in updating his studies both for his personal satisfaction and to stay ahead of the industry in his current role as CEO at the MCA. As well as leading the highly specialised team at the country’s regulatory body for the communications, postal and eCommerce sectors, he was elected Mini Board Vice-Chairperson for 2021 of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

“Alongside my appointment as MCA CEO, being elected as the first Maltese person to serve as the Vice-Chairperson at BEREC was certainly a landmark moment for me,” he continues. “This is a hugely important position to help shape EU-wide policy in the electronics sphere. Malta is at the forefront when it comes to telecoms infrastructure – in fact, we already have nationwide gigabit connectivity and 5G mobile coverage in place and, in the last edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) report, Malta placed fifth when compared to other advanced digital economies in the European Union. As such a small country, this was a momentous achievement for us.”

The accolade is the latest feather in the cap for the MCA, which in 2021 celebrated 20 years since it was established. Originally designated as the independent national regulatory authority for electronic communication services, the MCA aims to promote competition within the sector, safeguard the interests of consumers and enforce sector-specific regulation. Over the following two decades, the Authority’s mandate has evolved beyond fixed mobile telephony, internet and television distribution services to include regulation of the postal and eCommerce sectors. More recently, the MCA has also been responsible for implementing new EU regulations on web accessibility and geo-blocking.

“An important MCA milestone has been putting in place the necessary building blocks to shift the telecommunications sector from a monopolistic market to a fully liberalised one,” highlights Jesmond. “A major part of our mission remains inviting new market players in, to ensure the environment stays competitive. With competition, prices become more affordable – it changes the whole dynamic of the market.”

To serve these diverse and equally dynamic sectors, the Authority has meanwhile continued to build and expand its expertise. Today, the team brings together professionals in various fields, including lawyers, engineers, ICT technicians, economists, financial analysts, data scientists, and international relations specialists.

“I like to be surrounded by high calibre people with a positive approach, who I can trust and who are eager to learn and excel. I don’t believe in micro-management, simply good results,” Jesmond says, describing his leadership style of the team of around 70 people. “The role of CEO carries significant demands and, of course, as a regulator you must strive to strike a balance and be understanding of the consumers, the customers, the operators, and the industry. But together with my colleagues, we shape the future, which makes my work both exciting and enjoyable.”

Throughout the stormy seas of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Jesmond’s empathic leadership skills as captain ensured that both the MCA team and the island’s communications sector stayed afloat. “We lost human interaction. So, internally at the MCA, I tried to be as flexible and understanding as possible, to keep a tight central team dynamic while prioritising everyone’s health and well-being,” he recalls. “Meanwhile, our work had to continue, especially with the unprecedented demand for digital communications technologies due to remote working, home-schooling and increased use of social media. The pandemic made us realise the depth of the importance of our telecommunications network.”

The situation also offered an unexpected positive for the eCommerce sector, as Jesmond outlines. “Some companies saw an opportunity to capitalise on the change. By improving their digital presence, local businesses discovered a new niche and learned the lesson that people in Malta do buy online and make price comparisons against international online platforms. This has affected local pricing and powered Malta’s eCommerce sector forward.”

At the MCA, 2021 brought another host of milestones. As well as launching ‘Telecosts’, a novel service that provides improved telecoms services to consumers, operators and the industry, the Authority also supported the Government in the modernisation of the telecoms rules through the transposition of the European electronic communications code. In 2022, the Authority’s responsibilities are set to continue their upward growth trajectory, with the development of a new quality control tool and by identifying the sector’s capacity as part of the European Green Deal

“Digital connectivity is a fundamental requirement for the functioning of society and the economy in every nation, including Malta: a small island state in the Mediterranean with great potential. The application of new and innovative digital services promises exciting times ahead. Our world-class communications infrastructure has already excelled through the pandemic, and it will continue to grow in resilience, security and high-speed connectivity,” Jesmond concludes.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2022 – an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders.

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