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How MITA’s Infrastructure Services Department has ensuring continuous operations of Government’s IT systems in these challenging times

Publication Date: Apr 11, 2020

Written by: Robert Galea Head of ISD

robert.f.galea.jpgAs a result of the continuous investment in MITA's core infrastructure, particularly over the past few years, we were very well positioned to withstand the pressures of 'new' work practices and overall demands that the Coronavirus brought about on the IT services that MITA provides to Government, including Mater Dei Hospital.

Remote work or teleworking is possibly the most visible and obvious change. Teleworking was introduced by Government and also MITA a few years ago, hence the infrastructure, mechanisms, and tools were already in place. What we did over the past weeks was increase the capacity and robustness of this infrastructure (mainly the Virtual Private Network (VPN) aspect) by scaling the resources and bandwidth to cope with the increased Public Service employees making use of this service – in fact, over a few days the increase was 10-fold! In addition, we have ensured that all Public Service employees have access, remotely, to all the applications they would normally have access to at their offices, through multi-factor authentication and verification were required.

Another aspect that was given topmost priority and urgency was the connectivity to the Malta Government NETwork (MAGNET) and in turn to the Health network and Mater Dei Hospital of the newly setup Coronavirus swabbing units in Luqa, Pembroke and Xewkija Gozo.

6H6A5728.jpgIn addition, a number of other network-related works were carried out at Mater Dei Hospital to cater for the additional wards/beds for the potential increase in patients, such as the transformation of the Medical School. MITA has already been approached to provide and install the active networking components and related IT services for the prefabricated hospital soon to be built and to connect this to the Mater Dei Hospital Campus Network.

From a systems point of view, much effort is being dedicated to support Health and especially Mater Dei Hospital, and its staff, in having continuous availability and access, with due security considerations, to all the systems and applications required, on a 24 x 7 basis. The increase in system usage has been felt and here too – especially with respect to Health and specifically Mater Dei Hospital, infrastructure was scaled, and will continue to be, to cope with the increased demands. In addition, a number of new applications have been created by Mater Dei Hospital staff and hosted on MITA's virtual hosting platform, in what can be considered record time, to ensure the swiftest availability of these crucial applications in such challenging times. Especially in these times, where decisions must be taken extremely quickly and then acted on immediately, and everything is happening at breakneck speed, the last thing that medical staff need is to worry about their IT systems, which today are a vital part of providing medical care.

6H6A9675.jpgLikewise, additional focus has been given to the Internet-related services and websites MITA provides on behalf of the Government, especially given that the Government is urging citizens to use Government's eServices instead of visiting its offices. More than ever before, Government's eServices and websites have become most important in providing, up-to-date information and public service announcements related to Coronavirus and allowing Maltese residents access to the Government's eServices within their homes, in these times of social distancing.