A digital transformation strategy to attract leading tech players to Bahrain

Since becoming the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to adopt a cloud-first policy in 2017, Bahrain has attracted some of the world’s leading tech players to settle in the Kingdom. Most notably, cloud computing giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its hyperscale cloud region in Bahrain in 2019, its first in the MENA region and a landmark investment. Along with AWS’s new data centers powering the region’s cloud ecosystem, its regional operation is already helping organizations of all sizes transition to the cloud.

Today, as part of Bahrain’s economic stimulus package, there is a huge cross-sectoral push to consolidate the economy and move forward after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Kingdom of Bahrain seeks to improve its position in the United Nations E-Government Survey e-Participation Index, attract leading tech companies, provide digital infrastructure class and to improve and increase the efficiency of e-government. services, making Bahrain a hub of digital innovation in the region. This will be achieved through the launch of a set of initiatives aimed at developing digital policies, preparing the national plan for the digital economy, developing government systems and platforms and improving the electronic payments platform.

In addition, the plan emphasizes the promotion of the telecommunications sector by ensuring full coverage of the fiber optic network in residential and commercial areas, ensuring the availability of international capacities to meet the current and future needs of the sector, as well as the development of spectrum management and monitoring systems and the regulatory framework for communications licensing. The plan will also focus on improving the response and continuity of government systems in the event of an emergency and developing a national cybersecurity strategy that serves all sectors of the country.

The new strategy to be announced will build on a digital transformation that has already begun. Already, the country is ranked first in the MENA region for ICT readiness, according to the World Economic Forum, and first in the Arab region in the ITU’s ICT Development Index, offering one of the most most competitive and affordable in the region, with operational savings. 30 to 40% compared to neighboring countries. Bahrain also has the lowest latency in the region; speeds are 90-95% faster when hosting in the Kingdom.

Additionally, Bahrain has pioneering regulations in place to protect corporate data, including a Personal Data Protection Act, in line with GDPR, and a Data Jurisdiction Act, which creates a “Data Embassy”. , allowing data stored in the Kingdom to fall under its control. the legal jurisdiction of the country of origin.

New goals include delivering 100% national broadband coverage by 2026, as well as developing enhanced cybersecurity standards and completely transforming government operations, including automating at least 200 additional services.

Cloud technology: efficient, flexible and secure

The benefits the government has already seen since implementing the Cloud First policy in 2017 are substantial. It has enabled the migration to the cloud of more than 70% of the operations and systems of 72 government entities and the complete migration of 32 public and private organizations in 2021. In addition, four government organizations have fully implemented new systems based on on the cloud from the start. Overall, the government has seen an 82% reduction in expenses and a 76% reduction in the time it takes to complete transactions.

“Cloud technology is more efficient, flexible and secure than traditional alternatives, which aligns well with the government’s overall digital transformation and plans to accelerate innovation across all sectors,” says Dr. Khalid Almutawah, CE Deputy, Operations and Governance, Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA).

The government’s readiness for cloud computing has also enabled the country to adapt quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic. “This has enabled more than 20,000 employees to work remotely and more than 140,000 students to continue their studies without interruption through distance learning,” says Almutawah. “iGA was also able to take immediate action to facilitate the rapid development of the BeAware Bahrain app, which is a comprehensive tracing system using AI and Big Data technologies to track and monitor active Covid cases.

“The app has been critical to the healthcare industry’s success in limiting the spread of Covid-19. It offered various e-services to help users get their coronavirus test results, PCR test certificates, rapid tests, coronavirus vaccine registration, and any assistance to the public during the pandemic.

As Bahrain pursues its digitization strategy, the plan is to further increase the efficiency of government services by digitizing more government documents and moving towards electronic payments. There are also plans to expand the use of AI to drive innovation in government services and strengthen partnerships with the private sector.

A Growing Pool of Tech Talent

Bahrain’s advanced digital infrastructure not only paves the way for a thriving IT and technology sector; it also offers cross-industry opportunities for investors, in everything from fintech to logistics. The digital ecosystem is supported by one of the most skilled and diverse workforces in the GCC region, ranking first in Arab countries for advanced computer programming talent in ICT in the report of the International Telecommunication Union 2020 and top of the World Bank Human Capital Index 2020 in the MENA region.

As part of its economic recovery plan, Bahrain will place even greater emphasis on developing its digital talents in the coming years. In January 2022, government labor fund Tamkeen launched a series of new programs focused on technology and digital transformation, targeting higher potential sectors of the economy, such as financial services.

There is also a growing pool of fintech experts available in Bahrain, which continues to expand alongside the rapid evolution of Bahrain’s fintech ecosystem. In total, Bahrain’s digitalization strategy aims to increase national employment in the IT and telecommunications sector by 35% by 2023.

A grouping effect

The launch of Bahrain’s first AWS hyperscale data center has already led to massive growth in data traffic to the MENA region. Now the hope is that other global vendors, including AWS partners and competitors, will turn their attention to this increasingly attractive region. Tencent Cloud in China has already recognized this opportunity and is planning to deploy its first Internet data center hub in the MENA region in Bahrain.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain has all the qualities necessary to become a regional data center”, concludes Almutawah. “It can play a major role in accelerating digital transformation and launching innovative products and services across the Middle East. The presence of leading global companies such as AWS will only strengthen this position and attract more players of similar caliber to set up their regional data centers in the Kingdom.

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