Strengthening and Pioneering in the Region
Since the Kingdom moved to diversify its economy in response to falling oil prices, the development of the country’s ICT sector has been a major priority. Bahrain was ranked number one in MENA for the fourth consecutive year in the U.N. International Communications Union – 2017 ICT Development Index. Moreover, it is the perfect testing-ground for new products and local customisations before regional roll-out.
Bahrain EDB plays an integral role in shaping the industry’s future, guided by a simple vision that puts the private sector at the forefront. For ICT – as with other sectors – the Bahrain EDB sees privately owned companies as the engine for growth, responsible for stimulating healthy competition and accelerating innovation. In 2017, much was done to support the private sector in bolstering Bahrain’s ICT environment.
Bahrain’s government has been introducing new regulations and updating existing laws to support the ICT sector. One important change towards this goal was to open up more business activities to 100% foreign ownership, creating opportunities for international companies to tap into Bahrain’s deep well of investment prospects. Additionally, the government has led by example for ICT progress with the launch of a Cloud First Policy, which encourages all government entities to utilise the cloud for data storage.
2017 saw a significant achievement in this regard with the announcement that Amazon Web Services (AWS) will launch the Middle East’s first data Region in Bahrain. The arrival of AWS will bring many benefits beyond the ICT sector, as its cloud-based ICT infrastructure will make it easier for companies across MENA to conduct business.
In 2018, Bahrain will further capitalise on the investment made by AWS by targeting new companies to set up in Bahrain (among a wider pool of potential investors) that can utilise the cloud infrastructure. By doing so, the benefits of AWS’ technology can be shared with others across various fields, boosting the ICT sector further.
Looking at the wider picture, infrastructure growth is one of many signals that Bahrain’s ICT sector is on the ascendancy, another being the growing sophistication of the local talent. More than 90% of the ICT workforce is bilingual, strengthening an organisation’s ability to communicate across international borders. In addition to that, 48% of graduates leaving Bahraini universities have studied business administration or ICT.
Thanks to these factors, the Bahrain EDB anticipates more growth for the ICT sector in 2018, stimulated by events such as Technology Week and the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab, both due to be held in the Kingdom in 2018.
Some notable companies that have invested in the ICT sector in Bahrain
Regulation and Legislation
Bahrain continues to establish itself as a digital pioneer through its commitment towards creating the right environment for ICT businesses to flourish.
Cloud First Policy
As a first in the region, Bahrain’s introduction of the Cloud First Policy is a commitment to adopting the cloud throughout all government agencies, enabling ministries to deliver more services to users, with up to 30% - 90% reduced IT costs and scalability. It allows more focus on managing the business without the need for expensive IT systems maintenance overheads.
Data Protection Law
To ensure data protection and privacy, Bahrain is planning to introduce a new Data Protection Law. A more transparent regulatory framework for the digital and technology industry is a key part of its strategy to attracting technology companies and customers to Bahrain.