The launch of the first Cloud Accelerator in the Middle East and Africa region in the Kingdom of Bahrain added another milestone to the significant steps the Kingdom has made in developing its ICT sector, strengthening its pioneering position in the region.
The recent announcement of the collaboration between C5 Accelerate Limited and Amazon Web Services (AWS), together with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) and Tamkeen, to adopt Cloud Computing technology is a landmark in Bahrain’s journey to progress its ICT sector. The Kingdom’s ICT sector lead the countries in the region and ranked 27th globally in “The 2015 ICT Development Index”, according to a report published by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union.
The ICT sector is one of the core sectors the EDB is focusing on to develop and attract direct investment to. Other sectors include manufacturing and logistics, transport services and tourism in addition to a number sub-sectors.
The transport and communications sector in Bahrain, part of which is ICT, currently contributes more than 7% in the Kingdom’s GDP. It was the fastest growing sector in the second quarter of 2015, reflecting the level of development that this sector has achieved.
His Excellency Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, commented on this saying:
“The ICT sector is distinguished by its high growth capacity which surpasses many other sectors, as there is no limit to the innovation that this sector enjoys and it growing to be among the most important business sectors when it comes to attracting investment. The recently launched ICT projects in the Kingdom, in addition to the Cloud Computing and other projects to be announced soon, will increase the level of investments, creating opportunities for the private sector and high return jobs for Bahrainis.”
Mr. Firoz Pahonchiya from the leading Global IT Company, “Tata Consultancy Services”, said:
“The developed ICT infrastructure and open market that is supported by the government has given a great push to the decision for our company to operate from Bahrain. The local skilled bilingual workforce, and proximity to the GCC market makes Bahrain a competitive destination for ICT companies,”
“The sector has great potential that will attract international investors wishing to benefit from the opportunities that are available.”
The sector’s rapid growth is a reflection of GCC’s growth in the technology sector, which is expected to further develop by 10% per annum over the next five years, while sector spending in the GCC region will reach nearly $200 billion by the end of the year.
The vital role ICT plays has been reinforced as a result of the government’s commitment to develop the sector in order to support the kingdom’s economic growth. Today, Bahrain is leading the way in the GCC region, having been the first to liberalise its ICT sector and of which is characterised by a flexible and open policy. The sector enjoys distinct potential in addition to the competitive advantages of the open and developed business environment Bahrain offers, as well as the highly skillful professional workforce in which Bahrainis make more than 70% of the sector’s workforce.
Bahrain is also considered the only country in the region to adopt a structured market model and a supportive legislative framework in the ICT sector, similar to the one adopted by the European Union. These factors have contributed to the eGovernment Authority providing over 200 high level electronic eServices. The sector received international recognition on the United Nations e-Government Survey, in which Bahrain ranked first in the region and seventh in the world in the E–Government Development Index as well as fourteenth in the E-Participation Index.
The local ICT sector received recognition from all major global relevant indexes, including ranking 18th globally in the United Nations eGovernment Survey in the eGovernment Readiness Index. The Kingdom was also ranked among the elite innovation-driven economies such as Germany, Singapore and the United States based on the Global Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum, where Bahrain advanced five places this year to 39th position. The report highlighted the Kingdom’s advanced positions in terms of the importance placed on cutting edge technology, where Bahrain was ranked 15th globally in government spending on advanced technology, reflecting the government’s significant interest in developing the ICT sector. Given the interdependence of the ICT sector and innovation, the government contributes to promote and develop this vital sector.
Bahrain also ranked 27th globally among 167 countries in the United Nations International Telecommunication Union 2015 ICT Development Index, where the Kingdom advanced 21 positions in the past 5 years. The index shed light on the easy access to technology in the Kingdom, as it demonstrated the percentage of Bahraini households using computers at their homes is 94.5% compared to 81.9% in Europe while the internet penetration in residential houses peaked at 81% in Bahrain. In addition to that, the percentage of individual internet usage locally reached 91% compared to Europe which stood at 77.6%.
In terms of local network readiness which indicates the status of the ICT sector economically and socially in Bahrain, the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Networked Readiness Index has revealed that Bahrain ranked 30th globally while ranking 5th in mobile broadband access on a global level. The Kingdom also ranked 6th globally in the abundant use of virtual social networks and 8th on the percentage of internet users on a global level.