The Bahrain government’s vision for its digital transformation was highlighted by Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA) Chief Executive, Mohammed Ali Al Qaed, at BBK Digital Economy Forum and Expo 2020, held at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay.

In his keynote presentation, AlQaed explained that the Kingdom’s internationally acknowledged successes in attracting investment to its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry is built on the back of robust legislation and infrastructure that it has spent years building. This landscape has allowed for the application of modern technologies in a range of areas, and for the developments of the skills required to implement them.

“Dynamic, competitive markets and an innovative private sector are what drive digital economies,” said AlQaed. “Our goal is for the private sector to take the lead in researching and developing emerging technologies; identifying and supplying innovative solutions; and creating opportunities to improve export revenues. We also welcome their contributions in helping us create even more digital-friendly economic policies.”

“The government has helped to encourage innovation and stimulate economic growth through the formation of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Emerging Technologies Governance Committee and the passing of laws protecting personal data and electronic transactions. This is in addition to providing an Open Data Portal and formulating a comprehensive AI strategy in 2020 to enhance government performance and productivity. We are also highly focused on developing the skills of Bahrainis across all fields, stemming from the belief that they are our most valuable asset.”

Al Qaed’s presentation, entitled ‘The Government of Bahrain's Perspective Towards a Digital Economy’, was made on the opening day of the two-day Forum, which is being held under the theme ‘Transforming the Economy Through Digitization’. The event is being organized by the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait (BBK) and Bahrain Institute for Banking & Finance (BIBF) on 14 and 15 January 2020.

AlQaed provided an overview of the vision of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to make ICT investment a pillar for socioeconomic growth in the Kingdom. He highlighted the importance of digital tools in improving living standards, fighting poverty, protecting the environment, and enhancing the quality of health and education. He noted the role of the digital economy in achieving economic growth and creating job opportunities, adding that each digital job can potentially have the trickledown effect of creating two to four further jobs in other areas of the economy.

AlQaed presented key findings from the United Nations Digital Economy Report, which showed that the digital economy now makes up between 4.5% and 15.5% of the Gross World Product (GWP). It also reported that the US and China represent 75% of all patents related to Block Chain technology, 50% of the world’s expenditure on the Internet of Things (IoT), and more than 75% of the world market's Public Cloud Computing.

The chief executive said that there is a lot of room for digital growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where just 8% of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have an internet presence, 10 times less than in the United States: “Only 1.5% of retail sales in MENA are online, which is five times less than the US. The Middle East has only realized 8% of its overall digital potential, compared with 15% in Western Europe and 18% in the United States. Digital comprises of 4.1% of the Middle East Economy and its contribution to GDP is half that of the United States.”