Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA) Chief Executive, HE Mohammed Ali Al Qaed participated in the ‘Future Vision of Digital Government Through the Lens of COVID-19’ webinar, which was organised by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s eGovernment Programme ‘YESSER’ and the World Bank.

Shedding light on the role of modern technology in combatting the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the webinar was attended by digital government experts from KSA, UAE, UK, Finland, and Australia, as well as speakers from the World Bank Group, World Bank, and the United Nations.

During the first session titled ‘Digital Government Practices: COVID-19 – An Immediate Response’, Al Qaed showcased Bahrain’s digital transformation experience, citing His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s vision to employ modern technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in improving government services.

He further commended the directives of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, and the support extended to further develop and deploy the use of technology as part of national efforts to combat the virus.

Al Qaed highlighted the Kingdom’s goal to provide a centralised infrastructure for government services, and its focus on cybersecurity, one of the pillars of its IT system.

He noted iGA’s in safeguarding government data by relying on the best protection systems and programs. HE also discussed how the Kingdom’s Cloud-First Policy has supported national efforts aimed at combating the COVID-19, revealing that since 2017 approximately 61% of services have been transferred to the cloud computing system, reducing costs, improving efficiency, and offering unlimited capacity.

Al Qaed showcased the most prominent national legislations supporting the development of the Kingdom’s eGovernment program, including the Electronic Communications and Transactions Law of 2020 and its amendments in 2018, adding that Bahrain is the first GCC country to legislate governing electronic transactions.

iGA chief praised the Kingdom’s efforts in deploying modern technologies in combatting the COVID-19, which include helping nearly 45 government entities implement remote work policies and offer more of their services online, in addition to allowing 6,500 employees secure access to the Government Data Network (GDN) via remote SSL VPN. This was in addition to offering technical support with the use of the Microsoft Teams platform, which allowed many employees to telecommute.

Government entities also benefited from conference video calling technologies, Zoom and various Cisco applications, used in some of the high-level ministerial meetings.  

Al Qaed noted that many entities had been holding online meetings since 2008, allowing them to speed up their work and decision-making. These include the Cabinet, the Tender Board, the Parliament, Bahrain Bourse, and others. He also provided an overview of Bahrain’s remote learning experience and the progress made in transferring the Ministry of Education’s portal (EDUNET) to the cloud, enabling students to easily access the portal and retrieve study materials.

Al Qaed outlined that the government, represented by iGA, had already digitized 60% of government services via the National Portal, bahrain.bh before the global pandemic, whilst some additional government services were offered online or were substituted with digital alternatives during the global pandemic. Notable among these was a comprehensive ID and population registration services, and the digitization of services offered by the Ministry of Justice, Endowments and Islamic Affairs and the Electricity and Water Authority. 

Al Qaed also discussed the Kingdom’s BeAware app, and its vital role monitoring active COVID-19 cases using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. These technologies help save precious time and effort in addition to easing the burden on medical staff, allowing them to focus on active cases that require treatment and thorough observation.

Al Qaed concluded by presenting the most notable features of the app, which has recorded more than 758,000 downloads and more than 401,000 registrations by citizens and residents. Its features include drive-through test bookings for individuals completing their home self-isolation periods, providing online access to test results, latest local and global COVID-19 updates as well as measures and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.