Bahrain Embraces Technology, Ai & the Future
The kingdom of Bahrain is a small archipelago in the Middle East that came to prominence as a pearl fishery and a trading outpost that impressed Alexander the Great’s army. Today Bahrain is racing towards modernity and boasts great economic prospects.
Over the last 2 decades Bahrain’s GDP has nearly quadrupled as the economy has taken its oil rich reserves and invested capital throughout its economy. The actual growth of technology has been slow to disseminate throughout the society, but it has been a very steady growth.
Bahrain is gradually realizing the prowess of technology that is benefitting its economy and is poised to step up its efforts in the digital transformation. Among the other Gulf countries, Bahrain was the first one to liberalise the telecom sector, and it has boded well for the country. In fact, Bahrain is considered the first country to create a true “Post-Oil” economy.”
Bahrain has invested heavily in its banking and tourism industries and Bahrain has streamlined its Information and Technology Infrastructure. In addition, as per the International Telecommunication Union, Bahrain holds the pole position in the ICT Development Index. By 2006, Bahrain had the fastest growing economy in the Middle East and by 2008 the Global Financial Centres Index ranked Bahrain the fastest growing financial center.
The inroads of technology in Bahrain isn’t only restricted with its first rank; the penetration of the Internet in the country has reached to about 98%. This is impressive considering just 5% of Bahrain's population had internet access in 2000 while its population has more than doubled over that period.
70% of the nation is on Facebook and with a GDP per capita of $23.5K vs its neighbor Iran's $5.4k per capita and Egypt's paltry $2.5k per capita, Bahrain is clearly doing something very right. Even Saudi Arabia with its somewhat diverse economy and incredibly rich oil reserves only boasts a $20k per capita GDP.
Over the past two decades, the National Digital Strategy of Bahrain has been in favour of the people. The introduction of new technologies in the country is further paving the path with matured technologies for bringing enhancement in public domain to upgrade their living standards in the country.
How Supportive is the Kingdom of Bahrain in Fostering Emerging Technologies?
Numerous central authorities such as the Information and eGovernment Authority, Tamkeen, The Central Bank of Bahrain, and the Economic Development Board are supporting the growth of artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, and material sciences for the advancement of the country.
The kingdom has been encouraging individuals, who are endeavouring towards the designing, development, and the deployment of new technologies to make the country relevant in the map in terms of the technology.
Some of the other sectors, where the kingdom is considering the exploitation of artificial intelligence are as follows:
● Bahrain established the National Space Science Agency in the year 2018, with an aim to launch its first artificial satellite in 2020. The crucial aim behind the implementation of this project is to utilize the capabilities of AI and IoT for the monitoring of gas emissions from various industrial hubs in the country. In order to achieve this mission, the NSSA is strengthening the workers in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and Big Data.
● Tamkeen joined forces with Microsoft Corporation and Bahrain Polytechnic to establish Artificial Intelligence Academy to offer resources and training to the youth to increase their knowledge in the field.
● As the Fourth Industrial Revolution is arriving on the shores of the Oil and Gas Industry in Bahrain, the kingdom is braced for the adoption of technologies to revolutionize the upstream, midstream, and downstream activities in a connected ecosystem, which is driven by IoT and AI technologies. This will increase the efficiency and productivity of oil and gas hubs and will add value to the economy.
● Kuwaiti Financial House, located in Bahrain, developed the first robotic assistant for the processing of loan applications. The robotic assistant is known by the name of Baitak Assistant. The system handles the applications of the loan applicants and prepares a report on the credit score of these applicants for the faster processing of applications.
● Bahrain is in the process of establishing a robust network for the arrival of the fifth-generation (5G) network in the country. To achieve the high Internet speed, the authorities are ensuring that the wireless networks and fibres are abreast with the latest technology to support 5G connectivity.
As per a report published by KPMG, artificial intelligence is estimated to contribute a sum tantamount to US$ 320 Bn to the GDP of the Middle East by 2030. The pace at which the digital reformations are carried out in Bahrain represents that the goal is achievable. Ali Al Qaed—the Chief Executive of Information and eGovernance Agency in Bahrain—is following the guidelines on the procurement of artificial intelligence set by the World Economic Forum. This shows that Ai is soon going to be an integral part of Bahrain.
However, with less than 3% of Bahrain containing arable land and a significant water source issue, Bahrain has a high unemployment problem among the nation’s uneducated youth. Without having a farming culture to fall back on, the nation was the first to institute unemployment benefits for its jobless. Furthermore, as the country runs out of oil reserves, fewer and fewer blue collar jobs exist in Bahrain’s society. Bahrain must continue to develop its economy with intelligent jobs and a good education system to support its future growth plans.