NewswireToday - /newswire/ -
Muscat, Oman, United Arab Emirates, 2008/05/25 - Bahrain’s regional leadership in Information Technology (IT) has been acknowledged by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD, one of the world’s leading business schools, in the organisations’ Global Information Technology Report 2007-2008.
The country first in the Middle East to install a computer in 1978 and the first Arab country to hold an online referendum, Bahrain is ranked 45th on the global information and communications technology readiness index. The report ranks the level and sophistication of the knowledge economies of 127 countries, and their capacity to generate, absorb and adapt technology to meet national needs.
Bahrain has one of the highest internet penetration rates in the region and Bahrainis have used the web to generate debate across a range of business and political issues. The government has adopted a liberal approach towards internet regulation and has invested heavily in the Kingdom’s IT infrastructure and education.
Commenting on the Index, Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al-Khalifa, Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), the government body with overall responsibility for formulating and overseeing the economic development strategy of Bahrain said: “We were the first country in the region to diversify our economy and have invested in IT infrastructure and education for Bahrainis for some time: we were the first to introduce 3G and 3.5G high-speed download services, the first to go nationwide with WiMax wireless networks and the first to introduce Smartcards. It is encouraging to see our efforts recognised on the global stage.
“Bahrain is the only country in the GCC to have ratified a Free Trade Agreement with the United States of America which facilitates the exchange of technology expertise. The possibilities for long-term opportunities in outsourcing for Bahrain in niche areas of software development are rich.“
Both Microsoft and Hewlett Packard have regional offices in Bahrain and the presence of high calibre multi-nationals such as these has contributed significantly to the Kingdom’s financial services sector – which is the largest in the region.
In July 2004 Bahrain was the first country in the Middle East to fully deregulate and liberalise its telecommunications market. The Kingdom’s independent telecoms watchdog – the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) – has issued 140 licences across 12 segments since 2003 and eight other companies have been issued licences for national fixed-line services.
The Bahraini government has targeted the IT sector as having a prominent role in forging the Kingdom’s commercial future and achieve its aim of doubling GDP per head by 2015 and trebling the country’s rate of productivity. The country has experienced a fast rate of innovation with many regional operators viewing it as a testing ground for the introduction of new technologies in bigger markets.
Bahrain, which improved its position by six ranks this year, comes 45 behind UAE 29 and Qatar 32, and before Jordan 47, Saudi Arabia 48 and Oman 53.
Soumitra Dutta, co-author of the Report, Dean of External Affairs at INSEAD, which boasts of campuses in Europe and Asia and a Centre for Executive Education and Research in Abu Dhabi, said: "As a region, the Middle East has made the highest progress in networked readiness over the last seven years with the number of internet users in the area soaring by more than 600 per cent, three times the world's average increase."