Bahrain is rife with investment opportunities for digital entrepreneurs.
Representatives of world’s governments were challenged to embrace the age of imagination at the World Government Summit held in Dubai recently. Ideas, not oil and gas, are expected to power future economic growth with innovative digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and 3D printing are set to change the way we live and do business in the run-up to the fifth industrial revolution.
Bahrain appears to be leading the trend with an ecosystem poised to capitalise on these new business trends. Thanks to a series of recent initiatives, the kingdom looks set to be the most attractive place to do business in tomorrow’s digital economy. Recent policy reforms enacted in line with its Vision 2030 roadmap have put Bahrain in first place among the MENA states in the International Telecommunications Union’s ICT index. The country’s digital market is now expected to be worth $419 million (BD159 million) by 2021, industry experts said, citing a recent Fitch Solutions report.
Across the region, low oil prices hastened economic diversification away from resource-led growth, and across the Gulf regulatory reforms were implemented with a sense of urgency. With crude having since recovered, the region’s economies are investing the surplus in development projects to ensure continued prosperity.
In Bahrain, already one of the more diversified economies in the region with well developed financial and manufacturing sectors, this investment has taken the form of a strengthened digital infrastructure. The biggest change will be the introduction of 5G the ultra-fast next generation of mobile connectivity expected to power the Internet of Things with download speeds of close to 1GBps. The nation will be among the world’s first to implement the breakthrough technology this June, when telecom provider Viva Bahrain has committed to launching its service. To put that into perspective, not only is 5G about 20 times faster than current wireless networks, the GSMA estimates that it will add $565 billion to global GDP by 2034 – a cash injection equivalent to Sweden’s annual GDP.
With smart cities underway, Bahrain already has a cloud-first policy and is gearing up to migrate 40 government systems and 650 workloads to the national cloud this year. In November, telecoms utility Batelco went one step further in an agreement with Huawei to build a new 1.3MW cloud facility in line with its role in maintaining Bahrain’s position as a leader in the region’s ICT industry and data economy. The digital transformation project has been described as the most reliable and scalable facility in the Kingdom and is expected to help Batelco better serve both the public and private sectors.
Businesses are already responding to this digital transformation with new offices in the kingdom that consequently offer new avenues for employment. Amazon Web Services’ decision to locate its new Middle Eastern hub in Bahrain is one example of how multinationals are responding, while technology leaders Microsoft and Cisco are among those who have found a regional home in the country’s new Fintech Bay.
Entrepreneurs, too, have been quick to spot the appeal of setting up in Bahrain, if this month’s Start-Up Bahrain week is any indication. Over 100 start-ups from talent hubs in India, Hong Kong, the UK and the wider Mena region exhibited at the week’s Unbound Bahrain event, while hundreds more took part in The Apprentice-style Mena StartUp Battle.
The attraction? New regulations that reduce the minimum capital required for a start-up, the ability to innovate, test new products and scale up quickly, as well as improved data protection and bankruptcy laws. All that in addition to an advanced digital infrastructure that offers the perfect ground for companies looking to create value in this new age of imagination.