Mohammed Ali Al Qaed, Chief Executive, Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA): Interview

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Mohammed Ali Al Qaed, Chief Executive, Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA)

Interview: Mohammed Ali Al Qaed

To what extent did the Covid-19 pandemic impact digital transformation in Bahrain?

MOHAMMED ALI AL QAED: Bahrain developed a robust ICT sector years ahead of the pandemic, and when the crisis emerged the country had the necessary infrastructure and strategies in place to support the shift to working, learning and communicating online. As such, the kingdom of Bahrain was able to face the challenges brought about by the pandemic in a fast and efficient manner, with technology being a central part of our response. All public entities were already connected and collaborating, which minimised delays and improved agility. The pandemic also accelerated the development of online services, which encouraged citizens to limit their physical presence in governmental offices and buildings.

We are continuing to work towards the transformation: by the end of 2022 every governmental document will be digitalised and authenticated through a mobile app. These efforts will be supported by the Telecommunications, ICT and Digital Economy Sector Strategy 2022-26, which was launched in the first quarter of 2022. In order to fast-track these developments the iGA is working to facilitate and encourage greater participation from the private sector.

In what ways is Bahrain an attractive option for international companies that specialise in emerging technologies such as cloud computing?

AL QAED: Bahrain is a leader in cloud computing. More companies are opening their data centres in Bahrain, with the relevant regulations in place regarding data usage and sovereignty. This strengthens our position as an attractive destination for domestic and international investment. The kingdom is also home to a strong talent pool, which is developed through partnerships between academia, the government and the local business community. Moreover, a concerted effort to enhance logistical capacity during the pandemic further supports opportunities for investment and growth.

What are the main challenges and opportunities in expanding e-government solutions?

AL QAED: One of the most significant challenges is optimising the digital operations of local governmental institutions. We are working to have one central government application and multiple smaller, interconnected government apps specific to issues such as traffic, utilities, investment, education and health care. Having a centralised approach will help to promote these tools more efficiently, as well as ensure that citizens receive the best possible services.

Another area of development is related to the readiness and participation of the private sector. We have identified a gap in this area and it will be important to enable the private sector to have a greater role in the development of the ICT sector. The government is working to grow the space for collaboration in order to take full advantage of private players’ expertise in boosting efficiency and productivity.

How do you view the role of data in shaping public policy and advancing strategic goals?

AL QAED: Data is key to economic development. In this context, Bahrain has in place an open data portal, allowing for the visualisation, analysis and reporting of statistics to facilitate better decision-making. Benefitting from the power of cloud adoption, the kingdom started utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse big data, which supported projects in areas such as health care, labour and education, namely the employability skills portal project. Big data is also used in the BeAware app, which alerts individuals if they have been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.

The iGA has compiled a collection of data sets across different public entities, which helps us to inform decision-makers. We also issued a series of policies in 2021 to support these goals, including the Open Data Policy, the eParticipation Policy, the Digital First Policy, the One-Only Data Policy and the Digital as a Right Policy.

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The Report: Bahrain 2022

ICT chapter from The Report: Bahrain 2022

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