Complex Made Simple

Bahrain TRA commissions joint study with Booz&Co

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in Bahrain has commissioned a joint study with Strategy& (formerly Booz&Co) to examine next-generation regulations in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.

The study titled , ‘Rethinking ICT regulation: Regulators’ essential role in capturing the full potential of the ICT sector’, aims to assess the importance of regulation in the new digital environment and understand the evolution requirements for regulatory frameworks. When reached for comment, Partner and Vice President of Strategy&, Mr. Bahjat El-Darwiche was quoted in saying that “The purpose of the study is to create a platform for dialogue among ICT stakeholders in the Middle East on the effect of the digital revolution on existing regulatory frameworks and how regulators should respond to these disruptive forces in a manner that fosters both innovation and fairness.”

The changing industry landscape is particularly acute in the Middle East where the rapidly expanding ICT sector is a vital part of national development. The telecom sector, which is at the core of ICT, has changed from primarily focusing on infrastructure and basic connectivity to promoting a broad range of digitization-related services, including cloud computing and smart meters. Companies in the sector have also evolved, from licensed telecom operators to a complex ecosystem of stakeholders, including over-the-top providers and device manufacturers. Policymakers have followed suit, moving their focus from establishing a liberalized, competitive marketplace to developing an innovative and economically vibrant ICT sector.

The challenge for regulators is to rethink their regulations while recognizing that as their countries become more digitally sophisticated, so regulation’s effect and influence diminishes. If regulators are to promote an innovative and robust ICT ecosystem, and protect broader national interests, they should begin by examining three key areas: market efficiency, scarcity management, and safeguarding customer welfare.

In addition, regulators will need to derive lessons from other sectors. For ICT the most relevant lessons are that innovation drives regulation, that regulators need to intervene when non-regulated activities start negatively affecting customer welfare, and that regulators should pay attention to non-regulated activities as these create risks in regulated markets. For the Middle East, this implies a digitization-focused approach in which regulation provides ongoing oversight and monitoring of critical ICT and digital markets as they evolve across industries.

General Director of TRA Bahrain, Mr. Mohamed Hamad Bubashait was also quoted in saying: “Regulators in the Middle East have a difficult but achievable task ahead to extend their skills and knowledge in market-making and addressing market failure to new, emerging digital markets.” Mr. Bubashait further added: “They will need to identify, adapt, and apply the best regulatory practices from around the world in ways that efficiently satisfy consumer and national interests at home. This task is necessary to ensure the future economic and social prosperity of the MENA region.”

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