Complex Made Simple

Will Bahrain be the next technology hub in GCC?

Small island nation Bahrain, which has attracted huge investment in the fintech sector in the last few months, is fast moving on the path to becoming the region’s major technology and innovation hub.

Recently, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, better known as Mumtalakat, has become the first government-owned company (in Bahrain) to fully migrate all its technology infrastructure to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.

READ: Sluggish growth: How can private businesses push GCC’s public sector?

Cloud First policy

Mumtalakat has announced the closure of its onsite and offsite data centers and this initiative is part of its digitization plans that are in line with the Government of Bahrain’s Cloud First Policy.

“We are proud to be the first company in Bahrain to migrate our entire IT infrastructure from legacy systems to the cloud-based offering of AWS. Increased operational efficiency and security are integral components of our digital strategy,” said Mahmood H. Alkooheji, Chief Executive Officer, Mumtalakat.

Amazon’s push

During the past few months, many new initiatives have been taken by the Bahrain government to boost the technology domain while some of the top IT giants have also expressed keen interest to invest in Bahrain. The development of the technology sector could help Bahrain to diversify its economy, thereby helping the startups and next generation businesses to ensure further growth and profitability.

READ: Why are expats willing to invest more in UAE?

Bahrain’s hi-tech sector is still absorbing last September’s announcement by AWS, the $10 billion cloud computing subsidiary of the US-listed electronic commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon, that it would open three data centers, or ‘availability zones’, in Bahrain by 2019, its first in the Middle East.

This was a major coup for Bahrain given AWS holds 30 percent of the global cloud market with revenue due to hit $25 billion this year.

Zubin Chagpar, AWS’s regional head of public sector, said Bahrain was chosen because it was “was already doing exciting things around cloud usage, it wasn’t waiting for a data center to come to it”.

This includes the government’s ‘Cloud First’ policy, part of a national plan to deliver more services at lower costs. Bahrain Polytechnic last year became one of the first government bodies to shift its learning systems — including course materials, communications, and surveys – to AWS, while the Central Bank announced in February it had successfully moved its website to the AWS cloud.

READ: Once desperate to leave, why do Syrian refugees now want to return home?

Bahrainis showing keen interest

Khalid Al Rumaihi, CEO of Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), said at the Employability Summit 2018 in March that 3,000 young Bahrainis had signed up for AWS Educate, an initiative to develop cloud-based learning. Al Rumaihi suggested that Bahrain could provide many of the 10,000 data solutions architects that AWS estimates the Middle East will need in the next five years.

There are estimates that a number of Bahraini youths is expected to pursue technology-driven courses in order to compete for jobs available in the burgeoning technology market.