Digital Transformation in Bahrain and its GCC Fellow States

The arrival of digital transformation has dramatically changed the way governments function, businesses operate, and societies interact. This phenomenon is significantly influencing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which have undergone significant developments in recent years, revolutionising their economies. It has been driven by government initiatives, private investment, and social demand. The Kingdom of Bahrain —as a strategic player in the GCC economy— has made substantial progress in this regard, and that is what we will discuss over the next few paragraphs.

The rapid development of information and communication technologies (ICT) has driven unprecedented growth in various sectors within the Gulf region. According to the Indian research firm Mordor Intelligence, the ICT market in the GCC reached around $116.82 billion last year. The sector is expected to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.49%, approaching $203.09 billion by 2029. This growth has the potential to bolster economic expansion, increase competitiveness on the global stage, and drive innovation within the region.

The adoption of digital technologies has led to the development of a robust physical infrastructure in the GCC countries. Bahrain as an example has invested heavily in building its telecommunications network, with high-speed internet and mobile connectivity, that is provided by the Big Three: Beyon, STC, and Zain. It has also hosted the first-ever public cloud in the region, which was built by Amazon Web Services (AWS). This has attracted investors, who are drawn to the country's business-friendly environment and state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Human capital development is another key area where digital transformation has had a significant impact in the GCC countries. Bahrain has also made substantial investments in ICT education and training programs. Tamkeen —Bahrain’s Labour Fund— aims to develop a large pool of talents in software development through globally-affiliated programmes such as the General Assembly Academy and Reboot Coding Institute. Human resources play a critical role in attracting investors and preparing the island for the demands of the hyper-digitalisation that is driven by artificial intelligence.

Digital transformation has disrupted many sectors, especially commerce and finance. Payment gateways and e-marketplaces have become increasingly popular, providing consumers with a convenient and seamless shopping experience. Crypto-asset exchanges have also emerged as an essential catalyst in the digital transformation landscape regionally, including two companies that are based in Bahrain —Rain Financial and CoinMENA— which provide investors with neo-investment opportunities. They also open vacancies to local talents and highly-skilled expatriates from all over the world.

In conclusion, the impact of digital transformation on economic development in the GCC countries and Bahrain specifically has been significant, despite some regulatory issues here and there. By addressing the challenges head-on, regional policymakers and stakeholders can leverage digital technologies to spur economic diversification, foster entrepreneurship, and empower people across all social strata including citizens and residents. It is essential that GCC countries continue investing in their digital futures while ensuring that no one is left behind on this auspicious transformative journey.