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Bahrain Internet City!

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The first mega computer device in the Middle East, the Arab world, and perhaps in Asia was installed in 1940 in Bahrain at the location of the first oil refinery near Awali city during the reign of the late Bahrain ruler. The IBM machine was nowhere near the current machines’ processing and storage power but never the less it was several decades before other countries were equipped with any computing machines. Moreover, the first Middle Eastern technology exhibition and conference was established in the kingdom during the late HH Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Amir of Bahrain in Hoora, where it is named after the event as ‘Exhibition Road’.  Moreover, Cable and Wireless (a British telecommunication company) have taken in the 1960s its Middle Eastern Head-Quarter in Bahrain and distributed its High Frequency (HF) and VHF to the neighboring countries from Bahrain for the broadcast of TV, Radio, Telex, Telegram, and telephones.    

It is known that the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the leading countries in the Middle East with the highest number of university graduates in Computer Science and Information Technology. Every year hundreds of young Bahraini men and women graduate from various universities in Bahrain and overseas with high Intelligence Quotient (IQ). This is in addition to other graduates from Bahrain University, UTB, and Arab Open University, Bahrain Polytechnic, Ahlia plus other specialized computer science software/hardware institutes.  As a result, Information Technology in public and private sectors has more numbers of Bahraini nationals working in it than in other fields.  Considering the high number of qualified IT   professionals here, Bahrain must attract Information Technology, Telecommunication, and Information Security companies to Bahrain, especially multinational companies, to build their Research and Development facilities in Bahrain.

Over two decades ago our neighbors Dubai built a Silicon Valley outside the main city called ‘Dubai Internet City’ which is currently the largest center for multi-national IT and related technology companies in the Middle East. Many companies take regional, technical, and sales offices in the computing village. The Internet City of Dubai employs around two thousand professionals, who are mainly from Europe, Asia, the Far East, and other non-GCC Arab nationals. The revenue and economic growth behind this project have been tremendous in terms of expatriate expenses, housing, traveling…etc. The Internet city also is a key factor behind the success of GITEX exhibitions, Dubai’s technological advances, and its tourism development.  While Dubai Internet City sells itself as a business-friendly environment with excellent low-cost connectivity, the reality is one of a heavily censored internet with prices that are 5-10 times the price of connectivity in Europe or the USA. The recent economic downturn has affected major activities in Dubai such as construction, and tourism but not much in this particular area of technology.

We in Bahrain have a key differentiator to attract these giant companies to the kingdom and that is our qualified and experienced professionals in the area of computing and Information Technology. The young Bahraini graduate men and women are assets for any global corporation that can easily integrate these talented Bahrainis in the GCC and Middle Eastern markets. Furthermore, Bahrain has strong Infrastructure facilities, Air transportation, and Telecommunications, and is a    multi-lingual nation as a HUB to attract more of these companies to make Manama their regional office for their Middle Eastern operations. Although some of them have very limited operations and activities in Bahrain and employ a small number of Bahrainis, our dream would be to offer a few thousand young Bahraini opportunities to shine in these companies for years to come.

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Building a silicon valley in Bahrain can also attract many non-Information Technology companies to set up their regional Call Centers such as Egypt, India, and other developing countries. So let us plan and work towards building Bahrain’s Internet City and contributing towards his Majesty’s 2030 vision, which will turn Bahrain into a strong center of the region’s economy.

Dr. Jassim Haji
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