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The ICT market is growing at a faster pace in Bahrain than the rest of the region, demonstrating a recognition of the importance of recent technological developments. We are at a time where businesses need to implement the latest innovations to stay on top of the game and be ahead of the curve.

One of these innovations includes the cutting-edge cloud services offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Whether you are a student, a startup, a small business owner, or a large entity, you can definitely gain an edge from AWS. In an interview with John Kilmartin, Executive Director of ICT at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), we took a deep dive into the importance of AWS and the significance of its investment in Bahrain for businesses and the Kingdom alike. Kilmartin highlights the latest trends in ICT, the growth of Bahrain’s startup ecosystem and the ease of doing business in Bahrain, while highlighting the role the cloud plays in each.

Recently Bahrain has been moving towards establishing itself as a technology and services hub in the region – a natural progression of its long history of pioneering innovations in the GCC. Just this year, Bahrain hosted the first Technology Week Pavilion alongside the AWS Summit and the MITEF Innovation Forum; in collaboration with the EDB, AWS and the StartUp Bahrain community. At the Summit, AWS announced their plans of setting up a Region (cluster of cloud data centers) in Bahrain. This Region will be the first in the Middle East and Africa, and the most robust and best performing model of cloud storage infrastructure currently in existence. With the centre in place early 2019, businesses in the Middle East will be able to operate more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

Ranging from big industry, to government entities and all the way to the smallest of SMEs, this announcement has huge implications on the business community. Kilmartin noted, “as the first large public cloud data centre in the Middle East, AWS will enable businesses to set up and maintain their computing infrastructure quickly and efficiently due to the reduction in latency, increased functionality and lower hosting costs that local cloud computing offers.” In addition to that, he also mentioned “This investment will support innovation, entrepreneurship, and help facilitate public and private sector growth.”

In fact, speed is essential to stay ahead of the competition. If you look at certain industries such as financial services, gaming, and media, the slightest difference in speed managed by a greater proximity to a data provider, can create commercial advantage.

So, when asked what impact AWS’s investment will have on broader business, Kilmartin said “The cost-saving aspect is important. Cloud technology minimises the need for expensive onsite data centre infrastructure, the maintenance of which often has to be outsourced to a specialist. This is a big advantage for SMEs, which need to focus their time and resources on growing their businesses and are more likely to innovate if the technical aspects are made easier.”

“By moving to the cloud, government entities, like any other business, will be able to operate faster than before.” Importantly, these entities will also be able to tailor their services to the demands of a rapidly growing, digitally-literate population, offering more services online and improving processing times.”

The Government of Bahrain, through the Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA), is actively encouraging the use of Cloud Computing Technology, through implementing changes in policy to support it. Mindful of the benefits of this technology, it is also enacting a Cloud First Policy that will encourage government entities and businesses to consider cloud services as a default option when implementing technology solutions.

The iGA has already moved some of its projects from traditional storage to the cloud, and reported significant savings in terms of efficiency, cost and time.

Kilmartin highlighted that “The Cloud First Policy is just one example of the Bahraini government’s efforts on improving the regulatory environment for companies across a wide range of sectors”.

Earlier this year, we saw the introduction of a regulatory sandbox which allows FinTech companies to test their solutions, and associate the necessary regulations to those solutions. The move to the cloud and FinTech solutions requires the development of a data privacy and data protection law to support the new environment in which data is produced, processed, and stored.

Equally important to their cloud services, AWS is a global leader in educating future generations. AWS Educate is Amazon’s global initiative that provides students, educators and institutions with a pathway to cloud learning. AWS Global Certification Program is offered through their existing office in Bahrain, in cooperation with local educational entities. Kilmartin stated “This will have a positive impact on local job creation as research has shown that the average salary of AWS-certified IT professionals is 27.5% higher than the norm.”

Further to this, entities like Tamkeen, EDB, and Bahrain’s Labour Market Regulatory Authority will support businesses that decide to explore the utilization of cloud services. For example, Tamkeen, in partnership with AWS, now provides 12 internationally recognized professional qualifications in cloud computing, while educational institutions in Bahrain are planning the launch of related programs in the near future.

In addition to AWS, accelerators and incubators support the growth of Bahraini startups by providing them with workspaces, business development services and programs for future growth. The Cloud 10 Scalerator, run by specialist investment vehicle C5 Accelerate, in conjunction with AWS, is one organization that is working with startups in Bahrain to help scale up their businesses by using the cloud. The EDB and Tamkeen are working with different stakeholders to launch more accelerators to support startups as they scale. This year Bahrain added Brinc to the list, a Hong-Kong based accelerator who specialize in developing IOT solution and startups.

AWS’s investment into Bahrain is a reflection of the Kingdom’s competitive business environment, advanced ICT infrastructure, low operating costs, highly skilled local workforce and supportive government’s regulation.

To stay updated with the latest technological news in Bahrain, and uncover more on AWS’s contributions to the Kingdom and the startup ecosystem, make sure you follow StartUp Bahrain on Instagram.