In diversifying its economy, Bahrain has created fertile ground for start-ups.
Businesses starting life now are, by necessity, swept up in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
Those that survive are not those who learn to swim against the tide; survivors build boats.
By adopting a digital culture from the start, businesses can build for themselves the kind of momentum we are seeing in the non-oil sector.
In the private sector, digital transformation has the power to engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations and reinvent products, services and business models.
Governments can use it to engage citizens, empower public servants, optimise departmental workflow and reinvent service delivery.
The Bahrain government’s cloud-first strategy is a clear demonstration of its realisation that digitally charged success starts with the cloud.
Over the next five years, spending on public cloud services in Bahrain is expected to almost quadruple, from BD2.74 million in 2017 to BD10.05m.
Investments in public, private and hybrid solutions will enable businesses to generate almost BD129m in net revenues over that period; and overall IT spending is expected to reach BD296.76m, with 12,600 people in the kingdom working in IT roles by the end of 2022.
Many of these findings come from an International Data Corporation (IDC) report that draws on a decade of research to conclude that Bahrain’s future success lies in a continued embrace of digital solutions.
The Microsoft ecosystem – the companies that sell, service, deploy, or otherwise work with Microsoft products – employed more than 3,100 workers in Bahrain in 2017.
That ecosystem is also a robust generator of downstream revenues, accounting for BD10.57 for every BD1 produced by Microsoft, according to IDC estimates.
The report predicts that cloud services and the Microsoft ecosystem will generate more than 5,600 jobs in Bahrain over the next five years.
What we see happening here – IT job creation begetting non-IT jobs – is a manifestation of the World Bank’s own estimate that each technology job generates 4.3 others across industries and income groups.
This is compelling reassurance for those worried about labour displacement in the face of increased automation. As with previous industrial revolutions, 4IR can be a net creator of jobs.
But we all have a responsibility to work hand in hand to manage the change. Properly skilled, upskilled and reskilled citizens need not ever find themselves out of work, as long as we all work together to ensure that they have the necessary support and encouragement to repurpose their talents for the modern digital workplace.
We must remember this: the modern workplace is already showing signs of the new jobs – the yet-to-be-created jobs – that the digital age will require.
Boardrooms, conferences and summits continue to buzz with the words of government and corporate leaders lamenting skills gaps in their native economies.
There are not enough cloud professionals; not enough data scientists; not enough AI specialists; not enough cybersecurity experts. These are gaps waiting to be filled by those willing to train or retrain.
Bahrain will need these skills as it drives its ambitious national programmes forward.
Microsoft has always believed that the key to being ready for changes like 4IR is to promote a philosophy of lifelong learning.
We set up the Microsoft Cloud Society to this end, along with a range of other learning and start-up-support programmes that offer the opportunity for students and professionals to perpetually update their skill sets and stay relevant and competitive, regardless of industrial revolutions and other economic upheavals.
This approach, we believe, is in keeping with Bahrain’s own vision – to keep moving and looking forward.
The author is the Bahrain and Oman country manager for Microsoft