Within the last few years, Bahrain has seen a surge in digital transformation in both its private and government sectors. In 2020 alone, the kingdom managed to successfully migrate all essential government services, including its judiciary system, to various digital channels, showcasing a major milestone in Bahrain’s digital journey. In the midst of all this, Artificial Intelligence has found itself to be a hotly discussed topic in both business and government sectors. According to a report published by PwC, Artificial Intelligence is estimated to contribute $320 billion to the GDP of the Middle East by 2030, with an estimated 8.2 per cent contribution to GDP in the GCC. As the world embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with technology at its core, Artificial Intelligence is expected to be a crucial element in aiding Bahrain’s transition into a post-oil economy.
Digital transformation is a main pillar in both Bahrain’s Vision 2030 and its Digital Government Strategy 2022, which highlight the kingdom’s commitment to enhancing citizen’s life through embracing emerging technologies. This is widely seen in the public sector, where the country has taken leaps in incorporating emerging technologies to benefit citizens, residents and businesses through having service-focused and citizen-focused objectives.
Additionally, key government stakeholders, such as the Information and eGovernment Authority, the Economic Development Board, Tamkeen, and the Central Bank of Bahrain have played an important role in embracing technologies and fostering an ecosystem of innovation.
Consequently, Bahrain is uniquely suited to become a leading regional hub for AI. With continued investments from major international technology companies and a national focus on building AI capabilities, it holds the potential to be a game changer in the region.
The future opportunity lies in boosting research and development in AI, where the challenge remains in establishing a strong network for AI research which could help mark Bahrain on the map as regional player.
With the recent announcement of the Nasser Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Centre, the kingdom has taken the initial steps towards that goal. Increased public-private sector partnerships are also vital in propelling the kingdom towards its AI ambitions, as they encourage the use of innovative technologies, increase efficiency, and cost-savings.
Along with key government and industry players, private-sector organisations are a cornerstone of the economy, and they have a crucial role to play by aligning with the Bahrain’s vision to digitally transform and embrace Artificial Intelligence. As AI has the potential to disrupt markets, organisations who do not embrace it may be left behind, and thus businesses need to step up by taking a holistic approach to implementing AI, with its potential to enhance efficiency and personalisation, giving businesses who adopt it unparalleled advantages. This of course should be done in line with individual organisation goals and needs, while engaging different parts of the businesses, leading to tangible value for the projects. Upskilling employees with the right tools and abilities is also essential in realising the full potential of AI implementation. The use cases vary and are numerous, such as big data analysis and insights, natural language interfaces, image recognition, and new customer experiences. Enterprise-grade AI can offer extreme reliability and resilience, end-to-end security, and simplified support and maintenance.
With businesses adapting to the new normal, the digital transformation journey has been bumpy for many, with a lot of these changes happening at a quick pace during the pandemic. Now looking forward, businesses in Bahrain have the responsibility of setting longer-term strategies in place for the adoption of emerging technologies to keep pace. From capacity building in the education sector, to on-the-job training and implementation of AI technologies – the potential social and economic benefits of adopting AI are boundless and its value indispensable. New ways of working, improved efficiency and accelerated growth will emerge as the public and private sectors come together to build upon the AI capabilities of the kingdom for the future.
(The author is sales director at Gulf Business Machines, Bahrain)