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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - MANAMA — The "Virtual Bahrain 2020" conference and exhibition, kicked off on Tuesday remotely under the patronage of Mohammed Ali Al Qaed, chief executive of the Information & eGovernment Authority. The conference is organized by WorkSmart for Events Management and the Bahrain Technology Companies Society (BTECH), with the participation of more than 500 experts and technologists, and a group of elite speakers from inside and outside Bahrain.
In his speech during the opening of the conference, Al Qaed said Bahrain had already entered an advanced stage in its digital transformation journey in the information and ICT sector, which is one of the pillars of the development process in the Kingdom. He stressed that Bahrain’s direct response to the coronavirus pandemic reflects the national efforts initiated to tackle the repercussions of COVID-19, and comes within the framework of activating the strategic structure for e-government and solid ICT infrastructure in the country. Indicating that the digital transformation initiatives enabled citizens, residents, and companies to acquire a broad range of basic electronic services easily and smoothly, this provided a suitable platform for developing and implementing more digital transformation plans at an accelerated pace.
“Information & eGovernment Authority, in collaboration with the kingdoms various ministries, government entities, and private sector is working to achieve Bahrain digital transformation objectives. We must stress the significance of collaboration between the public and private sectors in advancing the digital agenda of the Kingdom of Bahrain.” Al Qaed said.
"We have worked collectively and were able to achieve tangible results in a short period. the most recent achievements during the pandemic are optimizing and digitizing most of the public services including judicial court services and Civil ID card services, and enhancing communication. This is in addition to strengthening connectivity and cloud infrastructure to enable greater access to Edunet eLearning portal helping students to continue their studies virtually, and reinforcing the e-health facilities allowing the citizens and residents to avail services remotely.
“We are also witnessing that our society is embracing eCommerce and e-banking as their preferred methods of conducting financial transactions, and the Kingdom is edging ever closer to becoming a cashless society as outlined in Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030," he added.
Al Qaed concluded his statement by emphasizing that this technical conference would highlight the national and regional achievements in light of the current situation, expressing his thanks and appreciation to the organizers of this event, headed by WorkSmart Company for Events Management and the Bahrain Technology Companies Society (BTECH).
Stefano Pettinato the resident representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Bahrain, affirmed that the Bahraini readiness in the field of Internet and communication infrastructure has enabled all institutions and citizens to maintain their normal lives in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and to move quickly towards conducting remote business while maintaining productivity, efficiency and receiving government and private services.
“Bahrain has succeeded in its efforts towards the digital transformation, building a knowledge economy, and a good investment in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and others, and this has significantly contributed to supporting growth without affecting job opportunities, in a way that leads to achieving sustainable development goals,” Pettinato added.
Mohammed Zayed, a senior official at Microsoft Middle East, said in his speech at the conference that IT decisions that would have once been markers of advancement and competitive edge suddenly become mandatory transformation for business continuity, and worst-case scenarios envisioned in emergency plans represent the next phase of operations in every enterprise, and working remotely from home has become a required standard practice.
“The top digital trends during the next phase are virtual and hybrid environments in offices, schools, conferences, courts, parliaments, and banks, always-on government, remote e-learning, online retail, and digital health advisory and self-diagnosis, in addition to digital non-centralized call centers,” Zayed said.
He pointed out during his speech the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on restructuring institutions, redefining job roles, accelerating reliance on e-learning, adopting a remote work approach, removing barriers for governments cloud adoption, and how it enabled leaders to adopt digital transformation trends.
Ubaydli Ubaydli, chairman of the Bahrain Technology Companies Society (BTECH), affirmed that the efforts made by the e-government over the past twenty years have contributed to placing Bahrain in the ranks of the advanced countries digitally, adding that this was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, where business and public life continued smoothly without interruption.
“The pandemic contributed to transforming the performance of the business, education, trade, and others, and has produced many practices that must be evaluated, and utilized to accelerate performance, facilitate business, and support post-pandemic digital transformation efforts,” Ubaydli added.
Following these speeches, "Virtual Bahrain" conference continued its agenda by holding several sessions that discussed digital transformation in e-governments and e-learning, during which several elite experts spoke. Prof. Ahmed Darwish, former Minister of Administrative Development, and Ms. Ohoud Ali Shehail, director general of Ajman Digital Government, Dr. Fadi Al-Aloul, professor and head of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the American University of Sharjah, Dr. Jeff Zabudsky, CEO of Bahrain Polytechnic University, and others. The conference concludes tomorrow with a discussion of several related topics by a group of speakers from inside and outside Bahrain. — SG
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