With the opening of a key IT ministers’ summit in Manama this week, these are exciting times for the information and telecoms sectors in Bahrain. A string of new deals has recently been announced, along with the launching of a new telecoms company, heightening competition in the small Gulf state.
The third Asian IT ministers’ summit and Telecom Arabiya 2005 fair opened on March 21, with Bahraini Transportation Minister Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa outlining a series of issues for discussion that had arisen since the previous summit in India. Language difficulties, clashes of internet cultures and protecting privacy were among the hottest topics, along with the future of the region’s communications infrastructure.
Regarding the latter point, Sheikh Ali told ministers that Bahrain was the ideal platform for the summit, due to its advanced business infrastructure, and the high level of IT and telecoms penetration. Figures for mobile subscription rates, for example, back up this claim. In 2003, these had reached some 63.8% of the population, with industry insiders saying that despite previous slowing compound annual growth rates (CAGRs), the liberalisation of the market from July 1 last year had seen a reinvigoration of subscriber totals. Late in 2004, subscription rates were widely reported around the half a million mark.