What opportunities are presented by the transition of demand from voice to data, and what role, if any, does generational change play?
ULAIYAN AL WETAID: Over the past several years we have experienced a global evolution of the telecoms and information sector. Historically, voice was the service in greatest demand, and as such was the focus for providers in terms of strategy and infrastructure. Nowadays, the demand for data – across the board – is increasing exponentially. This dramatic and continuing change requires a shift in mentality for companies so that the industry becomes more adaptable and better equipped to meet the data demands of customers who are streaming video, including businesses such as those in the retail sector who are moving online.
We have been reviewing our business model and strategy with this long-term trend in mind, as this is where the future is. Most of this change has been driven by younger generations who are more adaptable to technological change, developing fluency at increasingly earlier ages. The generational component is an important consideration because not only is the younger generation poised to become the primary consumer base over the medium to long term, but they also constitute the talent pool from which companies across all sectors will be drawing.
How has high data usage affected wireless networks in infrastructure terms? To what extent is this affecting cloud and other related tech services?
AL WETAID: As we get deeper into data usage infrastructure, future trends become the means by which we determine our strategy moving forward. While there has been significant growth in data usage, the trend is towards wireless broadband rather than fibre optic. This determines where investment in infrastructure and development will be allocated. I see 5G being the next step in ICT, and so it makes sense to work towards developing the technology and infrastructure necessary for this, rather than investing capital expenditure in a technology that may be at its peak despite its current competitive performance. The speed of technological change will continue to be the greatest challenge that tech companies face in any market. Cloud technology is hugely important because it allows for greater efficiency and scalability for business and government organisations alike. It is no longer necessary for each company to have an IT department and its own set of servers; these can be outsourced to specialised companies. A service or capacity can be bought when needed and dropped when the demand changes. As the government adopts the Cloud First Policy and corporations locate their data centres in Bahrain, there is an increased need for technical skills and knowledge about cloud services within the business community.
What roles can the government, telecoms providers and private companies play in encouraging technology start-ups and developing local expertise?
AL WETAID: The government plays an important role in shaping the overall framework for the economy and the ICT sector specifically. Creating and fostering a tech business-friendly environment will ensure such businesses are attracted to Bahrain as a place to grow and develop. An example of this is the new financial technology regulatory sandbox. Government policies – such as the Cloud First Policy – can help create demand. In addition to these initiatives, service providers and international companies can partner with local start-ups to offer training and services as they develop to meet the needs in a particular area of the market. All of this is interconnected, and education and training play an important central role in creating regional technology hubs. Currently, Bahrain has a lot of the necessary ingredients to be a tech hub, but the challenge is to continue to adapt to the pace of change while investing strategically in infrastructure and education so the capacity to support demand continues to be available.
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