Technology during Covid highlighted

MANAMA: The rapid change in technology adoption in multiple sectors since the Covid-19 pandemic started and what it might look like once the pandemic ends were major themes of discussion at the Virtual Bahrain online conference. 

The two-day online event, held under the patronage of Mohammed Al Qaed, chief executive of the Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA), featured comprehensive panels on eGovernment, online education, ecommerce, cybersecurity, digital banking and online news. 

In addition to case studies about how different sectors coped with the crisis, 42 experts also offered advice about how stakeholders could adapt as the pandemic continues. 

Mr Al Qaed said, “The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has generated a sense of crisis for the world’s digital agenda. Internet usage grew by 70pc. Use of virtual collaboration tools grew by 600pc. 

“Bahrain’s most notable recent achievements during this time include the digitisation of judicial court services and bringing most public services online. We have also scaled the cloud infrastructure to enable students to continue their studies virtually. 

“The kingdom was able to embrace the benefits of eHealth, with many essential functions now accessible remotely, without needing to visit hospitals or health centres. Every sector will continue to see significant digital transformation as a result of the pandemic.”

During the eGovernment panel, Esam Hammad, Tamkeen’s director of partnerships and customer engagements, recommended that businesses should find new channels to reach customers. 

He cited the example of subscription-based business models, which have proven to be increasingly successful for businesses in certain sectors. He also noted that the organisation observed a rise in self-employment as a way for citizens to maintain their income level. 

These changes come as consumers have changed buying habits. According to a recent Ernst and Young report, 92pc of UAE and KSA consumers noticed a change in shopping habits, preferring online shopping options, because 58pc were uncomfortable going to a shopping mall and 33pc were uncomfortable visiting grocery stores.

The Benefit Company observed that total cashless transfers rose from BD363million in 2019 to BD1.6billion in the first half of 2020. During the three-day Eid holiday, an estimated BD22.5m of ‘Eidi’ gifts for children were transferred digitally.

While small and micro enterprises are moving just their payment and sales process online, larger enterprises have also been forced to move critical back room operations and business processes into the cloud. 

According to a McKinsey report, data showed that digital adoption had jumped five years within the span of eight weeks after lockdown restrictions were enforced globally.

Cybersecurity experts found that this heightened the issue of potential cyber threats. While it used to be an afterthought when a solution was identified, managers were now considering it before other factors when picking optimal technology solutions.

However, Ahmed Isa Abdulfateh, director of emergency response at iGA, cautioned that companies in Bahrain should continually monitor these solutions, as new threats and security gaps emerge, in addition to training employees on internal security protocols. 


Mr Abdulfateh


Over 50 companies from various sectors were also part of the virtual exhibitors at the conference.




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