Rashed Al-Snan, CEO of Etisalcom, Board Member of BCCI Technology Committee, and Board Member of B.Tech shares his views on the ICT sector in the Kingdom.
What’s the role played by Etisalcom W.L.L in Bahrain’s ICT sector?
Etisalcom started business in 2005 after legislation opened up competition in the telecom sector in 2004. We worked towards ICT services since then and launched ICT services in 2011. We have contributed in most of the ICT projects within Bahrain, establishing ourselves as a key provider of the ICT industry in Bahrain. We achieved the status because telecom must lead to ICT. All telecom companies in Bahrain are involved in ICT now and we had started earlier because of our vision and we built on it. If you look at our logo, it is “I see tomorrow” or “ICT”. The first ICT project that we were involved was in 2007. We provided ICT solutions for the Bahrain World Trade Center in partnership with Telecom Malaysia. Now, you see Etisalcom in all major ICT tenders. Technology is taking this sector in different ways. Things like digital transformation and artificial intelligence is taking this sector far beyond where it is now. Things we once never imagined we now take for granted – and we are always connected. Now, what else can you do? You build up the value of services. People talk of smart cities; all these are coming up in a direction that pushes ICT in a wider scope than where it is today.
How do you believe Bahrain’s telecommunications sector can make Bahrain the ICT hub of the region?
There is a very good focus from the government in the establishment of an independent national network with the split of Batelco. This network will provide fiber optic to every industry thus enabling high-speed connection, better utilization, and efficient data transfer. We have done the infrastructure, everybody is connected, and now we are adding a portfolio of better services. Telecom providers like us will be bringing in more services in this aspect. We also have Amazon Web Services (AWS) along with this. AWS data center in Bahrain is the first in the region. Being the host of the AWS data center will attract other companies and data centers to come in. Earlier, there was a migration to data centers outside Bahrain. However, many government entities in Bahrain have migrated to AWS now. This will make Bahrain as the ICT hub in the region. The government is also interested in having multiple uplinks in the country. More cables from different routes available, further putting focus on Bahrain being an ICT hub.
What challenges and opportunities do you foresee for the ICT sector in Bahrain?
One of the major ICT problems in Bahrain is that you cannot define ICT. It penetrates into everything as in health, education, etc. If we cannot see ICT as a separate entity, how do we make it grow or improve? That is one of the major problems. As for opportunity, we will always have new technologies and the opportunity for companies like us to deploy it to society. Nobody can stop technology from changing and improving. If you don’t update the technology that you have, you will be left behind. The scope of technology goes vertically and horizontally. Aside from upgrades, new industries always pop-up. Cyber security is a challenge as well as an opportunity. As you put your business online, there is always a risk. The career opportunities to tackle the situation is expanding.
How do public-private partnerships advance the country’s ICT sector?
One major element in the private sector that the government focuses is on the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). You will see a major presence of SMEs in every economy. There is much more focus in growing startups in the country by entities like Tamkeen and EDB. This means bringing in private entrepreneurships involving ICT. Recently, more than 9000 people wanted an early retirement and it would be best to encourage these retirees to enter entrepreneurship and create startups that will employ more people. These would answer problems arising from unemployment and growth while contributing to the country and the national economy.
What’s next for Etisalcom?
Onset of the Batelco Split, we will be focusing our activity on our services. We pride ourselves on our own products. One among them is a cloud service that is unique in this region. Other telcoms use ready-made cloud services. We, on the other hand, use our own. We offer unique cloud time and attendance solutions. It allows users to have a single attendance system from multiple locations and countries. No one else has this in Bahrain or the region and puts us in a very good position in the market. It also enables us to ‘white label’ our products, which means our clients are able to rebrand our services as part of their own corporate identity. Our vision is to inspire growth and expansion by continuously introducing new services, adding to our portfolio of ICT solutions. Through strategic alliances and key partnerships with major international carriers and providers across the world, Etisalcom will deliver competitive end-to-end information and communications solutions globally.