Interview wih Waheed Al Balushi

“Bahrain has very sophisticated ICT infrastructure and is well connected through telecommunications”

How would you define e-content in your country?

In Bahrain, e-content is still defined as any content based on or represented through an electronic medium online or offline. Some organizations in the public and private sector in Bahrain are conscious of the need for developing e-content, but there is still a lack of general awareness

“I must say that the government in Bahrain is quite proactive to bring forth the country on the digital map of the world”

What is the current status of e-Content in your country?

The national contest played an important role in increasing the awareness for the necessity of e-content. Besides, we have consciously started taking initiatives in international initiatives having digital content as focus. Recently we also hosted the grand jury of World Summit Award, which I am sure will take the country in a long way as far as the necessity of e-content is concerned.

Which area of e-Content is most developed in your country? For example, e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-gov, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion.

E-Government, as the kingdom of Bahrain intends to encourage e-content in public service applications. The success of this category in the WSA for two successive years would be a good indicator. Besides, if we look at the nominations and winners of the national contest – Bahrain e-Content Award – it is pretty clear that government nominations are close to highest and they do good job to win the award as well. I must say that the government in Bahrain is quite proactive to bring forth the country on the digital map of the world.

Which sector (Business, Private Sector, Government or civil society) in your country is more aggressive in developing e-content?

The government, public and private sectors are aggressively competing for e-content development and the availability of online banking, flight reservation; trading and IT services prove that it is a growing trend.

How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in Bahrain?

The Bahrain e-Content Award instituted on 8 May 2004 has, over the years encouraged web developers to further improve and develop their e-product with a view to meeting international standards and customer satisfaction. We have a long way to go, but we have taken the first steps. Besides, since early 2000 we have been extremely active in the Internet phenomenon. As a matter of fact, we have been actively participating in almost all the e-content driven conferences and international meetings in order to envision our approach to digital roadmap.

Can you list the major initiatives which influenced and enhanced the development of e-content in your country?

Bahrain has very sophisticated ICT infrastructure and is well connected through telecommunications

As mentioned, we have become very active in the last half a decade, but we are pacing very aggressively. Some of the activities of significance are:

1. Forming a national advisory committee for e-initiative

2. Launching Bahrain e-Content Award

3. Future IT conference and exhibition and Global ICT Summit 2004 and 2005

4. World Summit Award Grand Jury

5. Arab e-Content Award

6. Launching B-Online project with Microsoft

What are the major bottlenecks on the path of e-content development in Bahrain?

There aren’t enough budgetary or resource allocations towards the development of e-content. Though Bahrain has passed its own e-transaction law, awareness levels continue to be very low.

In most countries, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc. In developing and under developed countries, e-content development is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure. What is the situation in your country?

Bahrain has very sophisticated ICT infrastructure and is well connected through telecommunications. The island is also connected and covered by G3 technology. Internet services with varying speed and services have recorded very high penetration. Within the framework of the King Hamad Initiative of Future Schools, many public schools have started connecting to the Internet. In addition, the Telecommunications Regularity Authority (TRA) has started developing a framework of rules and procedures for new ISP providers in the country.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in your country in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?

Our infrastructure is among the best in the region and the penetration rate is the second highest among Arab countries.

What is the future of e-content development in your country?

Bahrain will have e-commerce websites and its economy will surely develop government services online. E-learning will be implemented in schools and universities and the influence of e-content will reflect on our daily lives.

Which is the most preferred medium (Print, TV, Internet, Radio or Mobile/Wireless) for e-content development?

The Internet has the highest number of e-products in Bahrain. Most of the e-content awards went to web products.
Please tell us about yourself and how your ideas have helped shape the development of e-content in your country.

I run my own business in web consultancy and eContent as the CEO of “Interactive Consultancy”

Together with some friends we established the Bahrain Internet Society. I am its General Secretary, and through this help my community to develop e-content at several levels:

• Writing in the newspaper as a columnist

• Chairing the organizing team of Bahrain eContent Award (2005) – the national pre-selection of WSA 2005

• Conducting lectures, presentations and workshops for schools, social and official organisations and guiding content management.

• Heading the organizing team for hosting the WSA Grand Jury 2005.

• I am also the first professional e-content provider and web-design assessment consultant in Bahrain and a freelancing consultant for some IT companies and official entities in Bahrain.

• I was elected to be the spokesperson for Arab countries and the Middle East region in WSA 2005. This honour will help me take my country to the hub of eContent industry.

• I am also leading the initiative for an Arab e-Content Award in the region.

How is e-content recognised in Bahrain and what are the trends?

Bahrain has formulated The Bahrain e Content Award which started in 2005 and is organised by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Bahrain Internet Society, under the direct inspiration of the World Summit Award.

A total of 149 products were chosen for the Bahrain e-Content Award out of the 198 entered during the first registration in 2005. The criteria for product selection were the same as the WSA award.


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