Initially, Bahrain had few electronic services and electronic payment offerings for its stakeholders, which resulted in:
With the rapid advancements in the ICT field, the Government was quick to recognise the benefits of technology in improving access and delivery of information and services to the public. This led to the establishment of a fully equipped National Data Center, followed by the creation of a secure National Data Network and the introduction of Smart ID Cards for citizens and residents.
A growing realisation of the importance of a coordinated, well-governed eGovernment programme across the Kingdom resulted in the establishment of the Supreme Committee for Information Technology and Communication (SCICT), under the chairmanship of His Majesty King Hamad’s special representative H.H Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, as per a 2005 Cabinet decision. The SICT implemented Cabinet directives in line with eGovernment initiatives, devising comprehensive strategies and plans to develop the ICT sector across the Kingdom.
The committee is currently known as the Ministerial Committee for Information Technology and Communication (MICT), and is headed by H.E. Minister of Interior Gen. Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
Consequently, the eGovernment Authority was formed in 2007 to cater to the needs of citizens and help improve the quality of their lives by making their interactions with government as easy as possible.
Bahrain’s National eGovernment Strategy 2007-2010 (PDF, 1614KB, 25 pages) ensures the effective delivery of eServices to all constituents – citizens, residents and businesses – under the motto “Delivering customer value through a collabourative government”. The eGovernment Strategy steered and empowered government entities to enhance their public services, and implemented Business Process Reengineering practices that led to the launch of 200 electronic services and four main service delivery channels, an eGovernment National Portal (www.bahrain.bh), a Mobile Gateway, a Government Services Contact Centre (80008001), and eService Centres.
The success of the 2007-2010 National eGovernment Strategy (PDF, 1614KB, 25 pages) was the result of a clear vision mandated by the Kingdom’s political and administrative leadership and supported by a highly qualified team of professionals.
Numerous strategic projects and initiatives were conceptualised and implemented from 2007 to 2010 to achieve a range of objectives. These include, but are not limited to, National eGovernment Interconnectivity projects such as the National Enterprise Architecture, the Integrated Workflow Management System, ‘Zajel’, National Gateway Infrastructure, a National Authentication Framework, and eInvestor.
Among the most important re-engineering initiatives launched during this time were a Government Procedures & Operations Re-engineering Project, an eGovernment Portal Infrastructure Project, an eKiosk Enhancement Project, a National Payment Platform, Implemention of ISO 27001 for Information Security, and Implementation of ISO 27001 for Quality Assurance Standards. Security Level Assessment of eGovernment Services & Websites to minimise vulnerability to security was also launched during this period.
Moreover, attention was given to awareness and marketing programmes while the strategy was being implemented. Awareness of the eGovernment activities and services increased from 25% to over 77% amongst individuals, 96% amongst businesses, and 100% across government sectors. Meanwhile, usage of eServices grew from 7% to 47% amongst individuals, 85% across businesses, and 92% among government organisations. The growth was attributed to a mix of traditional and non-conventional campaigns designed to collect end-user feedback.
Further information can be viewed in the 2007-2010 eGovernment Strategy’s Objectives & Achievements Booklet (PDF, 1614KB, 25 pages).
To maintain the momentum, carry its achievements forward, and take its eGovernment programme to new heights, the Kingdom conceptualised a National eGovernment Strategy for 2011-2014 with a motto to ‘ADVANCE’.
The strategy focuses on service delivery to citizens and residents, and optimally utilising and improving eGovernment infrastructure. It aims to achieve next generation government excellence by delivering high-quality services effectively, valuing efficiency, advocating proactive customer engagement, nurturing entrepreneurship, collaborating with all stakeholders, and encouraging innovation.
The eGovernment’s mission is to “to realise the Kingdom of Bahrain’s eGovernment vision by defining and managing the implementation of relevant strategies, setting and monitoring compliance to policies and standards, facilitating transformation of services, and advocating incubation of next generation concepts, all in close collaboration with government entities and effective partnership with the private sector.”
The 2016 strategy (PDF, 6.9MB, 20 pages) is comprised of several eGovernment initiatives which include, but are not limited to:
Some of the key achievements during this period include:
Further information can be viewed in the 2016 eGovernment Strategy’s Objectives & Achievements (PDF, 6.9MB, 20 pages).
Due to macro-economic factors prevailing during 2015 and 2016, the eGovernment Strategy was refreshed to aligned with the 2015-2018 Government Plan. The eGovernment strategy refresh had the following objectives:
The strategy refresh helped to raise awareness of the role of eGovernment among citizens, while optimising ICT investment in the public sector, establishing advanced ICT infrastructure (especially Cloud-based systems) to help attract further foreign investment, and strengthening communications between the private and public sectors.
With a focus on cost optimisation, eGovernment initiatives were able to reduce government expenditures by 30% by the end of 2017. Cloud computing technologies were introduced at a national level, ably supported by the Cloud First policy and government sponsored training for professionals. A sustained focus on eGovernment saw an incredible 43% year-on-year leap in the usage of electronic payment services. A national cyber security strategy was developed and implemented, backed by the training of 3,500 employees. By the end of this period, 95% of the government entities were interacting with their constituents through social media.
Digital Government Strategy 2022 highlights the Government’s commitment to proactively transforming its services through digital technologies, while enhancing the digital environment, advancing digital readiness, and encouraging digital usage.
Through Digital Government Strategy 2022, the Government of Bahrain, as stipulated in its Government Action Plan, is advancing the use of both emerging and mature technologies to enable a more open, responsive, and efficient government. The Government aspires to develop services designed around the needs and behaviors of citizens, and deliver them in real time on devices of their choice.
The strategy is being supervised by the Ministerial Committee for Information & Communication Technology (MCICT) and supported by the National ICT Governance Committee (ICTGC), which monitors the coordination and implementation of strategic digital initiatives across the Kingdom.
Digital Government Strategy 2022 stipulates that Government entities will, where possible:
Government has ambitious plans to use digital technologies extensively to strengthen its services, processes, and decision making, as well as its ability to share data with constituents. There is specific emphasis on improving the individual organisational capabilities of Government entities by aligning their digital strategies with the national Digital Government Strategy, strengthening the governance mechanisms, enabling a digital workforce, reinforcing agile development and analytical platforms while deploying robust cyber security measures and controls.
With a strong focus on the above principles, the Government has also accelerated the creation of an enabling environment to develop a digital economy through stronger digital infrastructure, policies, regulations and technology platforms, while supporting public sector entities in their individual digital transformation plans.
By the end of 2020, Government now provides 504 eServices — 391 via the National Portal, bahrain.bh, 16 via self-service ekiosks, and 97 via smartphone applications that can be downloaded from the eGovernment app store, bahrain.bh/apps. The eServices have helped the government reduce operational costs by 82%, allowing users to complete their transactions online 76% faster and more 69% more efficiently than traditional methods, all without needing to visit service centres.
In 2020, 82 eServices covering six sectors and 15 government entities were reengineered to become more advanced and efficient. Work is ongoing to study, restructure, and develop 26 new eServices, most notably ones relating to good conduct, donations via the Islamiyat app, payment of customs fees and taxes, and ID card services.
Three government revenue-related eServices were also launched, including requests for promotional campaigns and discounts by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce; VAT bill payments to the National Bureau for Revenue (NBR), and insurance fee payments to the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA).
Four new social services were introduced, including a financial support request service from the Royal Humanitarian Foundation for people affected by COVID-19, and three services by the Ministry of Labour and The Ministry of Social Development relating to job seeker registrations, viewing of personal profiles, and government financial support status requests.
Moreover, 44 health sector eServices were launched to support the efforts of the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Three housing and real estate services were also launched to support the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), and a further two, offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cater to citizens abroad.
In 2020, financial transactions increased 38% compared to 2019 with more than 2.2 million recorded across all governmental entities. Total revenues collected from various digital channels increased by 48%, reaching a record of BD230 million.
The National Portal received over 11 million visitors while new self-service kiosks were introduced at various locations throughout the Kingdom to support growing demand.
A continued focus on modern technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the development of government services has supported business continuity across the public sector, including the judicial sector, by helping to streamline procedures. Judicial services now include the ability to file civil and commercial lawsuits online. Modern technologies also enabled the education sector to offer remote learning by migrating the Educational Gateway, EDUNET, to the Cloud.
These technologies have also supported national efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 through the development of the BeAware Bahrain app, a comprehensive government system that has proven instrumental in helping authorities identify and monitor cases, and minimising the potential for virus transmission. The app is a success story that was launched in record time, realising the vision of HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister.
https://www.edunet.bh/Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government has been confronted with various social and economic challenges in addition to the challenges related to ramping up of digital infrastructure and the building of institutional capacities to manage national disasters and pandemics.
To overcome these challenges, a Whole of Government approach, was adopted supported by integrated pandemic planning, surveillance, testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and healthcare technologies.
Realising the potential, the Prime Minister & Crown Prince, HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa directed government entities to strengthen digital empowerment initiatives to create a more robust and progressive economy, able to better serve the public. The Government’s organisational and operational resources were restructured to strengthen conventional disaster and pandemic management capabilities, while ensuring business continuity.
One of the immediate consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic were restrictions on movement of people and selective closures of business and government offices. This resulted in a sudden surge in the demand for online services. The Government’s priority was to ensure the continuity of services, and ramp up its infrastructure and security to enable Work From Home, e-Banking, e-Learning and e-Health initiatives.
During the initial phase of the pandemic, a decision was made to reprioritise Bahrain’s digital projects and plan for the ‘new normal’. Each initiative on the Strategy Roadmap was revisited in 2020, with a range of scenarios developed to map the possible impact on each entity in the context of the pandemic. This helped to ensure that individual government entities focused their efforts on promoting inter-entity and government wide collaborations and outcomes, while ensuring alignment with the Government Action Plan, Economic Vision 2030, and UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Approximately Four Million Dinars were granted for various digital interventions which includes but not limited to building a COVID-19 portal, the BeAware Bahrain application, distributing wristbands to monitor quarantined individuals, enhancing network infrastructure, establishing a platform for e-commerce, allocating more Cloud storage for EDUNET and e-Health initiatives, strengthening cybersecurity, introducing new eServices, revamping existing ones, and bringing physical interactions with government entities to almost zero.
Advanced technologies were also harnessed to support Government decision makers, and help health workers stay connected with information and diagnostic services, while analytics assisted in making projections about disease outbreaks, health service usage, patient knowledge, attitudes, personal continuous management of diseases, and health practices. Innovative initiatives such as the National Genome Project (a specialised centre for genetic analysis, which contributes to the prevention of genetic diseases and the development of effective medicines); an interactive dashboard for e-health services providing real time statistics and indicators for eServices and website activities; an interactive participatory survey poll promoting communication between the Ministry of Health and its constituents; the establishment of a dedicated health alerts portal (healthalert.gov.bh) and a COVID-19 platform facilitating the delivery of prescribed medicines, online doctor consultations, telemedicine services, a Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) fitness tracking dashboard, and the BeAware Bahrain application which supports contact tracing and delivers Coronavirus Test Results, Coronavirus PCR Test Certificates, Coronavirus Vaccination Certificates, and COVID statistics and news.
The Ministerial Committee for Information Technology and Communication (MICT), headed by H.E. Minister of Interior Gen. Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, reviewed Bahrain’s strategic priorities during the pandemic, reprioritizing its digital agenda and implementation efforts across the whole Government.
The Kingdom’s digital government initiatives during 2020, 2021, and 2022 are focused on responding to, recovering, and adopting to the ‘new normal’ which resulted from the pandemic. The Government prioritises digital initiatives to stabilise, secure and scale existing digital government investments by assessing their ability to deliver value and improve decision-making, with an emphasis on data centric transformation.
The Government’s 2021 and 2022 initiatives are categorised as follows:
Emerging technologies and recent global developments such as the COVID-19 pandemic have created opportunities for new industries, jobs, products/services, and behavior patterns. Bahrain has an opportunity to align with these trends through stronger capacities and ecosystems (skilled labor, regulatory and tech infrastructure, innovation/investment ecosystem etc.) to adapt (manage risk, cope with challenges) and reap benefits under the current circumstances.
The Government, through its Digital Economy Strategy, aims to further diversify the national economy by generating value added services and products that cater to local, regional, and international markets.
A detailed study was conducted, in cooperation with UNDP Bahrain, which has identified the following themes as critical for the development of the country’s digital capabilities:
Backed by a comprehensive plan and roadmap, the Government is working towards the development of a strong and sustainable Digital Economy by 2025.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of data sharing between entities. Bahrain’s leadership is breaking down silos between entities and driving cross government change.
A Government-wide organisation performance initiative, “Takamul”, is underway to help entities define their strategic objectives, set performance indicators, and ensure all Government initiatives are aligned with the Kingdom’s Economic Vision 2030 and the Government Action Plan. The initiative includes digital interventions to support business entities’ strategic objectives, including but not limited to, the introduction of digital services, enhancement of their digital infrastructure while adhering to Bahrain’s Cloud First policy, and strengthening the ICT capacity building efforts of each entity to improve the efficiency of services and projects.
Government has constituted National ICT Governance Committee (ICTGC) to set high eGovernance standards for the employment and utilization of ICT projects in Government entities. Besides this, recently Government has also established National Center for Cyber Security to strengthen the cyber space of the Kingdom.
The ICTGC is responsible for reviewing strategies, monitoring the financial costs of ICT investments, and reporting to the Ministerial Committee for Information Technology and Communication (MCICT) for necessary actions. The ICTGC also specifies policies and standards, such as the Cloud First Policy, Printing Policy, Government PC specifications, eGov Mobile App Standards, Website Development Standards, and more to all government entities. This helps create a unified set of standards that are aligned with current usage across the government and the latest technology trends, while supporting the Government Strategy 2022.
Bahrain has a detailed legislation that defines the methods and means of processing data. This gives individuals confidence in all matters concerning the handling of their data by companies, organizations, and government entities.
All data is managed in an accurate, up-to-date, and secure manner that protects individuals’ personal data, as well as their rights and freedoms. Law No. (30) of 2018 refers to the Personal Data Protection law (PDF, 304KB, 40 pages, Arabic only), and, in 2019, the Personal Data Protection Authority (PDPA) was formed to activate the law under the Royal Decree No. (78) of 2019.
PDPA has established legal initiatives and executive decisions that play a crucial role in defining how data is managed by government entities and will directly affect how it is used and handled through eServices defined in the eGovernment strategy. The Authority has to date published 10 Executive Decisions and Orders.
The Government remains focused on cyber security, and has established the National Centre for Cyber Security, which is responsible for strengthening the national response and cyber protection, conducting research and development in the cyber security domain, monitoring the implementation of the Kingdom’s national cyber security strategy, promoting nation-wide adoption of cyber security policies, and enhancing Bahrain’s national competitiveness in the field of cyber security.
The Kingdom firmly believes in the “Digital First Principle” to benefit citizens. The principle is directly aligned with the Leave No One Behind plan, which ensures that all members of society have access to digital services.
The strategy emphasizes the use of social media by public institutions. It develops and measures national KPIs for digital inclusion, which are reported on regularly to National Committees. Moreover, the strategy is regulated through SLAs that are monitored and the Kingdom’s leadership is notified through timely and accurate dashboards.
The government regulates the availability of institutions on the most popular channels as well as the frequency of interactions. The government has applied a social media monitoring tool that helps to enhance social engagement with constituents through feedback. Moreover, social media is used as an enabler to engage constituents when it comes to key Government initiatives and activities.
Constituents are consulted and involved in framing the key pillars and success factors of several Government initiatives via blogs, poll questions, and surveys, in combination with the national platform for complaints and suggestions “Tawasul”.
Moreover, the Government has already defined and circulated a set of guidelines for government officials using social media. These guidelines include procedures on how to manage social media accounts for government entities and the methodology for engaging with the public.
The Government is strengthening its Open Data Portal (www.data.gov.bh) and the e-Participation tool (Tawasul) to improve communication between citizens and various government entities.
The Open Data Portal reinforces Bahrain’s business friendly reputation and highlights its competitive advantages for those wishing to establish a business in the region. It will also have a strong impact on local entrepreneurship by spurring innovation, creating value from data, and bolstering the chances of success for startups.
The initiative envisages surveying the open data sets made available through the portal and how they are utilised by constituents to develop applications and strengthen citizen and government interactions. Efforts are also being made to analyse the landscape of applications based on the open data and measure the interest of users and developers.
The Government of Bahrain supports the impactful use of its data by pushing for better quality via data standards and data ownership. With effective cross-government collaboration on data sharing; clearer lines of data ownership and authority; and improved data skills and standards, the Government is on track to meet its data and AI ambitions.
The Government is also pushing for quality data, drawing on various sources to facilitate evidence-based decision making; help drive investment; support a flourishing research and innovation space; and build a solid foundation for the use of AI.
The Government considers eParticipation an important tool for strengthening public engagement and enhancing collaboration on areas of focus such as improving information access for citizens and residents, fostering citizen empowerment and participation in public service improvement, and their involvement in the decision-making process. View more details on eParticipation.
Data is at the heart of the Government’s digital transformation. It aims to drive innovation through improved management, targeted data sharing, and AI-augmented data analytics. Accordingly, the Government continues to identify and publish certain data types on a single portal in a usable format (e.g. xml), develop APIs and toolkits to enable developers to interact with Government databases more securely (including an authentication protocol, payment platform); and granting excellence awards in the eGov domain. There is also scope for expanding the programme in the future.
To drive innovation, nurture entrepreneurship and grow the Kingdom’s digital economy, the Government is considering:
Bahrain remains focused on broadening its local talent pool through university development programmes (funded by Tamkeen) to equip young Bahrainis with the skills required to work with emerging technologies.
Moreover, the Kingdom pays close attention to the needs of early-stage businesses and startups within the sector, improving access to venture capital funding. Accordingly, Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) has provided a range of funding programmes.
The launch of the Al Waha Fund of Funds addresses the nascent Venture Capital community in the MENA region. The government-led initiative is aimed at attracting Venture Capital and strengthening the region’s startup ecosystem.
The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) launched a regulatory sandbox aimed at enabling firms to test and develop their products in a virtual space.
The eGovernment strategy compliments and supports Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, as well as the Government Plan (2023-2026)(Arabic only). It reflects the main principles of the National Development Strategy, which focuses on sustainability, fairness, and competitiveness. Moreover, it ensures the adoption of new and emerging technologies to improve public services and government readiness.
The constituent’s engagement in the creation and design phases of the eServices and Systems is an important aspect of the development of all government services, which is crucial to the implementation and monitoring of the National eGovernment Strategy.
All services are provided via different channels to streamline the experience of the users. Moreover, constituents can rank the services and share their feedback via a customer satisfaction survey.
The National eGovernment Strategy’s initiatives are directly linked to the e-Participation policy, which aligns with the principle of leaving no one behind, and the Human Rights Plan that ensure all constituents, including vulnerable groups, have access to the government’s eServices and systems. View more details about the digital policies (PDF, 15 Pages, 307 KB).
Bahrain has always been technology-driven and accepting of emerging technologies. Moreover, digital transformation is a pillar of Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, hence, the acceptance and adoption of emerging technologies is the core of Bahrain’s long-term vision.
The National eGovernment Strategy encourages the adoption of new and emerging technologies, especially Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Robotics, to improve public services and raise the quality of living of constituents.
The strategy involves initiatives that strengthen the position of Bahrain as a leading Fintech hub in the MENA region and foster the adoption of cloud technologies across public and private entities.
Bahrain is among the first countries to adopt 5G services in the region through the fifth National Telecommunications Plan, which emphasizes 5G services, especially the Internet of Things. The strategy highlights the importance of adopting emerging technologies to enhance the Kingdom’s capability in a range of fields.
The Kingdom of Bahrain considers multiple sources and platforms when envisioning the future of the Digital Government. For example:
Within the ICT sector, experimentation and regulatory sandboxes using digital technologies are considered a part of the mandates of various government tasks forces, which have the freedom to implement and test any solutions before regulations are formalized.
The Kingdom of Bahrain’s leadership, represented by the Cabinet and Supreme Council, emphasized the importance of having government entities integrate and design eServices around the needs of constituents, including citizens, business owners, residents, and visitors. Concerted efforts have been made to identify and select services that will be redesigned and converted to eServices.
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Content Last Updated: 10 Sep, 2023
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