Skype today announced that the opening of its representative office in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is to be in Manama, Bahrain. At a joint press conference with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), Skype explained Bahrain’s liberal and advanced ICT infrastructure and policies, skilled local workforce, and its geographic position providing unparalleled access to the Gulf’s trillion dollar market, were key reasons for establishing a regional representative office in the Kingdom.
“Bahrain provides one of the most energetic environments to support and encourage innovation – with a talented local workforce, and forward thinking economic development strategies that help support business and broaden regional presence,” said Skype’s CEO Josh Silverman. “In addition, as a Gateway to the Gulf, Bahrain is the ideal location from which to support our global strategy of making Skype available to as many people as possible wherever they happen to be. The Middle East and Africa has a young, tech savvy population and we believe that Bahrain will play a central role in making Skype even more popular in the region”, he added.
Bahrain has been internationally recognised for its long term commitment to ICT both as a sector and an infrastructure to enable further business growth. The World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010 ranked Bahrain in the top 30 economies, a climb of eight places putting the Kingdom 29 out of 133 economies worldwide. Bahrain was also ranked first in the Middle East and 13th out of 192 countries worldwide in the 2010 United Nations Global e-Government Readiness Survey.
“In Bahrain we have long recognised the importance of ICT not just as an important sector in its own right but as an important enabler of continued economic growth, modernisation and competitiveness,” said Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, Chief Executive of the EDB. We are delighted that Skype has decided to set up its regional representative office in Bahrain. It is a tremendously innovative company and their decision to move here reflects the positive impact resulting from the economic reforms being driven forward by the EDB in Bahrain. We have invested in our infrastructure and people to maximise our strategic position as the gateway to the Gulf, which together with our strong track record, robust and effective regulation and low operating costs, offers international businesses an attractive base to do business in and from,” he said.
Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of a number of sectors the Kingdom intends to grow as part of its Vision 2030 and National Economic Strategy, designed to drive the private sector as an engine of growth, support further diversification of the economy – already recognised as the most diversified in the Gulf – and ultimately elevate living standards by creating greater opportunities for Bahrainis.
These reforms have been led by the EDB under the guidance of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Chairman of the EDB, and have seen significant progress in the ICT sector. This includes the liberalisation of the communications sector in 2002 followed by the establishment of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) later in 2003 which has created a well-regulated liberal environment for the growing number of ICT companies setting up in Bahrain.
The Kingdom is one of the Gulf’s technological pioneers; computing started in Bahrain in the late 1940s, leading to the installation of the first mainframe computer in the region in 1962. In 1969, Bahrain started the first satellite station in the region. Furthermore, it was the first in the region completely digitize its national and international phone switches (1992); the first in the region to launch Internet services (1995); hold an online referendum (2001); introduce smartcards (2005); fully liberalize its telecommunications market (2004); and to go nationwide with WiMax wireless networks (2007).