Ambassador’s Speech at the MEET ICT Bahrain (BITEX) Opening Ceremony
March 19 2019, 8:45 a.m.,
Gulf Convention Center, Gulf Hotel
Your Excellency, Mohammed Al Qaed, CEO of the Information and e-Government Authority, Mr. Janahi, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the invitation to participate in today’s opening ceremony of MEET ICT and BITEX. My thanks, in particular, to Mr. Ubaydli Ubaydli and his colleagues at BTECH for having me here today.
MEET ICT and BITEX serve as premier opportunities to gather the region’s top businesses and ICT professionals to discuss, embrace, and build upon the remarkable and ongoing digital transformation here in Bahrain, in the GCC region, and indeed the world over.
I am proud to take part in today’s opening ceremony and congratulate the organizers for another high quality and high impact event.
Bahrain’s rapid ICT transformation – both on the national level and as a hub for the region – has been path breaking.
Following a blueprint laid out initially in the Economic Vision 2030, the Government of Bahrain has undertaken a bold agenda to reshape Bahrain’s ICT infrastructure and, more importantly, its collective mindset to prepare the country for the digital revolution that is now upon us.
Telecom deregulation, the national broadband initiative, an innovative cloud-first policy for government data, all combined with Bahrain’s tradition as a business-friendly environment have drawn not only favorable attention, but inward investment, new jobs and a momentum towards the future.
Recent regulations for cryptocurrency exchanges and investments in Fintech are adding to the mix in a mutually-supportive, virtuous cycle of innovation and transformation. Bahrain is also exploring innovative approaches to data privacy and data sovereignty unique on a global level.
In October 2018, Bahrain also became the first country in the world to introduce the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, developed by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. I compliment His Excellency Mr. Al Qaed for his personal leadership in these matters.
As Bahrain has embarked on this transformation, U.S.-based technology firms have played a vital role in supporting and enabling these achievements.
This is very much in keeping with the close commercial ties that have historically bound our two countries. But it is also natural given that the United States is home to fifteen of the twenty-five largest tech companies in the world.
Three outstanding examples I would like to recognize are found among the major sponsors for this year’s MEET ICT and BITEX, namely CISCO, Oracle, and Microsoft. I would like to thank them for their sponsorship as well as for the deep and mutually beneficial relationships they have developed with partners and customers in Bahrain and throughout the GCC.
Along with companies like Amazon Web Services, which chose Bahrain to locate its first Web Services Cloud Computing Hub for the Middle East, U.S.-based technology companies are playing a transformational role in Bahrain’s economy, including in its entrepreneurship sector.
People often ask what are the critical factors that have enabled the establishment and growth of the U.S. technology sector. The answer is, of course, a combination of many things.
America’s tech sector has developed in an environment of academic and scientific rigor, intense competition, strong financial backing and unparalleled protection of intellectual property and creativity.
The reliability and support that clients receive from U.S. technology companies is unequaled, and is a signature feature of the industry in the United States.
U.S. firms are at the leading edge of new computing technology, including in artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing and fintech, as well as in protecting data integrity and cyber security tools.
We fully understand that when customers and companies look for technology solutions they have choices, but I would submit that across the board, U.S. technology companies set the standard for security, performance and reliability, and we are therefore pleased to have the opportunity to participate in shows like BITEX in Bahrain or GITEX in Dubai where American technology is on display.
I want to say a few words about the security and integrity of data, since that is of key importance as we collectively navigate the digital transformations to come where we will rely more and more on data integrity and security.
The United States views the security of information and communications networks and services as critical to the national security and prosperity of all nations.
These networks and services are attractive targets for bad actors. We know that and have experienced it. The United States seeks to ensure that we and our partners and allies maintain secure and reliable communications networks and supply chains to reduce the risks of unauthorized access and malicious cyber activity.
This is particularly important with the transition to 5G networks globally. With the broad numbers of critical applications and billions of new devices that cyber networks and 5G infrastructure enable, security will only become even more important.
The global nature of data flows means that threats to U.S. networks have a direct bearing on the security of our allies, just as threats to our allies’ networks have a direct bearing on the security of the United States.
To this end, the United States advises our partners in government and those in the private sector to identify trusted vendors committed to the protection and security of networks and critical information.
We engage on these matters routinely with our allies and partners and provide them with information to help evaluate the risks, and exercise vigilance, so they can secure their own systems and protect their own people.
Relying on equipment from trusted vendors will not come at the expense of speed of deployment or technological advancement.
The United States and likeminded countries are home to companies that provide world-leading technological solutions in hardware and software across the many use cases for cyber networks and for 5G.
As I noted before, we understand fully that when customers and companies look for technology solutions they have choices.
We view the ICT sector as fundamental to the future of our commercial partnership here and across this region.
We see new opportunities to apply American know how and technology in cloud computing, cyber security, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics to Bahrain’s and the region’s exciting plans for new oil and gas development, fintech, integrated logistics, health sector, advancements, environmental solutions and many other critical areas. This makes us optimistic for the future.
Bahrain and the United States have a strong and vibrant trade relationship, augmented by our bilateral free trade agreement, or FTA, in place for the past twelve years. The FTA eliminates tariffs on most products, including Information and Communications technology.
Between 2005 and 2018, trade between Bahrain and the United States more than tripled, from $782 million in 2005, to in excess of $3 billion dollars in 2018, a remarkable success that demonstrates the strength of our partnership.
Along the way, the FTA has not only expanded bilateral trade, it has also created investment and good jobs for people in both of our countries.
The presence and growth of numerous U.S. ICT firms, their products and their services in Bahrain is an important example of that.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you today. I wish everyone participating a successful and rewarding event.