Bahrain has announced it will pilot new guidelines for the procurement of Artificial Intelligence in the public sector, produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution during the WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China. The announcement was made by WEF and the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), which will work closely with the Bahrain Information and eGovernment Authority.
AI has huge potential to streamline and transform service delivery for governments. However, due to lack of understanding and concerns over complexity, public institutions are often wary of adopting AI and lack the knowledge needed to successfully implement the technology. This spurred the Centre to announce in 2017 that it would bring governments, businesses, start-ups, and civil society together to co-design guidelines to empower governments to responsibly and sustainably deploy AI technology.
It partnered with the UK government to help design the guidelines and assess them in real-world conditions. Bahrain will join the UK in piloting the framework and providing feedback.
Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB said:
“When it comes to the governance and regulation of emerging technologies, Bahrain has earned a reputation as the Middle East’s testbed thanks to its innovative regulatory framework, strong technology ecosystem and rapid shift to eGovernment. AI can deliver huge benefits to citizens, but it needs a robust framework for successful implementation, and this project with WEF will build a global knowledge-base that can be used by other governments to sustainably and responsibly introduce AI across their public sector institutions.”
Mohammed Ali Al Qaed, Chief Executive of the iGA said:
“When looking for a partner to roll-out these new AI guidelines, WEF looked to Bahrain. Our public sector is increasing digitized, and we have strong eGovernment services coupled with robust and modern legislation including strong personal data protection laws. AI has huge promise for the public sector – but needs a clear, well-resolved framework to deliver on that promise. Bahrain will test the guidelines and, in partnership with WEF, build a knowledge-base that can be shared with every other country around the world.”
Murat Sonmez, Head of the Centre and Managing Board member said:
“Last year at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, we announced that the Forum and the UK government would build the world’s first AI procurement policy. Bahrain’s decision to pilot the framework demonstrates the Centre Network’s unique ability to accelerate and scale innovative ways to govern emerging technology. We are looking forward to rolling the framework out to more partners around the world.”
Thanks to its innovative, flexible, and often pioneering regulation, Bahrain has come to be viewed as the Middle East’s testbed for the governance and regulation of emerging technologies. Bahrain’s government has recently moved to the cloud, and the Kingdom is a pioneer in providing eGovernment services.
In 2017 Bahrain launched the region’s first regulatory sandbox allowing FinTechs to test and scale new technology products and services, and in 2018 launched FinTech Bay, one of the leading FinTech hubs in the Middle East. Bahrain is also one of the first countries in the world with a fully operational commercial 5G network. The Kingdom was one of the first to mandate open banking, which came into force last month, and is also a leader in the regulation of cryptocurrencies – in February 2019 the Central Bank of Bahrain introduced ground-breaking new rules on Crypto-asset services and Crypto-asset exchanges.