How digitalisation has helped Bahrain ensure the continuity of its Higher Education during COVID-19
31 March 2022
Thanks to its solid digital infrastructure, Bahrain has been able to maintain essential services, including education.
As in many countries, the COVID-19 pandemic in Bahrain has highlighted the critical role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the continued functioning of society.
Reem Al Attar is an architecture student at the University of Bahrain (UOB). "The pandemic disrupted our lives, including our studies", she stated.
To ensure the continuity of its services, UOB promptly managed to provide online courses. Online technical assistance was also available to help students adjust to the new situation.
"Being connected to the internet has been vital, and without the proper IT tools we wouldn't have survived the last two years".
Covid-19 as an Accelerator of Digitalisation
"At first, it was a challenge. We had to find a solution for students who could not afford a personal computer or purchase internet services," said Dr Zahra Haram, Professor of Law at Ahliya University in Bahrain.
Dr Haram believes that COVID-19 eventually became an accelerator for digitalising education, among other sectors.
"This pace in adopting online education wouldn't have been achieved without the serious challenge the pandemic imposed on us."
"The crisis also brought discussions among academics, experts, and citizens about the concept of citizens' rights to various digital services, particularly access to reliable information in an effective, timely, and secure manner. We truly tested what we could and couldn't do, and now it is time for Bahrain to invest even more in its digital infrastructure."
In fact, Bahrain, which recognises that digital government transformation is key to the emergence of a knowledge-based economy and the modernisation of the public sector, recently announced its 2022-2026 strategy for the ICT sector. "The new strategy will strengthen the Kingdom's economic position," said Adel Darwish, Director for the Arab Region at The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - the United Nations specialised agency for ICTs.
Forsati for Her
Ahmed Al Hujairi is a Chief Executive Officer of ICT firms in Bahrain. "Bahrain's efforts prior to COVID-19 in digitising its services were an investment that paid off during the pandemic", he said.
According to Al Hujairi, integrating the ICT into education and adopting skills-based education could not be achieved on time without proper pre-existing infrastructures, such as reliable connectivity and an existing portal.
"Empowering young people to thrive in the digital economy has also been instrumental", stated Al Hujairi.
As part of this effort, the University of Bahrain launched Forsati for Her in 2018, a programme to train female students from different majors and subject areas to become skilled programmers.
Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the university programme aims to capacitate female students to enter the Bahraini job market through its emerging digital window and growing technology startup scene.
"There is an increasing number of skilled Bahraini ICT graduates, including females", said Al Hujairi, whose businesses employ close to 60 full-timers and 200 part-timers – males and females.
Farkhanda A. Hamid, a Bahraini Alumna of the programme, is one of those. She has worked in the IT sector for the past three years. "Forsati for Her has given me an edge to get a job", said Hamid, who has ambitions to become an entrepreneur and start her own IT company, one day.