Startup MGZN

Can Bahrain be Silicon Island?

The best way to predict the future is to create it” -Peter Drucker

There’s chaos all around me. Stuck in a traffic jam with no end in sight and trying to keep a tight grip on my sanity, I ignore small unapologetic beat up lame excuses for cars trying to wriggle themselves into my lane as diesel spewing goliaths trundle off the road kicking up volcanoes of dust as they pound the temporary lane they’ve created only to find themselves stuck up ahead where sand meets road. They compound the problem. Breathe. I open the window and give a blank stare to the unkempt excuse for a human trying to get ahead of me, expecting some sort of apology or pathetic excuse for his behavior. I get nothing. With an irate nod of his head, he kicks his car into first gear and accelerates up ahead in the hope of finding a softer driver to let him in. If I was ten years younger I probably would have chased him down and done something I’d regret but I’m older and wiser, so I roll my window back up, turn up the music as high as my eardrums allow and settle into my thoughts.

I don’t blame these people. That’s all they know. Stuck in a rat race trying to steal cheese from the other predators and scavengers circling the crusty bread, they grew up this way. They grew up as I did, getting everything generously handed down from the government and know nothing better than to keep their hands out and screech for more. But things have changed, and with change comes fear and uncertainty. As the national budget burgeons beyond capacity, policy makers and ministries scramble to cover costs and keep the panicked populace content; but they can’t do it alone: And that’s what most people don’t seem to understand. A sharp rise in governmental fees and reduction of subsidies reflects our precarious situation, and as the exponential costs increase all eyes turn to the government to solve it once again. Spike in gas: blame the government. Spike in electricity bills: Blame the government. It rains too hard: Of course, blame the government.

The golden days are gone, and petrol is diminishing so get over it. Lush spending and easy living are history, and as the government maneuvers the private sector needs to keep pace. It’s a new relationship that needs to be discovered, and we’re shy on the first few dates. We haven’t even kissed yet. As Bahrain pushes towards self-sustainability we try to leverage our strengths, but first we need to identify them. What do we have?

WE HAVE AN EXCELLENT LOCATION, AN INTELLIGENT BILINGUAL POPULACE, HISTORY, GREAT MODERN INFRASTRUCTURE, AND HAVE SOME HUGE INDUSTRIAL CORPORATIONS THAT KEEP US AFLOAT.

As we pump millions of dinars taken from the private sector back into the economy we focus on entrepreneurship. More than that, we keep talking about Bahrain positioning itself to be the IT hub of the region. Not an impossible task, and I’ve seen some young Bahrainis with incredible skills and very cool ideas, and we need to spend smart money. But how?

Nothing comes overnight, and we absolutely can’t build a silicon island overnight. But I’ll bet we can do it in five years. First and foremost, we need to have the new generation fluent in 3 languages. English, Arabic, and Code (the language of mobiles and pcs). Obama has made it his life mission to introduce coding into all schools starting from first grade, and that is now my personal mission as well. We must arm the new generation with the tools necessary to develop their own ideas and technology, and it begins with ones and zeros. This essential fact has been overlooked in our zealous quest to become entrepreneurial and the goal is simple. Plant some acorns, and grow some oak trees. Oak trees keep the soil together, they protect us from the sun when it’s hot and from the rain when cloudy. Oak trees provide stability, and our oaks will create jobs, turnover, and a fertile ecosystem. Just one successful student is an oak tree, and imagine we grow a forest of oaks. Ignore all the traffic, chaos, and panic in the roads around you, get out of the car, and focus on planting an oak. The private sector needs to respond to the government’s call, and only together can we transform this sunshine island into a silicon Island. Who knows, maybe we can even export technology someday: Made in Silicon Island.

Hamed Fakhro

Hamed is a contributor, writer, inventor, and speaker. He is also the founder of Fakhro Properties, Seef Business Center, A’Ali Views Compound, Hack Arabia, and Wudu. Follow him at @fakhro1