Bahrain government's cloud move 'will cut IT costs by up to 90%'

Information and eGovernment Authority says most services will migrate to the cloud by mid-2020

Mohammed Ali Al Qaed, chief executive of iGA, says all government entities will be moved to cloud by mid of next year. Courtesy iGA
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Bahrain’s Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA) says government spending on IT infrastructure will fall by up to 90 per cent as it looks to migrate all services to the cloud by mid-2020.

"Most of the services will run on serverless mode, saving huge capex spent on establishing local servers and infrastructure… we will achieve savings [of] between 60 to 90 per cent," Mohammed Ali Al Qaed, chief executive of iGA, told The National.

Bahrain's government began talks with cloud services provider Amazon Web Services about migrating its operations to the cloud in 2014 and iGA officials first visited the US in two years ago to decide upon a road map for the widespread adoption of cloud services.

Out of 70 Bahrain government entities, five have been fully migrated to the cloud while 35 services are partially shifted.

By mid-2020, iGA will shift all feasible services to the cloud, Mr Qaed said, adding: “Very little, maybe a quarter or third of the government services - where we have already invested hugely on physical infrastructure - will be left on-premise.”

“Besides infrastructure costs, it significantly eliminates expenditure related to management tasks, such as server provisioning, capacity building and operating system maintenance,” said Mr Qaed, without disclosing any figures.

iGA is responsible for spearheading the Bahraini government's cloud-first policy. It ran a pilot project and undertook a $100,000 feasibility study in 2016 before making its move.

"We wanted to ensure that it was safe and we can do it in Bahrain,” Mr Qaed explained.

“Our initial target was to migrate only ten websites but it proved very economical and within a few months we managed to move over 100 ... since then there is no looking back,” he added.

New services, such as Bahrain’s Value Added Tax system introduced in January, were built directly for the cloud, which Mr Qaed said led to a major capex saving for the government’s National Bureau for Revenue.

“Cloud also added speed… with AWS, the VAT project was completed within nine months, well before the deadline,” he said.

Mr Qaed said the cloud migration has wider benefits beyond government savings. For example, real estate developers can get a building permit in less than five days. Previously, this took close to 130 days.

“This was made possible by linking the system to the national geographic database, which enables investors and engineering offices to instantly identify the requirements of their lands and in return help them in preparing the necessary drawings and documents,” said Mr Qaed.

However, the implementation of the government's move to the cloud has taking longer than initially planned. Mr Qaed said there were unavoidable reasons for this.

“Our partners were not ready and it took time to select the right vendors. We needed skilled vendors to facilitate migration and selecting the right ones was a time-consuming process,” he said.

Although AWS is one of its major partners, the Bahrain government remains open to collaborations with other providers, Mr Qaed said. For instance, it is already working with Microsoft for some hosting operations, especially email security.