MORE people have personal computers in Bahrain than anywhere else in the Gulf.
Twenty per cent of the population have PCs, said, Commerce Minister Ali Saleh Al Saleh said yesterday.
He said that Internet penetration was 23.6 per cent of the population, second only to the UAE.
The total number of PCs in Bahrain is 107,000 while there are 150,000 Internet users.
Mobile phone penetration in Bahrain is over 50 pc.
Bahrain comes in second in the Middle East as far as overall access to technology and 17th worldwide.
Mr Al Saleh was quoting Central Informatics Orga-nisation (CIO) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) statistics.
He was speaking at the opening of the Second Annual FutureIT 2004 Conference and Exhibition which opened at the Gulf Hotel's Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday.
The four-day event, under Mr Al Saleh's patronage, includes an exhibition of new technologies and services.
It has been organised by Creative Knowledge, in association with the Bahrain Internet Society.
Mr Al Saleh said that despite the availability of hi-tech products in Bahrain, the kingdom still had a long way to go.
"This offers huge opportunities for companies in the IT sector," he said.
The untapped potential for online trading remains vast in the Middle East, said Dubai-based business to business (B2B) market place Tejari chief executive officer Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi.
PC usage continues to grow rapidly in the region, where some countries are still experiencing double-figure growth in Internet penetration, she said.
The online marketplace model is accelerating under its own momentum because of the benefits it offers, she said.
"Companies buying online have found that access to a larger base of suppliers has brought more competitive pricing, plus the efficiency benefits of consolidated purchasing and now they are encouraging their international suppliers to trade online as well," said Shaikha Lubna.
Online trading is helping to make purchasing more efficient, particularly benefiting governments and their suppliers, she said.
"Government procurement is big business.
In developed countries, purchases of goods and services by the state typically account for 10 to 15 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). In developing countries the figure is as much as 20pc," said Shaikha Lubna.
She said the next step is for online marketplaces based in different geographic locations to form alliances with each other, creating a seamless communication and trading system.
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