Thursday, September 08, 2005

WSA Grand Jury Bahrain: Day 6

Last night we visited the GP racing track of Bahrain. It is a Formula 1 track, where two races have been held so far (2004, 2005). It is some 40 kilometres from capital Manama. But it is very impressive. During my last visit to Bahrain I had been on the racing track already, but this time we did a recreational ride in a Hummer going up and down a steep track (60 degrees), through water tunnels and very rough terrain.

The manager of the racing track told in his speech that the Formula 1 race of Baharain had not been a bad investment so far. Besides terrain racing and speed racing of cars, Formula 3 and motors, many people come to Bahrain for the Formula 1 race. And no less than 300 million people watch this race on television. Tourism to Bahrain has increased since the opening of the race track.

Left: Rudy from Belgium wants to cart the just arrived new TRS cart; right: with this car we did not race

After that we went with the WSA Landrover fleet on the race track, but that was rather disappointing as we were only allowed to drive 180 kilometres. Of course they did want to risk accidents. After the racing there was a dinner in the royal tower.

The royal tower

Today we met officials from the ministry of Information, amongst others Dr Nasser Qaedi and Mr Salah Alkobashi. The meeting had been arranged to talk about Internet governance, one of the discussion points of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in November 2005. The internet situation in Bahrain was explained. Bahrain has a high penetration of computers and Internet. Between 70 to 80 per cent of the households have a PC, while some 60 per cent have an online connection with Internet. The country has a school programme, making pupils and parents aware of computers and online. There is only one ISP, the telecom company Batelco. It is also the company that registers the e-mail addresses and domain names.

The representative of the ministry of Information indicated that Bahrain want legislation on Internet traffic and content without impeding growth. So it studies presently self-regulation or government regulations. The Bahrain Internet Society has backed this legislation. So far Bahrain has adopted an internet registration as it is seen as a medium next to printed and broadcast material. The registration though is voluntary. Bahrain, so the spokesman declared did not want to become the hub for pirated material, cyber criminality, pornography or terrorist’s sites.

Bahrain has no independent domain registry as there is only one ISP. Yet Bahrain has troubles with the registrations of domains. You can register a .bh domain from abroad. But if you register with then your company has to be based in Bahrain.

The discussion table

For the WSIS Bahrain strives after democracy on Internet by strengthening regional nodes. One of the WSA jurors indicated that the Gulf States perhaps should follow the example of Belgium and become an Icann at large. In this way security could be secured and actions could be taken immediately in case of trouble.


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