Oman, ICT progress
A series of recent studies by the World Economic Forum (WEF) have found that Oman has made significant progress in information and communications technology (ICT), particularly in e-government initiatives.
There are now over 1.5 million Internet users in the Sultanate, according to figures released by Minister of National Economy and Deputy Chairman of the Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council, Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, in November.
This constitutes a huge increase given that there were just 12,000 users 14 years ago.
The WEF’s “Arab Competitiveness Report 2010” released in late October, ranked the country 11th out of the 139 countries assessed for the procurement of advanced technology products. It also placed Oman 61st in overall capacity for innovation.
In March, the Sultanate was ranked 19th by the organisation’s “Global Information Technology 2009-2010” for the government-readiness of its networks — a measure of the state’s preparedness to best utilise information technology — a climb of 20 places from last year. The WEF attributed the rise to the government’s prioritisation of ICT in its development programmes.
The report also praised Oman for rapid progress in the implementation of its e-governance programme, which is aimed at ensuring broad-based online access to state services.
A scheme to install a fibre-optic network throughout the capital, Muscat and surrounding areas is now hoped to boost both the e-government project and the education sector.
The new fibre-optic network will play a major role in supporting the national economy, said Mohammed Nasser al Khusaibi, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of National Economy and chairman of the both Information Technology Authority and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, in a statement issued on November 21. He said this will, in turn, help develop e-commerce by providing permanent communication channels for investors and the business community,
Al Khusaibi said the new links will support education by facilitating the exchange of information among universities and schools both inside and outside of Muscat, since it will also improve the provision of distance learning.
The implementation of the network should also help Oman address some findings of the WEF in its “Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011”, which was issued in September. Oman ranked 59th of 139 countries assessed for technological readiness ranking, with the organisation finding that the absorption of new technology by companies could be accelerated.
The WEF’s Arab Competitiveness Report also said that the innovative capacity of companies in the wider Gulf region could be improved, with more collaboration between business and research groups encouraged.
While serving as a signpost pointing towards further
improvements needed in ICT, the series of WEF reports also underscore some of the strengths that already exist. The Sultanate is making fast progress towards taking a regional lead in technology. By investing in new links such as the fibre optics network, Oman is ensuring progress towards its goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy.
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