Going online

With the Sultanate opening itself to Internet and mobile e-commerce, a significant percentage of the population is using online for shopping and other activities.
With more than 2.9 million mobile Internet subscribers, the social media landscape in the Sultanate is going through a radical change.
The availability of faster broadband and payments through cards and Internet banking has made the transactions safer and reliable.
“So online shopping has come to stay and seems to be growing in stature,” points out a report.

Secure payment
Omani businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are evincing keen interest in the use of Internet for promoting and selling their merchandise.
Several Omani companies do order products directly from foreign firms and payment is done through bank transfers or money exchanges.
In early 2016, the Central Bank of Oman unveiled a national debit card payment gateway infrastructure for e-commerce transactions, OmanNet Debit Card E-Payment Gateway infrastructure, to provide safe and secure e-commerce transactions.
According to a recent survey, 39 per cent of Oman respondents opined that offline shopping is “more secure”.
“Only 24 per cent considered online shopping equally safe,” found the survey conducted by YouGov.
Across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), lack of confidence in online payment security has deterred 34 per cent from shopping online, added the report. A study by Frost & Sullivan predicted that Oman is expected to have a total market share of 12 per cent across the GCC countries, which are expecting a 40 per cent growth in e-commerce by 2020 and is expected to reach $41.5 billion.
Reports also indicate that more than half of online shoppers in Oman use the Internet to buy airline tickets, shop for clothes and beauty products, and more.
Another study by Statista, a UK-based online research agency, found that social media penetration in Oman has touched a remarkable 43 per cent, which is next only to Saudi Arabia with rate of 59 per cent.
Qatar, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain have the largest search engine usage of 99, 99, 98 and 94 per cent, respectively.
MasterCard found that approximately 20 per cent of the population of Muscat utilises the Internet for online shopping — spending the most on travel, clothing and beauty.

Law in the making
However, the Sultanate is yet to pass a data protection law that provides a detailed
guideline of the obligations of organisations that collect personal data from the public.
“A law to protect private information and regulate its access was necessitated as Chapter 7 of the present Electronic Transaction Law in the Sultanate was not enough for the security of personal data,” opined a specialist official at Oman’s Information Technology Authority.
A new law aimed at protecting private information of individuals has been drafted, the official said.

SAMUEL KUTTY
MUSCAT, JULY 13