The Informational Technology Authority (ITA), which has been tasked with implementing the nation’s digital strategy, has pledged steps to develop the necessary technological underpinnings to support the rapid adoption of blockchain — the revolutionary shared ledger technology behind the success of cyrptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, among other ground-breaking applications.
ITA CEO Dr Salim bin Sultan al Ruzaiqi (pictured) said the Authority is committed to providing the enabling infrastructure that would allow businesses, institutions and government organisations to harness the potential of blockchain technology for transacting business or driving performance growth.
“ITA sees its role as taking the lead in defining the transacting communities, protecting the distributed ledgers, and ensuring that the technology plays a significant role in governance. We will be active in these roles to maximise the value from blockchain in the Sultanate,” Dr Al Ruzaiqi said in remarks to a gathering of delegates taking part in the 1st Oman Blockchain Symposium that began at the Sheraton Oman Hotel yesterday.
The Authority, the CEO said, has already been working behind-the-scenes to “architect” the adoption of blockchain by the government sector, among others. This initial, low-key approach was necessitated by a number of factors, notably its potential as a disruptive technology, the hype around it, the need to build internal capabilities, as well as to “experiment first-hand” this revolutionary technology.
“We have also been assessing to what degree the existing technology foundation can be leveraged in blockchain deployment,” Dr Al Ruzaiqi noted. “Our approach thereafter will be aligned into a series of steps, starting with the effort to build a better understanding of the technology itself, and gain the skills to deploy this within the Sultanate. This will be followed by defining a number of potential (applications) recommended by the Symposium Working Group, rolling out pilots that show potential for success, and using this piloting to better understand the technology and define future deployments. We aim to learn from the pilots that work, and see what can be done to achieve better solutions in the future.”
In fact, the foundational elements for the adoption of blockchain are substantially in place in the Sultanate, said the CEO.
“Oman, through the development and implementation of the Digital Society Strategy, has the technological foundation to embrace distributed ledger technology broadly. We have a young dynamic population that is tech-savvy; mobility has reached very high levels crossing the penetration of more than 150 per cent; smartphones are in nearly every hand, and almost every household has some form of access device that can reach the Internet and the Web.”
Also boding well for the uptake of this technology is the strong prevalence of social media in all segments of the population. Business adaption of technology in general is progressing, while changing educational curricular are introducing Oman’s youth to technology, he said.
The ITA, for its part, has laid the foundation for enabling the government’s digital transformation, said Dr Al Ruzaiqi. “We have dedicated and secure digital networks; we have rolled out dedicated Government Cloud computing to serve government organisations. We deployed Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) services and issued millions of certificates on ID cards and mobile devices. We are working with government organisations to implement their e-transformation plans that will not only deliver services online, but also transform applications and enable automation in the government.”
Efforts to ramp up the technological foundation for the adoption of blockchain will be pursued in parallel with the expansion of ITA’s Public Key Infrastructure, while adapting it to serve the needs of blockchain. Additionally, Government Cloud computed will be expanded to cater to the new technology, he said.
“As our collective understanding grows and our technology foundation matures, we will be in a better position to adopt a more stable implementation of blockchain and smart contracts,” he added.