Observer Weekend: Disrupt and Enjoy

Disruption is painful, and has never found easy acceptance anywhere. Then who like to be disrupted? Only those who believe in the power of disruption to open up possibilities. Disruption, arguably, finds its greatest ally in technology. There’s nothing that wields such immense power to redefine our lives as disruptive technology. The good thing, as noted by Martin Muhleisen, the director of strategy at IMF, is the pain of technological disruption is short-term and it can be alleviated by smart policies, leading to long-term gains.
Of great significance is the disruptive “charm” of digital technologies that remodel the way people and businesses conduct their affairs. With digital economy witnessing increased participation from people across strata, and digital revolution establishing its touchpoints almost everywhere, a nation can wade through technological disruptions and the ensuing digital transformations in people’s lives in the most painless way possible, only with the help of the smartest policy measures and implementation strategies.
One awesome aspect of digital technology is its innate ability to reinvent and transform itself, leading to enhanced productivity across sectors and upgraded lives. Governments and people are increasingly making use of internet transactions in a big way to ensure better services and ease of living. In the UK for instance e-transactions make one-fifth of retail sales. Globally, e-commerce is heading to $2 trillion by 2020 garnering 7.8 per cent of all sales.
In the case of the Sultanate, e-commerce is yet in its nascency, even as almost 45 per cent of shoppers do online shopping at some point. But the country is all set to take a big leap in e-commerce, and the government has positioned itself as an active and enabling partner in ensuring its full-fledged growth.
The government’s Information Technology Authority (ITA) oversees the ambitious e.Oman project, the digital vision and aspiration of the Sultanate that works on six strategic aspects: advancing the digital society; smart government and services; vibrant digital and ICT industry ecosystem; governance, standards and policies for realizing national digital goals; next gen digital infrastructure; and promotion and awareness about Oman’s digital projects and strategies.
As part of its commitment to enabling a strong ICT industry in Oman, ITA is working on digitalizing the diverse public services provided by some 59 government ministries and institutions by 2022. The initiative recognizes the role of the private sector in achieving this goal and is open to PPP model of association.
Significantly, the recommendations that emerged from a brainstorming session hosted by ITA earlier this year in association with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) have set the pace of the country’s drive to enhance its ICT sector, which is expected to support Oman’s economic diversification strategy.
Oman is also positioning itself as a regional digital hub for core data recovery services, offering to safekeep backup copies of its neighbours’ critical data. The Sultanate believes that factors such as political stability, social peace and friendly diplomatic relations with other countries in the region, along with the fact that Oman is connected to most of the major regional submarine cable systems and also to the Asia-Africa-Europe line are all loaded in its favour in promoting the country as the choicest data recovery hub.
Efforts in this direction are in full swing, and as much as RO 25 million of public and private investment is expected in the project, which could generate in excess of 850 jobs.
It was only a few months ago when Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture, partnering with Omantel, launched a digital platform that hosted more than 4,000 valuable ancient Omani manuscripts touching diverse fields of human endeavour. This is considered another major step in the country’s efforts at digital transformation, enabling researchers and others to read or obtain digital copies of manuscripts that shine light on the Sultanate’s rich history, indigenous knowledge, heritage and culture. This could also promote a deep awareness about its thousands-of-years-old culture and heritage among youngsters.
The country is also going great in promoting its tourism potential through the power and influence of campaigns on digital social media platforms. The Tour Oman smartphone app developed by the National Institute of Statistics & Information has been hugely popular among domestic and foreign tourists as it offers a wealth of information and guidance related to tourism spots and facilities in Oman.
So, it seems disruption doesn’t have much of a negative connotation in the Sultanate. Rather, it is eager to embrace disruptive digital technologies as a way forward.