Burgeoning efforts by Oman’s authorities to drive the growth of e-commerce are also paving the way for the development of a potentially promising gig economy in the Sultanate, according to Dr Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry.
Dr Al Sunaidy (pictured), who is also Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for Planning, said the Ministry, along with other government stakeholders, is looking to ensure that workers of the gig economy also enjoy labour and social insurance protections currently available to employees of conventional offline businesses.
He was delivering the keynote address at the opening of the Oman E-commerce Conference (OEC 2019) at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday. The two-day forum, organised by the Ministry with the support of events management firm Inovexic, is being held under the auspices of Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism.
In a gig economy, companies and businesses tend to hire freelancers and independent contractors as temporary workers. Such enterprises typically connect with customers and clients via an online platform, as in the case of Uber, the ride sharing service, or Airbnb, the home renting website.
Significantly, all of the legal, regulatory and electronic support infrastructure initiatives being pursued by the government in its drive to fuel the growth of e-commerce are also spawning the development of the gig economy in the Sultanate, according to Dr Al Sunaidy.
“Consequently, it is apt to discuss updates to labour and social insurance laws to cover those working for companies operating in the gig economy who provide their services through web-based applications, without the need to operate from permanent offices. We need to ensure that the rights of these employees are protected, while also ascertaining the responsibilities and obligations of companies marketing products and services via online channels.”
In addition to the enactment of a number of landmark statutes designed to stimulate the business and investment environment, the government is also working on multiple fronts to accelerate the growth of e-commerce in the Sultanate, said Dr Al Sunaidy.
“We are now working on the second version of the Invest Easy one-stop-shop, which will be launched in conjunction with the eVisa service as well as Bayan Customs System of the Royal Oman Police (ROP),” he said.
Importantly, these laws and initiatives will also make it possible for Oman entrepreneurs to set up online businesses from home, with access to e-signature authentication features, e-payment facilities, and electronic customs clearance capabilities. The recent launch of a new e-commerce department in the Ministry will also aid the growth of the e-commerce industry, he said.
Dr Al Sunaidy urged students and young Omanis, in particular, to pursue satisfying and rewarding entrepreneurial opportunities in e-commerce, noting that initial upfront investments in online businesses are just a fraction of that for conventional start-ups. Furthermore, e-commerce firms can be opened in the comfort of one’s home or in ordinary warehouses, he said.