Move to ensure online presence for SMEs by 2025

MUSCAT, AUG 31 – The Information Technology Authority (ITA) of the Sultanate has outlined a strategy designed to ensure that the large majority of Oman small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have a digital presence — which is imperative to sustaining their economic well-being and growth in today’s increasingly digitalised world. The ‘SME Digitalisation Drive’ being spearheaded by the ITA in partnership with the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Riyada) aims to ensure that at least 80 per cent of Omani small businesses have an online presence by the year 2025.
The move is part of a slew of initiatives and programmes that were recommended for implementation during a first-of-its-kind Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Lab hosted by the ITA in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Communications earlier this year. The Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU), a task force operating under the auspices of the Diwan of Royal Court, also took part in the roughly month-long ‘ICT Lab’. Riyada has an estimated 37,300 small businesses registered on its rolls as of end-2018. However, only a small percentage of them have a presence on social media and other digital platforms — tools that are vital to promoting and marketing their products and services, as well as securing business inquiries and orders.
“The digital transformation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is important as it gives them the ability to take advantage of many current and future opportunities,” said ISFU in a report on the SME Digitalisation Drive. “Many of the business opportunities go to companies overseas due to the absence of SMEs online. Therefore, there is a need for a project supporting the digital transformation of small and medium enterprises.”
According to the ITA, studies have found that small businesses which embrace digitalisation see 26 per cent revenue growth, while digitalising business processes creates efficiencies and improves workflow. In addition, products and services can be improved through digitalisation, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction. Furthermore, digitalisation allows businesses to connect with their customers in a more meaningful way.
The SME Digitalisation Drive moots the digitalisation of a wide array of business processes that small businesses depend on to operate smoothly and seamlessly in the digital marketplace. The list includes Accounting, Taxation, HR & Payroll, Digital Marketing, e-Commerce, Project Management, and Supply Chain issues.
Importantly, digitisation will help reduce risk to financing institutions as it will enable them to track their financial and management performance, according to the report. New technologies will also create new business models and improve the value added for activities within the Sultanate, it noted. “The digital transformation of these enterprises will be gradual through cooperation between the Information Technology Authority and the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Riyada), which will provide tailored subsidy (packages) to these institutions depending on the size of each SME,” ISFU added in its report.
The project is one of several initiatives currently being implemented by the ITA, among other government and private sector stakeholders, with the goal of nurturing the growth of a vibrant ICT sector in the Sultanate. ICT is envisioned as a promising economic sector with the potential to support economic diversification, contribute to GDP growth, as well as create jobs for young Omanis.