Oman’s ambitions to build a thriving eCommerce industry will get a further boost later this year when it hosts a major regional forum showcasing economic opportunities associated with this hugely promising sector.
The Oman eCommerce Conference (OEC 2019), set to be held at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre during September 16-17, is expected to accelerate the growth of the Sultanate’s nascent eCommerce industry.
Organised by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the two-day event is billed as the “most innovative tech-conference on eCommerce in the Middle East unravelling the future of Governance, Transportation, Logistics, Commerce & Trade, Finance, Education and Health, to promote the Digital Economy”.
The event will be held against a backdrop of strenuous efforts by the Omani government to unlock the full potential of eCommerce as an economic activity with the potential to spawn the growth of new startups — big and small — and create employment on a sizeable scale as well.
Based on these efforts, Oman is currently ranked 72 out of 151 countries worldwide on the eCommerce Index, published by UNCTAD, part of the United Nations Secretariat dealing with trade, investment, and development issues. In 2018, the Sultanate achieved a score of 57.2 out of 100 on the Index, which measures the readiness of countries to engage in online commerce.
UNCTAD’s expertise has also been tapped by the Omani government to help chart a National eCommerce Strategy for the Sultanate. In January 2018, the UN body hosted members of the National eCommerce team for discussions on the way forward. This was followed by one-one-one sessions with various government and public sector stakeholders aimed at building the requisite regulatory, legal and technological infrastructure necessary to support the growth of eCommerce.
Participating in this effort as stakeholders were the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Transport and Communications, Supreme Council for Planning, Central Bank of Oman, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), Information Technology Authority (ITA), Royal Oman Police Customs, Asyad Group, and Oman Aviation Group.
Underscoring its potential to drive economic growth, eCommerce has since been added to the remit of the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) of the Diwan of Royal Court, which is overseeing the expeditious delivery of various initiatives and projects identified as key to enhancing Oman’s economic diversification.
Under ISFU’s auspices, a National eCommerce Strategy was drawn up last year, with a number of projects and initiatives identified for early implementation as well.
The Strategy also stresses the role of, among other factors, ICT infrastructure and services, logistics and trade facilitation, and legal and regulatory frameworks, in sustaining the growth of the industry.
According to the organisers, OEC 2019 will host a wide range of international experts and decision-makers who will set out their perspectives on harnessing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, and Cloud Computing, in driving eCommerce strategies for business growth. It will also attract prominent eCommerce startups, leading banks, epayment networks, telecom operators with payment solutions, and fintech solution providers.
Oman, with its improved transport and logistics networks, strong Internet penetration, high number of smartphone users and tech-savvy youth population, is well positioned to support the uptake of eCommerce. Also boding well for the Sultanate are enablers, such as its business-friendly regulatory frameworks, improved infrastructure, and investment potential, it is pointed out.