Open data portal to boost innovation wins Arab award

Muscat, Dec 7 – A portal aimed at students of higher education institutions in Oman has won the Arab Government Excellence Award for the best Arab government project instituted by the Arab League. The project was chosen out of 5,000 entries from various Arab countries. The portal offers an integrated environment for innovation, to launch competitions among innovators, to provide incentive benefits in order to protect intellectual property rights, to encourage the use of technology, to find supportive bodies, and to establish new start-up companies based on innovations with added value to the national economy. The innovation system, which was launched by the Ministry of Labour, aimed to support the higher education sector represented by the technical and vocational colleges through an open data portal linked to the Sultanate’s digital transformation strategies and the National Innovation Strategy.
The portal has been designed to provide services to beneficiaries, bringing the number of beneficiaries to 174,000. The portal includes an open data hackathon, an innovation acceleration programme, an innovation lab and an innovation registration service, which includes 104 ideas aimed at enhancing students’ participation with their entrepreneurial ideas and registering innovation requests that reached 63 applications. The portal has also ensured the sustainability of innovation by training more than 3,000 innovation specialists and holding 100 workshops. There are also innovation units that have been established in technical colleges with the provision of the required resources, the use of big data, and the spread of the culture of innovation for 15 colleges and 45 thousand students. The innovation system has achieved the registration of 670 innovative ideas and the protection of 63 innovative projects, including the transformation of some of these innovations into 48 start-up companies as well as funding 8 start-up projects.
The ministry made great efforts in fostering innovation to diversify sources of income, create new jobs, and contribute to building a knowledge-based economy by preparing students of technical and vocational colleges and the ministry’s employees and encouraging them to highlight their talents and ideas.
The ministry also contributed to building a knowledge economy through technical education programmes in seven technical colleges and education and vocational training programmes in eight vocational colleges across the Sultanate, as the sustainable knowledge economy is based primarily on knowledge creation and encouraging and embracing innovation and leadership.
The ministry implemented policies and strategies to encourage the innovations of students and employees, and this is evident by the formation of innovation and entrepreneurship units in all technical and vocational colleges that are responsible for spreading the culture of innovation among students as well as encouraging them to present and develop their ideas and innovations, helping and directing them with registering their innovations through the portal, educating them on ways to protect their innovations, and assisting them in drafting a patent application.
The open data portal on the ministry’s website has included a number of initiatives that aim to provide accurate data for the present and future needs of the labour market and demonstrate the experiences of the beneficiaries. It includes 56 data bases in 8 different fields and the number of beneficiaries of the data is about 225 thousand people until April 2020.
The open data portal has also registered on the website of the ministry of about 698 innovative ideas. The recorded statistics also indicated that the percentage of registered innovations increased by 2 per cent in 2018, and 3 per cent in 2019 and these innovations have increased by 10 per cent until the end of March of 2020, due to the ministry’s initiatives to support innovation and intellectual property rights.
The ministry also offered Innovation Award, under the slogan ‘Innovation: Partnership and Sustainability’ and organised an open data hackathon competition under the slogan ‘We innovate with Data’ in order to encourage college students to use the ministry’s open data portal. It also launched a competition to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, which aims to encourage students to discover appropriate solutions to reduce the social and economic impact of the pandemic.
Moreover, in order to strengthen the ministry’s role in supporting innovation, a cooperation agreement was signed in 2019 with strategic partners to support innovation, and the main goal of the agreement is to establish at least 10 start-ups every year. It is worth noting that the innovation system is now affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation after the restructuring of the state administrative apparatus in the Sultanate.