RO 100m investments to seed new ICT industry in Oman

MUSCAT, AUG 18 – Oman’s authorities have assembled a portfolio of strategic projects and initiatives, envisioning investments in excess of RO 100 million, to help jumpstart the growth of a new economic sector centring on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Sultanate.
The projects and initiatives represent the result of nearly month-long deliberations involving a large number of experts hailing from public and private stakeholder organisations. Those discussions, held as part of the ‘ICT & the 4th Industrial Revolution Lab’, were hosted earlier this year by the Ministry of Transport and Communications in collaboration with the Information Technology Authority (ITA) of Oman. Also supporting the Lab was the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) of the Diwan of Royal Court.
“The Lab has embarked on a number of initiatives and projects aimed at establishing a real industry for the localisation of capital and knowledge locally,” said Dr Salim bin Sultan al Ruzaiqi (pictured), Chief Executive Officer — ITA. “These initiatives and projects were based on three main areas: Hardware and Software, Services, and Enablers. The 11 initiatives of the Lab include 28 projects, 15 of which are primary projects and 13 are secondary projects. These projects will attract an investment of RO 104 million by 2023 and will provide about 2,282 direct jobs and more than 9,000 on-the-job training opportunities by 2024 for Omanis,” he stated in a newly published report on the Lab.
The Lab outlined the potential for investments in, among other areas, the manufacture of ICT related devices, including Smart Meters, IoT devices, and so on. Also promising, it noted, are opportunities in hardware and software solutions, including cybersecurity, disaster recovery services, ICT shared solutions, Artificial Intelligence in Chest X-Ray, and so on.
Importantly, the overall endeavour will help germinate a promising new ICT industry, which currently accounts for a minuscule 2.1 per cent share of the country’s GDP — far below the minimum trend in the European Union, according to the report.
“It should be noted that the majority of the sector’s contribution came from the telecommunications sector, as the IT sector did not achieve any significant growth,” it noted. “There is also a trade deficit in the Sultanate due to the fact that the imported ICT goods and services are more than the exported ones, and the departure of most of the profits and expertise out of the Sultanate. Moreover, there are currently insufficient jobs to absorb the large number of graduates each year from ICT majors, often due to the absence of a robust ICT industry in the Sultanate,” the report further lamented.
The Lab also affirmed the need for developing a strong ICT industry in the Sultanate, citing the sector’s pivotal role in driving economic growth in other countries around the world. Oman holds particular promise if it succeeds in enhancing the competitiveness of the sector, it stressed.
“The Sultanate has the ability to compete globally in the field of ICT, as it enjoys strong connectivity with majority of the submarine cables that pass through the region. This provides the Sultanate with a competitive advantage over other countries,” the Lab Report said.
“Also, the Sultanate has been ranked first in the Arab level and the fourth in the global level in the cybersecurity readiness index in 2017. Oman is also known for its political and social stability and security. This makes it an attractive destination for ICT investors if the potentials are properly utilised,” it added.