The retreat of the Sultanate of Oman by four places in the Innovation and Higher Education Index for 2020, released by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), was shocking. This index is considered a global standard for measuring innovation system in 131 countries around the world. There were certain reasons and factors which have led to this. These should be dealt with at the earliest. These require solutions so that there is no repetition of efforts and wastage of money. One of the reasons might be not updating of data and not giving importance to related index. This may have led to placing the country in a lower position than it has deserved.
This ranking should not deter us from our efforts aimed at fulfilling the commitment to strengthen higher education, innovation, scientific research, etc, as they are required for development of any nation. Perhaps, setting up of a ministry for higher education, innovations and scientific research made the future approach very clear. It shows that these areas are important for us in our endeavour for development and progress.
The performance as shown in the index should not be the end of the world for us. We are confident that this will prove to be one of the main factors for bringing changes in the area. It will show that we are very keen on these areas and ready to make extra efforts in innovations and scientific research in future.
The Sultanate’s ranking in innovation index at 84th position in the world was a direct result of fall in spending on education. The higher education index of the country fell eight positions to be at 12 globally from fourth position. There are many factors for this and they are interlinked. If we are not good in one area, it would have implications on other areas as well. Therefore, it is a must we reconsider our calculations and assessments of these areas in a more accurate manner. We also must have thoughtful planning and mobilise all efforts to achieve the set goals. All organisations from public and private sectors should make efforts to move forward and achieve higher objectives in the area.
Dr Sharifa bint Hammoud al Harthy, Director of the National Innovation Strategy at the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, has rightly diagnosed the reasons which led to this ranking. Her assessment makes clear how we deal with the issues related to the country. There should not be any justification for any fault. Everything should be identified, and solutions should be found at the table to deal with this trend.
She has said that the decline in index was the result of the failure in increasing the financial allocations for higher education, scientific research, and innovation in recent years. On the contrary, this was the time when most of the countries in the world are racing against each other to increase spending on research and development. Not only this, but many demanded that there should be special allocation in the state budget for scientific research and innovation. They realised that this was very important for the development of the country. No other official is talking about the factors for the decline.
She not only spoke of lacklustre spending on scientific research and innovation, but also pointed out the need for expediting implementation of rules and regulations so that they reflect in innovation and scientific research. The Sultanate’s ranking at 88th position on this index requires that the authorities concerned revisit these rules, and regulations and their implementation on ground.
Ali Al Matani