Interview: Said Abdullah Al Mandhari

To what extent can disruptive technologies enable economic development in Oman?

SAID ABDULLAH AL MANDHARI: Advanced technologies and blockchain, in particular, have enormous potential to enhance Oman’s long-term economic development, especially considering the current business environment. Artificial intelligence (AI), big-data analytics, blockchain and the internet of things (IoT) can boost efficiency and productivity in various sectors, such as finance, education, health care and logistics. It will be important for the energy sector in particular to adopt advanced technologies to increase productivity and align with long-term sustainability standards.

More specifically, AI-powered analytics can be utilised to guide decision-making processes, IoT can track goods and services in real time, and big data can optimise supply chain management and improve forecasting. Blockchain, for its part, could be used to provide platforms that manage digital assets and conduct transactions while reducing fraud risks, increasing transparency and streamlining related operational processes. Blockchain would also be able to expand inclusion in the financial ecosystem, as it enables crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

What more can be done to accelerate the implementation of cloud-based solutions across the local business community?

AL MANDHARI: The development of data centres and cloud-based solutions will bring significant improvements to Oman’s business environment in the near term. Indeed, they will open the door to investment opportunities that leverage the growth potential of the sector, as well as the country’s strategic location at the crossroads of Asia and Europe.

Educating local businesses about the benefits of cloud-based solutions is key to accelerating their adoption. It will be important to make companies aware of advantages such as cost effectiveness, improved security and increased scalability. Additionally, businesses must be able to access the necessary infrastructure to support the utilisation of cloudbased solutions. Public-private partnerships with ICT providers aimed at improving the stability and speed of internet connectivity would enable companies to implement cloud-based solutions more efficiently and effectively. The role played by global technology giants – also known as hyperscalers – is also vital to driving the growth of the sector in Oman.

Moreover, the training and upskilling of local ICT professionals will ensure that businesses have access to the requisite technical support to implement and maintain cloud-based solutions, while addressing concerns around data privacy and security. Taken together, these measures would encourage the widespread adoption of cloud-based solutions in Oman, contributing to the country’s economic growth and diversification in the process.

How can the local venture capital (VC) network be enhanced, and how would such advancements help to develop the wider ICT sector?

AL MANDHARI: Oman’s VC ecosystem can be enhanced in several ways that would contribute to the development of the sector. First, the establishment of more VC firms and angel investors in the country would improve the pipeline of companies being funded and scaled. This could be achieved by providing tax incentives and simplifying policies and regulations related to international investors, as well as by offering more incubators and acceleration programmes.

Second, the domestic VC network can be improved by promoting cross-border partnerships, especially at a regional level. International cooperation, particularly in the ICT sector, would facilitate technology transfer – as well as access to funding and new markets – and thus promote future expansion of the ICT sector.