Interview: Said Abdullah Mandhari
What sort of economic multiplier effects do you expect to see from the implementation of the National Broadband Strategy?
SAID ABDULLAH MANDHARI: We have already seen some positive impacts from the launch of the first portion of the network, and we expect to see many more. We have seen a solid reduction in the prices of fixed broadband services across the country and, more importantly, higher internet speeds have become available. Operators have announced packages with speeds of over 100 Mbps, with some as high as 1 Gbps. This will be a big boon to the economy, as Oman will be recognised as a country that offers connections of over 100 Mbps – a speed that should entice investment from more IT companies, among others.
On the government side, we see that higher connection speeds encourage the various government agencies and entities to bring more e-services and e-applications to the market, since some of the hurdles – such as lack of connectivity and low connection speeds – have been addressed. Increased integration and cooperation at this level should serve to benefit the country and improve the ease of doing business.
Looking at the private sector, we have seen a lot of demand from industrial and commercial clients, including the ports and industrial areas, to ensure that these areas and businesses are connected to their counterparts across the country. Indeed, one of Oman Broadband Company’s core mandates is to provide a strong network for the country’s industrial base. We see a lot of potential in ensuring that the country as a whole is connected via a smart network, which should boost the synergy between businesses and the government.
How have e-transformation and digitisation initiatives made it easier to do business in Oman?
MANDHARI: Oman has always focused on digitisation as a key enabler of business, but the challenge was always to integrate these services. Now that connectivity and speed have improved, many of these e-services and other government initiatives will be incorporated, greatly enhancing their impact on the ease of doing business. Connecting 62 different government entities and two data centres will, without question, bring significant benefits.
It has already been demonstrated globally that e-services, infrastructure and connectivity empower businesses to have a greater impact on the economy, so this is nothing new that needs to be proven again in Oman. We are currently focusing on connecting all public and private entities that are major contributors to the sultanate’s economy, including industrial areas, seaports, airports, commercial areas and government agencies. We have already seen vast improvements to the ease of doing business in Oman from the e-initiatives that have been pursued thus far, but once they are integrated, their impact will be greatly enhanced.
In what ways can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) be encouraged to adopt new technologies with greater rapidity?
MANDHARI: What we know is that good connectivity and well-developed e-services are key criteria for attracting companies and improving the ease of doing business, and this applies to both SMEs and enterprise clients. Integration between government entities and the private sector is vital. Currently, the processes involved in getting approvals and acquiring licences are too complicated and time-consuming. They can be smoothed by providing better e-services. In reducing the time and effort required for these services, you reduce the cost and make the country’s SMEs more competitive in the national and international markets. We see the IT sector as having the potential to serve as a sort of cottage industry for SMEs. By providing the e-infrastructure and creating a platform via which SMEs can offer their services, we can enable SMEs to address the needs of the nation’s enterprise businesses.
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