Interview: Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi
Where can technology play the biggest role in the progress of Vision 2020? How much emphasis is given to ICT in the planning of Vision 2040?
SALIM SULTAN AL RUZAIQI: In today’s world, technology must be integrated into the master plans across all sectors. The transport and logistics sector, for example, cannot reach its full potential without ICT. If we do not prepare ourselves as a country to absorb technology in a broad way, we will be unable to achieve the development goals set forth in Vision 2020 and 2040. These goals are very ambitious, so if we are going to be a global leader in anything, the technology we use will need to be not just the latest but on the absolute cutting edge. The only way forward is to develop and enhance every sector with ICT.
Oman is fortunate to have a young, technologically inclined population. We must make sure that we nourish this segment of the populace and provide them with the opportunity to advance ICT in our country. These young people are our future leaders, and they will have the mindset that is required to utilise ICT to its maximum potential.
A great deal of consideration is being put into incorporating ICT into the fibre of Vision 2040, especially given its focus on logistics. No global leader will be clearing shipments with pen and paper anymore: everything must be digital, streamlined, efficient and traceable. Vision 2020 sets the framework and builds the infrastructure needed to make enhanced ICT application a reality in Vision 2040.
In what ways can regulatory policy be changed to better cater to ICT incubation?
AL RUZAIQI: There is no reason for Oman to be lagging behind, as flexibility has always been an inherent part of the regulatory environment for ICT. Because of ICT’s central importance, no country today will pass laws that hinder its uptake. Regulations are there for a reason, but Oman has never been unreasonable in implementing new rules and always makes sure that companies and the public have options when it comes to meeting their ICT needs.
Any delays that the country has experienced so far have been purely financial. For example, it is not always financially feasible or economically viable to roll out technologies in less populated areas or in places that will not see major benefit. The government is now investing in ICT infrastructure through initiatives such as the Oman Broadband Company, and when this infrastructure is complete, more private sector investments will be possible. At the same time, regulators will continue to maintain a pro-ICT stance and ensure that new technologies can be used to their maximum economic benefit. Given ICT’s importance, the regulatory focus must remain open, conduce to growth and work towards delivering Vision 2020.
How are you measuring the economic impact of encouraging ICT knowledge transfer into Oman?
AL RUZAIQI: We will begin to implement mechanisms that will measure ICT’s economic utility as a portion of GDP. At present we monitor ICT products that come from Oman and their social impact, such as in job creation. It is hard to forecast ICT’s contribution going forward; both locally and globally it is still a difficult thing to quantify. We will be testing our new model in the next five-year plan, but I can say confidently that ICT is accelerating Oman’s economic development and helping industry to reach new heights. As we integrate more ICT into the master plan, Oman will move towards leveraging higher education institutions to produce ICT graduates who specialise in specific industries. This means that as global technology becomes available, Omanis will be trained and prepared to use it, which will boost Oman’s competitiveness and the scope for innovation in the country. Neighbouring countries are investing in ICT in their own ways, so Oman cannot afford to disregard the potential impact that technology will have on all sectors, the economy and the country as a whole.
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