The Oman ICT Group (OICT Group) was founded in early 2019 under the auspices of the State General Reserve Fund, which is the largest of the country’s sovereign wealth funds. The group is a high-profile umbrella organisation that brings together companies and other public- and private-sector stakeholders involved in ICT to create an environment conducive to expansion of the sector.
The integration of four companies under the OICT Group was being finalised as of the close of 2019. The firms are the Oman Broadband Company, which is responsible for developing infrastructure that will enhance cloud and data services; the Oman Towers Company, which will build mobile telecommunications towers needed for an open public network to support better coverage across the country; the Blockchain Company, which aims to support development and widespread use of blockchain technology; and the Space Communication Technologies Company, with more businesses expected to be incorporated in the coming years.
Similar to how the Oman Global Logistics Group (Asyad) and the Oman Aviation Group are the investment and development arms of the logistics and aviation sectors, respectively, the OICT Group will oversee and finance projects that reinforce information security and help drive the digital economy. The body will also develop a centre of excellence that will provide a supportive network for small and medium-sized firms. Companies that are at the forefront of global technology advancements such as blockchain, the internet of things, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity will be prioritised recipients of funding.
The OICT Group’s work will focus on three main pillars. First, the group will develop infrastructure related to cloud and data services, and establish data centres. Second, it will work to enhance cybersecurity, building on successful initiatives such as Oman Data Park’s cybersecurity centre – the first of its kind in Oman and established in February 2019. Strengthened cybersecurity will give Oman a competitive edge over its peers in the region and allow it to attract investment and international players. Third, the OICT Group will encourage the development of smart applications and next-generation technology by supporting the advancement of blockchain, robotics and AI.
The authorities are hoping that Oman will export ICT services and products to international markets in the long run, and the OICT Group is central to this effort. To reach this goal, human resources capabilities in the sector will need to meet the needs of highly competitive international and domestic companies. As such, the OICT Group will go beyond creating jobs and focus on developing a skilled local labour pool.
“A strengthened ICT sector will contribute positively to GDP and create jobs,” Said Abdullah Al Mandhari, CEO of the OICT Group, told OBG. “To get there, however, we will need to focus on developing human resources to create a competitive and skilled workforce that can attract international players.” Much will depend on young graduates and the existing workforce being trained in line with the global digital transformation as it takes place.
Further, the OITC Group is looking to form partnerships with global technology firms and institutions. In December 2017 the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank began funding Oman Broadband’s infrastructure projects that are slated to run through 2021 and aim to improve telecommunications connectivity, and increase the digital literacy and productivity of the workforce. The authorities hope that similar collaborations facilitated through the OICT Group will enable the sector to grow beyond the borders, and allow the country to become a regional leader in technology and innovation.