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graduate of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), Fahad Sultan al Abri is a man who shows a lot of enthusiasm in developing the IT industry in Oman. Currently leading the Digital Development Society Division (DDSD) at the Information Technology Authority (ITA), Fahad has been with ITA since its inception in 2006. ITA was established to assume the responsibility for the implementation of Digital Oman Strategy, or e.oman for short. Through e.oman, the ITA is working to transform the sultanate into a sustainable knowledge society, aiming to enhance government services, enrich business sectors and enable individuals. Initially running the ‘IT Incubation’ programme as a project manager, he was made the director general of the DDSD in 2008, a division responsible for government licensing agreements.

a PC,” is how he puts it. “The goal of the National PC Initiative was for every house in Oman to have a PC. A generous grant, the Royal Grant in Support of e.oman, came from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to cover the beneficiary families of the social insurance having at least one child or more registered in the K-12 school system, in addition to students in these families presently enrolled in higher education studies. Three years from now Omani students studying in higher education institutions will own a laptop. And so, universities can invest less in equipping laboratories and focus on improving the connectivity. The government of Oman will be investing around OMR20mn and

With the efforts of ITA, Oman is on the verge of going all digital. e-content is an area where Fahad believes his division can make a difference. He adds, “We want to focus on developing Arabic e-content. The Ministries of Education, Higher Education, Tourism and Health are already looking to digitalise their content. So, we help digitalise books and create interactive tutorials.” Fahad is proud to unveil an important project that ITA has been involved in since January this year. It is the first project, he confesses, where people leave with something tangible. “They leave us holding

The whole process – from identifying the eligible candidates to purchase – is automated. And local companies that develop the application for this automated process and other software providers are supporters of this initiative. Fahad continues, “Along with the laptop, beneficiary families of the social insurance also get accessories like a laptop bag, a mouse, Microsoft Office Professional and a McAfee anti-virus tool kit.” And the most unique thing of all is that they also get a training voucher for two weeks. “We have arrangements with 40 training institutions. The two weeks training in computer basics also includes transportation to and from the institution. In this initiative, the Ministry of Social Development has been our generous partner. It is their initiative and not ours. They opened their doors for us. We use their offices as the distribution centres. They also helped us identify the eligible people with the help of their civil numbers.”

Fahad’s vision is to bridge the digital divide in Oman, and with his motivated team he has set out to do just that. On the responsibilities of his division he says, “Our focus is on training and capacity building. We take in talented Omanis from the civil service and give them the basic IT training required. We also train IT professionals, job seekers and people in the public, private and government sectors.” Industry development is another page in the portfolio of the DDSD. Fahad explains, “We have a number of programmes in Oman aimed at the development of industry, one of the most important ones being the IT incubation programme. There are other existing programmes such as the Total Quality Management (TQM) system, Sanad, Intilaaqah and the Youth Fund. We are not establishing anything new, but are just continuing to support the efforts of existing programmes with our focus on IT and IT companies.”

OMR150 is automatically deducted from the price. They have to only pay the balance, which can be paid in instalments.”

over 130,000 people will benefit from this initiative.” With support from local partners, this initiative has had an amazing start. Says Fahad, “With 100 per cent subsidy from His Majesty we visit the wilayats of the beneficiary families of the social insurance to distribute the computers. We have partnered with Bahwan IT, and also received a very generous contribution from Omantel. They are providing the families with free modems and free Internet subscription for up to three months. Another component of the initiative is the grant of OMR150 to students of higher education enrolled in the first year of study in the Sultanate, in addition to teachers who are graduates of the Government IT Training & Certification (GITTC) project. They can choose any laptop they want, one that is accredited by ITA and

Fahad proves success with statistics saying, “In Muscat, distribution of the computers is at 97 per cent. There are only 29 recipients who have not collected their machines. Alternative arrangements are currently underway to ensure they receive them. If required, we will go to their homes and present them with the laptop. In other regions the percentage of distribution is anywhere between 50 to 87 per cent. Out of the 13,000 who were eligible, almost 8,500 have benefitted so far.” With a sense of triumph, the DDSD is currently working on almost 40 projects. But we will have to wait to get a peek at any future projects as Fahad believes in keeping it a surprise.

April 2011 / 29

TECH Issue 12  
TECH Issue 12  

Immersive Gaming, April 2011