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ICT REPORT SULTANATE OF OMAN

2011-12

INFORMATION

&

COMMUNICATION

TECHNOLOGY


CONCEPT & CREATION Akshay Bhatnagar CONTENT Fatma Al Araimi, Susmita De, Turki Al Balushi DESIGN Senior Art Director Sandesh S. Rangnekar Senior Designers Shameer Moideen M. Balagopalan Designer Khoula Rashid Al Wahaibi Senior Photographer Rajesh Burman Photographer Motasim Abdulla Al Balushi Production Manager Govindaraj Ramesh MARKETING Shivkumar Gaitonde CORPORATE Chief Executive Sandeep Sehgal Executive Vice President Alpana Roy Vice President Ravi Raman Senior Business Support Executive Radha Kumar Distribution United Media Services LLC Web Edition www.oeronline.com Translator M Kamal Picture courtesy ITA, TRA, Omantel, Nawras Published by United Press & Publishing LLC PO Box 3305, Ruwi, Postal Code - 112 Muscat, Sultanate of Oman Tel: (968) 24700896, Fax: (968) 24707939 Email: akshay@umsoman.com All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. The publisher does not accept responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person or organisation acting or refraining as a result of material in this publication. OER accepts no responsibility for advertising content. Copyright © 2011 United Press & Publishing LLC Printed by Oman Printers

BEYOND THE DUMB PIPE The excitement never ends in the ICT space! Like the years before, the period during 2010-2011 has not been an exception either. Number of major transformations marked the telecom landscape in the Sultanate. Nawras made maximum news during the year. The private operator launched the fixed line services, introduced the WiMax technology for the first time in Oman, got successfully listed on Muscat Securities Market (MSM) with the second largest initial public offer (IPO) in the Sultanate, and made its own international voice and data gateway operational. Not to be outdone, the market leader Omantel with its aggressive consumer offerings and further expansion of next-generation network (NGN) strengthened its hold on the mobile and broadband segments. In the coming year or so, it is going to be an interesting battle between the two service providers for the top slot. Simultaneously, mobile service resellers (second-class license holders) would continue to slug it out to get their fair share of the pie. The big question is ‘Are these market players looking beyond the dumb pipe?’ So far the onus has been on providing the connectivity and as a result, few efforts have been made on offering value added services. But in the coming years, as they start finding it increasingly difficult to force the pace on the revenue generation and subscription fronts, they probably won’t have any option but to take the avatar of a ‘smart pipe’. This is one of the many other focus areas for this year’s edition of OMAN ICT REPORT that provides a comprehensive overview of the different elements including major developments, issues and opportunities related to the telecom sector. On the information technology front, the report explores how the digital eco-system is taking shape in the country. Faster and more affordable broadband, relatively younger population and increasing reliance on automation are driving the progression of IT based services. On the other hand, Information Technology Authority (ITA), the pivotal government body, is creating the key components of the national IT infrastructure to form a robust engine for the development of the digital society in Oman. Enjoy reading! Akshay Bhatnagar Group Managing Editor


CONTENTS BREAKING THE BARRIERS

Perspective on the role of ICT in social development

77 BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE An overview of the information technology industry in Oman

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AUTHORITY (ITA) • Towards a Digital Society • Online Donation for Charity Organisations • Interview-Dr.Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, CEO, ITA • The Innovation and Support Center

The Global Information Technology Report (GITR) 2010-2011 -Networked Readiness Index (NRI)

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TELECOM REGULATORY AUTHORITY (TRA)

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ENABLING THE TRANSFORMATION

MAKING LIFE SIMPLER

• Foreword - HE Dr.Hamad Bin Salim Bin Rashid Al Rawahi, Chief Executive, TRA • Fair Play – TRA’s major activities in 2010

Interview - Nasser Salem Ahmed, Head-Enterprise Sales & Engineering, Google Middle East

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32

40

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KO – BUILDING KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY Column – Tariq Barwani, Founder & President, Knowledgeoman.com

FORWARD THINKER

Corporate Profile – ICT Division, The Zubair Corporation

IN EXPANSION MODE

Interview – Dr.Liu Qi, VP-Enterprise Business, Middle East, Huawei Technology

MARKET 44 INTERNET Global IP traffic forecast for 2015 BROADBAND – THE NEXT BATTLEGROUND A review of the telecom sector in Oman

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GOES WIRELESS 58 FIXED The fixed line is struggling with growth of mobile services

5G DOESN’T SEEM TO BE TOO FAR

FOR GROWTH 62 SCOPE A look at the key trends in the mobile services segment

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RULES OF CYBERSPACE

74 BROADBAND Viewpoint on the broadband game in the $2 trillion MENA market

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GETTING READY FOR THE FUTURE

Column – Alpna J Doshi, CIO, Reliance Group & CEO, Reliance Tech Services

Column – Charles Schofield, Partner, Trower & Hamlins

TAKING THE LEAD Interview – Dr.Amer Bin Awadh AlRawas, CEO, Omantel

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ENRICHING LIVES

Interview – Ross Cormack, CEO, Nawras

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GIVING BACK TO THE SOCIETY

Nawras’ key initiatives in community projects, sponsorships, social activities and events in 2010

Interview - Dr.Mohammed Ali Al-Wahaibi, Under SecretaryCommunications, Ministry of Transport & Communications

45 SPECIAL FEATURES • IMTAC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • Gulf Business Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • Exceed IT Services & Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • Al Madina Development & Supply . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • Bahwan IT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • Bahwan Cybertek . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • Omania E-Commerce . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • Bahwan Projects & Telecoms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


“We are very proud of the accomplishments the Sultanate has achieved at the international level. The UNPSA is the most prestigious award in the international arena which recognises excellence in public service. For three government organisations and one NGO to have won these awards this year, signifies the great attention and importance the sultanate has given to focusing its efforts to improve the government eServices in the different sectors of society."

HE ALI BIN MASOUD AL SUNAIDY Chairman of Information Technology Authority

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Towards a Digital Society As part of its national strategy for establishing a digital society and eGovernance, the Sultanate has clearly defined its objectives to make the entire spectrum of services more comprehensive, benefiting all segments of society. The Information Technology Authority (ITA) works towards implementing this national strategy in association with various Government institutions.

The e.oman Strategy focuses on transforming the Sultanate into a knowledge society by creating advanced infrastructure facilities for the development of information technology in the country. It includes setting up electronic networks, data saving and information security centres, web portals, laying the frameworks and legislations for digital transactions, preparing a national IT talent pool equipped with relevant capacities and skills, eradicating digital illiteracy in the society through continuous training and awareness programmes, increasing people’s access to personal computers with the Internet connection, and the development of various electronic services by government institutions. The Sultanate was ranked 41st internationally in the Networked Readiness Index of the 138 countries in the annual Global IT Report 2011 of the World Economic Forum. The report was prepared in collaboration with INSEAD, a leading international business school. The Global IT Report remains the world’s most comprehensive and authoritative international assessment of the impact of information and communications technologies (ICTs) on the development process and the competitiveness of nations. The Sultanate has secured 9 more points compared to the previous year's report where it was ranked 50th globally. The Networked Readiness Index (NRI), featured in the report, examines how prepared countries are to use ICT effectively across three component sub-indexes: the general business, regulatory and infrastructure environment; the readiness of the three key stakeholder groups in a society -- individuals, businesses and governments to use and benefit ICT; and the actual usage of the latest ICTs available. According to the report, the Sultanate was ranked 13th internationally in Government Readiness Index in information technology, going six notches up from the previous report in which it was ranked 19th. In the importance given to ICTs by the Government, Oman, backed by its vision of the future, made an 11 point jump in ranking. This now makes Oman one of the top 10 countries in the world with regard to Government Readiness. The Sultanate was ranked 22 in Government’s attention to information technology, 3 points up from the previous year. The Sultanate has made a quantum leap in the Individuals Readiness Index, winning the 40th rank internationally, up by 47 points compared the 87th rank it secured in the previous year. It marks a clear shift currently visible in the Omani society with number of people capable of using modern technology increasing significantly. This was essentially as a result of various training programmes in using computers and the Internet, and taking advantage of modern technology. In Government efficiency in using information and communication technologies, the Sultanate has ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


jumped 14 points to secure the 18th position. It was owing to the initiatives taken by Government institutions to provide their services electronically through electronic portals and thereby increasing the transparency of their services and making them available to all sections of the society. In addition, three eGovernment projects of the Sultanate won four United Nations Public Service Awards. The ITA was a first-place winner with its ‘Transforming the Society through the e.oman Communication Strategy' in the category of ‘Advancing Knowledge Management in Government'. The Ministry of Education was another first-place winner in the category of ‘Improving the Delivery of Public Services' with its ‘Education Portal'. And, yet another firstplace finisher was the Ministry of Civil Services for the ‘Central Recruiting System' in the ‘Preventing and Combating Corruption in the Public Service' category. The National Association for Cancer Awareness for its ‘Mobile Mammography Unit' in the category of ‘Promoting Gender-Responsive Delivery of Public Services' took second place. The UN Public Service Award recognises the creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions which lead to a more effective and responsive public service administration in countries worldwide. The Awards promote the role, professionalism and visibility of public service. It is important to note that each year, there are only five categories with two winners per category. In 2010, Al Shifa Health Information System of the Ministry of Health won the first place in the United Nations Award for Public Service for developing a new concept and a new idea in public administration. The electronic registration system of the Ministry of Manpower secured the second place in UN Public Service Awards for developing and improving the quality of services; and in 2009 UN Public Service Awards, the civil registry of the Royal Oman Police captured a Certificate of Excellence as one of the top ten projects on a global level providing advanced services. The ITA is currently conducting a national initiative to promote the use of computers in society. This initiative has been supported by a Royal Grant of His Majesty granting a computer for each Social Security family with one or more school-going children. In addition, personal computers have been granted to students pursuing higher education from these families. The Royal Grant also offered to bear part of the cost of a personal computer for firstyear higher education students in the Sultanate and teachers who are the graduates of civil servants training project. The Royal Grants at a cost of over RO23mn helped more than 113,000 citizens to get a personal computer and enhance their participation in building a 6

2011 UN PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD (UNPSA) – OMAN WINNERS digital society. The ITA continues to distribute personal computers to social security families and first-year students in universities and colleges, and teachers who were trained as part of civil servants training projects in a number of wilayats in the country. The initiative will enable a large number of people in the society to use computers and the Internet, and be part of the digital society. The ITA also provides free training to the recipients of PCs from social security families to enable them to use computers and the Internet. It will continue to contribute towards increasing the number of computers and Internet users in Omani society and encourage them to get access to various IT and electronic services. The Sultanate won the first place for the technical standard of eGovernment services in a contest organized by The Open Group Arabia in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Open Group Arabia is a non-profit organization that aims to encourage countries to adopt and implement technical standards for electronic projects and services around the world. The first place was for the ITA’s project called ‘Technical Standards for eGovernment’ in cooperation with various government institutions. It was aimed at developing and implementing frameworks and standards for upgrading information systems and eGovernment services in order to achieve the objectives of a digital society. A number of Gulf, Arab and regional countries participated in the competition for this award. The Open Group Arabia is one of the most important international awards as it follows the United Nations Organization regulations. The award cited as an important achievement is a result of concerted efforts and greater cooperation between various government agencies. It is also an international recognition for the efforts of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Manpower in the effective functioning of IT and communication technologies to enhance and improve electronic services. In order to give


training for people on information technology, the ITA has set up knowledge community centres in all regions and governorates of the Sultanate. The knowledge community centres are an important concept for conducting IT training programmes in order to develop various technical skills and abilities in the citizens. It will help them broaden their digital horizon and enjoy the access to the Internet and various eGovernment services provided through the official Government portals. Training Differently Abled People As part of the national initiative to make people more informed and skilled in the field of information technology, the ITA has accorded great attention to give IT training and qualification for differently abled people. The ITA has organized several training workshops for them. The ITA has worked in coordination with various associations concerned for the development of mechanisms to activate the information technology in the lives of differently abled people, and give them equal opportunities to keep pace with the new development. The authority has provided them with modern equipment and technologies tailor-made for differently abled people, as well as specialised training courses on information technology to make them IT savvy. They were also given training to use computing devices suited to their needs. In a first of its kind initiative in the Middle East, the ITA conducted the convocation ceremony of 70 deaf and dumb trainers from different regions in the Sultanate during the COMEX 2011. They were given training considering them as an important segment of the society. Their training in IT is essential for enabling them to deal with various digital technologies and take advantage of eGovernment services in the Sultanate. These trainers can in turn teach other groups of people in dealing with information technology and eGovernment services. Community Knowledge Centres for Women In line with the directives of His Majesty to accord more importance to women and strengthen their role in nation building, the ITA set up Community Knowledge Centres for Women in the wilayats of Seeb, Rustaq, Shinas, Yanqul, Ibra, Ja’lan Bani Bu Ali, Bahla, Muscat and Thumrait. These centres have trained around 1,890 women on the basics of computer till this year and 18 Omani women trainers from Omani Women Association. In the first stage itself, the Community Centres could do a lot for social development such as training Omani women in the basics of computer and the Internet, enhancing their skills, improving their performance and making them qualified in information technology and making them actively contribute to build a digital society. The

Community Centers can also support the Government’s efforts to train women on information technology in partnership with Omani Women’s Association as well as contribute to reduce computer illiteracy, raise social awareness on information technology by giving continuous training programmes to all segments of the society and create job opportunities for Omani youth. Training Employees Since civil servants can play a crucial role in the social development programmes of the Government, the ITA has conceptualized and implemented a three-year IT training programme for civil servants to improve their professional efficiency and technical skills. As many as 93,000 government employees, both men and women, have completed an internationally certified programme in information technology. In addition, the ITA has tested the efficiency level of 43,392 employees from 36 government institutions and given internationally valid certificates in computer and Internet to over 30,000 employees. It has also trained more than 200 job seekers, and in association with various government departments and institutions made plans to continue the training till they get their certificates. It also takes feedback from the students through a questionnaire. This initiative is part of the ITA’s efforts to fill the digital divide and create awareness in various Government institutions, train the employees to use computers, the Internet and various basic applications. It also want to make offices and workplaces more IT savvy, train the staff to develop their competencies, help the Government to simplify its transactions and create awareness in all these areas in Government departments, private sectors and in the society as a whole. Specialized Training The ITA runs a specialized advanced training programme in information technology in various government organisations. It organizes high-quality courses for them in collaboration with various international companies. The specialized courses in information technology offers the employees an opportunity to get advanced IT certificates and helps the country to meet the increasing demand for high-quality ICT services in public and private sectors. These training programmes also serve towards meeting the future demands of the country in the ICT sector, strengthen the growth of the sector and contribute skills and competencies to for the development of IT industry in the country. It helps the ITA play a major role in achieving the goals of eGovernment and other objectives of Digital Oman. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


Oman Association for the Disabled, Association of the Welfare of the Handicapped, and the Oman Hereditary Blood Disorder Association.

Online Donation for Charity Organizations Launched in 2009 by the Information Technology Authority (ITA) in association with the Ministry of Social Development, the Donations Portal for Charitable Organizations serves as a one-stop shop for making online donations to various Omani charity organizations. This is in line with the ITA’s mission to use technology to benefit the community, including the less privileged people and those with special needs.

The portal, www.onlinedonations.org.om, receives donations from credit cards issued in the Sultanate via electronic payments and delivers them to ten charity organisations which include: Oman Charity Organisation, Al Noor Association for the Blind, National Association for Cancer Awareness, Dar Al Atta’a Charity, Environment Society of Oman, Somalia Help – Famine Relief, Association of Early Intervention for Children with Special Needs, 8

The portal facilitates round-the-clock donations and enables donors to complete the whole process online in a few seconds in strict confidentiality. It also lets donors choose which charitable organization will receive the monies donated. With its extensive coverage, the portal makes it easy for people throughout the sultanate to donate to local charity organizations. To date, the number of contributors who have generously donated via the portal has well surpassed 2,000. This number is increasing day by day, with the portal having received more than RO 24,000 in online donations. The portal is an ideal place for those who want to donate and indulge in voluntary activities but may be too busy to visit the organization concerned or do not have contacts within these organizations. The charities listed are in urgent need of these donations as they depend mostly on the private sector companies for their various activities and programmes such as family care, orphan care and the supply of food and medicine. The first of its kind in the Sultanate, the portal won the Arab Regional eContent Award in the eInclusion category, under the World Summit Award Programme in 2009, a few months after its launch.


Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, Chief Executive Officer of ITA, reiterates that the Authority - as per the strategy set by the Government to transform the Sultanate into a digital society - educates citizens about the safe and sound usage of modern technologies. He says that the Authority seeks to overcome the challenges and instill confidence in eGovernment services, adding that the Sultanate’s recent win of four United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA) confirms the success of the country in its efforts to transform itself into a digital society. Excerpts of a conversation with Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi:

DR SALIM SULTAN AL RUZAIQI, CEO, ITA

Equipping Society for a Digital Era The Information Technology Authority (ITA) seeks to prepare society for a new digital era by making the best use of modern technologies in an effort to transform daily transactions, working in unison with Government agencies to convert their transactions into electronic format making them accessible to all.

The Sultanate recently won four United Nations Public Service Awards. What does it mean for you? I thank God for receiving these international awards. Though not the first time to receive a UN Public Service Award (UNPSA), this is the first occasion for having been awarded so many UNPSA awards at one time. In previous years, the sultanate won this award for the Royal Omani Police Civil Status system (National Registration System), the Al Shifa Health Information System of the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Manpower’s Manpower Registration System. This year, four of the sultanate’s projects won the Award. This achievement was preceded by the release of the UN report in which the Sultanate was ranked 13th in eGovernance readiness. All of these indicators confirm that the Sultanate is moving in the right direction, in setting up the infrastructure for eGovernment and transforming the society into a knowledge society. It also signifies the success of our efforts to provide better electronic services coupled with a competitive environment in which to use them. Whether it is the implementation of Digital Oman strategy or the efforts undertaken by various Ministries to provide such electronic services, these projects are set up on the basis of the best international practices. How do you see the electronic services in the Sultanate and what are the plans to improve them? His Majesty the Sultan reiterated in his Council of Oman speech in 2008 the importance of transforming Government services to the electronic format, and of training and preparing people to use them. In order to implement these directives, the ITA carried out several projects which included the training of citizens and raising their awareness about the importance of having access to electronic services. We are also currently training all civil servants in IT and have created Community Knowledge Centers throughout the different regions of the Sultanate in an effort to train people to become digital-savvy. The ITA regularly participates in many events to interact with the citizens. Thus, significant efforts are being made ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


to implement the directions of His Majesty and I believe that the international reports which praise the steps taken and awards achieved by the projects in the Sultanate confirm that we are proceeding on the right track and that we are doing well. We recently conducted a workshop for a number of ministry officials and undersecretaries in order to emphasize the importance of migrating and converting the services in their respective institutions to the electronic platform; I think the infrastructure facilities required for the Government agencies to transform their services to eServices are available already. I appreciate the initiatives and efforts taken by various Government units in this regard. But, I think implementing projects of this scale and converting all services to eServices requires more effort; we have to train the staff so that they will be able to handle these services. The Sultan Qaboos Award for Excellence in eGovernment will serve to encourage these institutions to accelerate the transfer of services to the electronic platform. About a year ago the number of eServices being offered in the country was minimal, but today there are more than 600 Government services on www.oman.om, the Official eGovernment Services Portal. Today, one need not physically visit a Government agency to inquire about entry procedures. One simply has to visit the eGovernment services portal. With more than 600 services available there, great efforts are being made to make a quantum leap forward in this regard. The Sultanate has come a long way in training people and paving the way for creating a knowledge society. There is no doubt that information technology will continue to create many job opportunities. One of the main focus areas of the current Five-Year Plan is the development of IT industry in the Sultanate. The annual Sultan Qaboos Award for Excellence in eGovernment encourages Government institutions to develop and enhance their eServices. What are the main goals of this Award? Do you have plans to add new categories in the next year’s edition of the Award? There is no doubt that Sultan Qaboos Award for Excellence in eGovernment has instilled a spirit of competition among various Government units and agencies, even among those who were not interested to participate. Everyone is proud to participate, even if they fail to make it to the winner’s list. For the next year’s edition of the Award, we have an aggressive and comprehensive marketing and promotion plan to introduce the Award to attract a much larger participation. In this edition of the Award too, the target will be Government agencies only. However, in the coming editions, we will find a suitable process and plan for the participation of private sector 10

entities and individuals also. The private sector is one of the important partners in implementing our initiatives and we cannot succeed without the support of this vital sector. The Information Technology Authority (ITA) has signed an agreement to set up business incubation, one of the key initiatives for the establishment of the IT industry in Oman. What are the main objectives of this project? One of the strategic objectives mentioned in our Five-Year Plan is the transfer of Government services to the electronic platform, as well as IT capacity building, training and awareness. Having created infrastructure facilities for eGovernment services, we are now currently seeking to create infrastructure for the IT industry through special programmes In addition, we have set up a unified system for business incubation in association with Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and other organizations that have implemented initiatives to draw young people to information technology and assist them to adopt their own innovative ideas and market them. This project is aimed at encouraging young people to conceive their own ideas and develop their own projects. In an attempt to strengthen the local IT industry, we offer support to small companies till they are able to implement large projects. Another objective for setting up incubators is to attract foreign investment in this area to improve the efficiency of the sector. We are also seeking to create new skills and competencies in information technology. The incubators will have a role in providing employment opportunities for young Omanis and help companies to set up their centers in the Sultanate. Oman is also blessed with stability, safety and other competitive advantages, which ideally will attract investment in this area. We have also launched an Open Source Lab in association with the Sultan Qaboos University, the University of Nizwa and other technical colleges and universities. We have linked these universities with international companies operating in the Sultanate in an attempt to introduce open source software as an alternative to closed-source software. Using open source software will help to create innovative solutions which can be altered according to the requirements. There has been a national initiative for distributing personal computers, supported by Royal Grant in Support of Oman to give around 113,000 citizens the access to personal computers, training and Internet services. How successful has this initiative been in achieving the objectives of Digital Oman?


There is no doubt that the His Majesty’s Royal Grant to give around 113,000 citizens the access to personal computers, training and Internet services has strengthened the National PC initiative. Part of the e.oman Strategy, the National PC initiative was aimed at creating a society capable of utilizing digital and electronic services. Designed to provide support for some beneficiary families of social security, we expect them to enjoy access to computer technologies to work together towards creating a knowledge society. I believe that information technology has the potential to create of jobs. As well, there are a lot of virtual jobs created by information technology, which do not require large capital at the outset except for a computer and an Internet connection. It is essential for everyone to know how to use new technologies including the Internet and to be aware of their rights and duties to safeguard against a lot of problems caused by their improper use. COMEX is one of the most important information technology exhibitions organised annually by the ITA in order to promote the information technology sector. How does the exhibition help in promoting the sector? Are there future plans to expand the exhibition? COMEX is one of the essential IT platforms in the Sultanate, as it is a good place to meet all beneficiaries under one roof. As a key organizer of the exhibition, we also organize an annual conference to review and analyse the latest technologies by the experts. We always try to attract international companies offering cuttingedge technologies. Several international companies have made use of COMEX to launch their latest technologies and products in the Arab World. This is indeed a great achievement, because we always strive to attract international companies and benefit from their experiences in this regard. The exhibition has become a suitable and ideal platform for Government institutions to offer their services and introduce them to a large number of people who visit the exhibition. Since its launch, the National Data Security Centre has been playing a vital role in spreading awareness and education about information security. What are the most important achievements of the Centre since its inception and what are its future goals? The National Data Security Centre has been a successful initiative. Through the Centre, the ITA seeks to enhance the confidence of the users of online services and improve their safety features. Though the Centre serves only Government bodies, it interacts with citizens and the private sector also. On many occasions, it has alerted corporates about some potential frauds. It also acts as an observer of portals and eGovernment services.

National Data Security Centre is a successful mission. Through the Centre, the ITA seeks to enhance the confidence of the users of online services and improve their safety features

Currently, the Centre works to solve many problems that others are not conscious of and to create a safe & stable IT environment for clients while enhancing confidence. The Centre’s services are not solely restricted to the Government and Government institutions as it provides for everyone in the Sultanate. Its strategy is to act as the reference point for information security. What are the main objectives of the Five-Year plan 20112015 for the e.oman Strategy? And what are the goals for the Sultanate to reach? We always want to raise the bar of our ambitions and goals, and strive towards achieving our goals very systematically. One of the main objectives of the current plan is to enhance the eGovernment services and speed up the pace of providing new eGovernment services for the citizens using better means and methods. With regards to eGovernment services, we have set a goal and we are working towards achieving it during the next five years in association with Government bodies. We have established a minimum number of services that must be transferred to the electronic platform. Our second objective is to train the people, while the third is to set up basic infrastructure incubation facilities for the IT industry. We also expect Omani companies to sell their products globally. This is one of the goals set in the strategy plan. The most important thing is to have computer accessibility with Internet connection at affordable prices for everyone. We are looking to achieve these goals and improve information technology services in the Sultanate. And as already mentioned, all of the international reports and the awards we have received recently confirm that we are on the right track. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


The main goal of this venture was to train and prepare a group of talented young Omanis in order to set up a world-class Omani technical support centre. Testifying to the exemplary success of the centre are highly competent and skilled Omanis who possess excellent training and international exposure, as well as advanced professional certificates. The ISC is an ambitious Government initiative to create an ICT hub in Oman with world-class capabilities, led and operated by highly trained Omani talent with rich experience in consultancy, distribution, deployment and in implementing Microsoft solutions. The center has consultants and technicians with in-depth knowledge and wider experience in a number of Microsoft applications.

AHMED BIN NASSER AL RAHBI, DIRECTOR THE INNOVATION AND SUPPORT CENTER (ISC)

The center provides excellent and value-added technical support and technical advisory services to various Government bodies. It aspires to be the first technical support center helping the Government to solve various technical difficulties with Microsoft products. Within a short span of time, the center has proved its ability to efficiently meet the needs of various Government units, maintain good integration between them and help them to benefit from the services offered by the center. It has contributed to fostering fruitful partnership between the Government and the center. Successful Track Record Microsoft Corporation has chosen the ISC model as one of its success stories, having even published a case study about the centre on its website. As part of the partnership, Microsoft provided hundreds of hours of training on the latest technologies, the best practices for infrastructure projects, dissemination and maintenance of IT systems, and IT support.

Working in Tandem The Innovation and Support Center (ISC) was set up by the Information Technology Authority (ITA) in 2007 as a joint venture with Microsoft to nurture and encourage young Omani talent by imparting worldclass IT training to them.

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Since 2007, the center has provided top-quality integrated support and IT solutions to Government bodies through its customerfriendly ethos, while training young Omani professionals to become proactive participants in the Sultanate’s digital society. Apart from support, innovation is another stated objective of the center. In this regard, the center seeks to provide new solutions in the Omani market to contribute to the information technology development in the country. With the initial partnership having ended in October 2010, the center has since become a 100 per cent Omani organization enjoying self-sufficiency in the field of information technology. A group of qualified Omanis now lead the management and operations of the center which currently provides support services to a number of Government institutions, and seeks to provide services to private firms after it becomes a commercial unit. The center also


promotes innovation by creating new technological initiatives to help the Sultanate achieve the transformation to a digital society as envisioned in Vision 2020. According to Ahmed bin Nasser Al Rahbi, Director of the ISC, “The centre’s key objective is to rely fully on Omani youths to set up a world-class Omani technical support center. Good examples of the success of the ISC are Omanis who have excellent training and broad working experience. The center has an all Omani 13-member team who amongst them have 44 IT certifications in various Microsoft products. The engineers are still working to obtain various other certifications in order to strengthen and enhance its human and technical skills and capabilities.”

Since 2007, the center has provided quality integrated support and IT solutions to Government bodies through customer-friendly ethos, while training young Omani professionals to become proactive participants in the Sultanate’s digital society.

The ISC is another important initiative of the ITA for the development of information technology in the Sultanate and build Omani talent equipped with cutting edge knowledge in IT. Road towards Privatization The ITA seeks to improve the standard of IT services in the Sultanate and in order to achieve this goal the Authority has encouraged local companies to strengthen their capability in the domestic market. The success of the ISC in providing support services to high-level Government bodies was the reason behind the decision of the ITA to transform the center to a business unit and privatize it to enhance the level of competition in the market. This move is expected to improve the quality of the services in the private sector because of the new competition.

Talking about the steps taken by the ITA towards privatisation, Ahmed Al Rahbi, said, “The ITA has entrusted some of the leading global consulting firms with the task of studying and evaluating the possibility of privatising the center, and developing a roadmap for the proposed privatisation programme. The study has been completed and some practical steps have been taken to implement the programme. An extremely important factor to note is that since its inception, the center has already been working in a semi-commercial environment. This has made the process of transformation comparatively easy.”

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


INTERVIEW

What brings Google to Oman? For Google, Oman has been a strategic market in the region. For the last one year, we have seen a significant increase in Oman in the amount of interest in using Google services, predominantly around the Google apps (web applications). People here are looking at how they could make cost savings on their messaging and collaboration infrastructure. The companies with user strength of 250-1000 people find it difficult to manage their current Microsoft infrastructure. So as an organization, it is very difficult for them to manage the hardware and software. Moving on to Google means that they don’t have to worry about infrastructure. They are free to just worry about their service and more importantly, their core business. Take the example of UAE which is a slightly more mature market. The airlines there have been using Google services. They don’t want to be a specialist in a particular field of information technology. They are interested in flying the person from one place to another. The model is to focus on the core business. Oman is moving into that area as well by focusing on customers, products and innovation. Omanis recognize what Google is bringing on the table and they are starting to look at Google as a real beacon to their businesses from an infrastructure perspective as well as search perspective. Tell us more about the growing popularity of Google in Oman. On Google.com, there is a ‘trends (goggle.com/trends)’ application. It shows the most popular searches going on. Since the beginning of 2011, we have a seen a huge increase in the number of people searching for the Ministry of Manpower. There has been over 750 per cent increase in the searches. Probably it is due to the fact that the Ministry announced the availability of a very high number of jobs for Omanis. So people are going to Google to search as many of them don’t know the website address of the Ministry.

Making Life Simpler Nasser Saleem Ahmed, Head-Enterprise Sales Engineering, Google Middle East spoke to Akshay Bhatnagar at Comex 2011 on a wide range of issues related to cloud computing and enterprise search that are changing the way businesses are conducted in the web world

14

From the consumer perspective, the search that is happening in Oman is focused around local information, jobs and developments. The commercial side is using Google to better use their infrastructure and bring in more cost efficiency. Recently Khimji Ramdas Group has become our biggest reference at the moment. They have a distributed work force with a large user base running into thousands. Currently, there are issues around messaging and collaboration within companies. We have got different silos, in bits of technology, used and managed. The challenge is how do we consolidate all of this into one platform that the whole company can use. Khimji’s have moved on to Google. And we are going to find a lot of other companies moving into using Google. The reason is the users and the messaging is easy when the infrastructure is effectively managed by Google. The companies are free to focus on their core business.


What have been the initial challenges for you in the region? The challenges for the spread of cloud computing solutions in the region are security and privacy. They are an issue in Oman as well. The markets in Europe and US are more receptive to placing the information in clouds. In the region, some work needs to be done to better localize the information. We are working on that. How it can be done? Increase in the number of data centres located within the region is critical. One of the regulations behind storing information in the clouds is the fact that it is multi-tenancy. We store it in more than one place. If all of those places are located within the GCC then we are going to have a more compelling solution to give assurances that the data will stay within the boundaries of the GCC. At the moment we can’t give that assurance. Some of the information could be in Europe or possibly US because the nature of high availability means that it has to be distributed and located across many different servers for speed, performance or other related aspects. We are working with the relevant local authorities within the region including Oman also to build the bridges. Do you face any major concerns in terms of regulations or issues that could ban your services in the region? We have not faced any major issue. It is hard to speculate what is going to happen in the future. Google has always taken this approach to do things on a case by case basis. We are conscious that just as the Blackberry outage in the UAE came up, we have to make appropriate inroads with the relevant people to control that in the event of something like that happening (to us). We have contingences in place to deal with it as we have got businesses running on our services. We have to ensure that we have appropriate assurances in place. If someone has taken our services, we can’t leave him in the lurch. How many enterprises in Oman are on Google right now? We have about 50 companies. They are large corporations. Globally, we have around 3-4 million enterprises using Google apps. World over, what kinds of businesses in terms of size are more receptive to Google apps? Mid-market is the biggest chunk of the pie for us. So organizations with 100-250 users have the largest share with us. These are the organizations where infrastructure costs make a huge dent on the profits. Minimization of the total cost of ownership makes or breaks such an organization. So moving on to Google makes sense for them. The startups are also embracing Google. For them it is not about messaging; it is about collaborating. Say 10 people working together on a business plan on Google platform will make things

From the consumer perspective, the search that is happening in Oman is focused around local information, jobs and developments. The commercial side is using Google to better use their infrastructure and bring in more cost efficiency.

a lot easier which traditionally would have been emailed as a document attachment and you build that document monolithically over a period of time. So for startups, Google makes sense rather than using traditional email system. Upto 50 users are free in our standard edition. What are your expectations from Oman market? We see growth in Google apps as maturity in cloud based services market goes up. And we are not talking about Google alone. We are also talking about other cloud service providers. There is a hesitancy currently in the adoption of cloud based services. More confidence needs to be built. There is an initial issue of security and privacy. Once the market becomes more mature and less concerned about the issues of security and privacy, we should be in good stead. The other area where we feel Oman is really going to embrace Google is the enterprise search. This segment is hugely underestimated. Most Omani corporations are pumping out terabytes of data on an annual basis, all siloes and within specific applications. Google can provide a federated search across SharePoint, Oracle, FileNet and Documenter etc. It is in one place. It is a single box solution. So the idea is that organizations can search for information which is historically been archived in a file share somewhere. It is hugely valuable. The workforce can get to not only the information but people within the organizations who are specialists. They can get to content which has already been created. The best example is putting together a tender for a large Omani ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


INTERVIEW

company. We may have already produced the tender document couple of years back, prior to the joining of the person who is working on it now. He can search for that document. It means productivity increases, reuse of information that business already owns. We think Omanis are really going to embrace the enterprise search along with the card based services.

The challenges for the spread of cloud computing solutions in the region are security and privacy. They are an issue in Oman as well. The markets in Europe and US are more receptive to placing the information in clouds. In the region, some work needs to be done to better localize the information.

16

Do you have plans to launch Internet services in the region as you have launched them selectively in US? At the moment it is hard to say. Lot of trial and testing goes into those services before we decide to roll them out globally. The networks and connectivity are of great importance to us but also devices are of great significance for us. We have got the chrome OS notepad. This is a device which boots with the browser. This can be very popular in the region. We have built couple of initial prototypes ourselves. Those devices are going to be really interesting because they effectively remove the need to manage an operating system. Almost 80 per cent of the Internet users go to a browser straightaway when they turn on a computer. How quickly they can get to a browser is our concern. We are providing a key board based device which provides access to the Internet. And is effectively 100 per cent web based. The idea is everything that you do is through a browser. Most applications are now available from web – image editing, file sharing, social networking, etc. – they are all browser based. You don’t need to install an application to do anything anymore.


IT OVERVIEW

Bridging The Digital Divide Absence of skilled manpower, the lack of economies of scale and an overwhelming dependence on the government sector are holding back Oman’s IT industry from realising its full potential. A report by Mayank Singh

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BankMuscat inaugurated its new headquarters at Airport Heights in December 2010. The 32,000 sq mtrs office built at an estimated cost of RO50mn combines modern and traditional Omani architecture and interior design with a view to enhance the working environment. The custom made building incorporates the latest technology and trends, meeting the key requisites in terms of functionality, security and business continuity planning. IMTAC implemented the endto-end technology solutions for the new building by installing the network, data centre, network, cabling, IP telephony, IPTV. Says Ashok Sardiwal, CEO, IMTAC, “BankMuscat has set a benchmark and seeing the benefits that the bank has derived in terms of customer goodwill, other companies are sure to deploy a similar infrastructure”. The state-of-the art technological prowess of the new office reflects the strength of the home grown IT industry in Oman. While the sector may not be in your face, IT companies


in the Sultanate have been doing cutting edge work in the region and beyond. Looking for a state-of-the-art centralised payment and collection platform to replace its legacy systems, the Government of Egypt was faced with the challenge of implementing a solution that was capable of managing seven million pension payments and six million plus salary payments per month. In addition, the system had to handle 20 million tax and custom transactions annually. The solution needed to be scalable, secure, improve citizen services, increase operational efficiency, reduce turnaround time and bring about speedy administration. Phew! Bahwan CyberTek developed CUECENT ePay -- a National Payment Gateway Solution, to address these specific requirements and deliver on what the government of Egypt was looking for. The CUECENT ePay National Payment Hub provides an end-to-end ePayment

solution for the Ministry of Finance and other government entities in Egypt. It has multi-language capability and supports multiple currency, organisation and location operations for payment of any defined services. The gateway facilitates the collection of taxes of over $220mn and custom collection of $190mn plus annually. Says Mahmoud El-Gamal, Director (Operations), eFinance, Egypt, “We are pleased to find IT players from this region attain international acclaim and that too in creating valuable intellectual property.� Bahwan CyberTek Group has emerged as one of the largest IT software products and services companies in the GCC region. An SEI CMMI Level 5 company, BCT employs over 1,300 knowledge professionals, spread across the USA, Middle East, Africa and India. BCT has over 300 customers globally, including Fortune 500 companies and clocked a turnover of over $101mn in 2010. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


IT OVERVIEW

The growth has not been restricted to tier 1 companies but has also helped small and mid-sized companies. Integrated Systems, which defines itself as a systems integrator and solutions provider grew by 15 per cent in 2009 and 2010. The headcount of the company has grown from 24 to 42 over the last two years. Al Kay’s International which started in 2006 has recorded a year-on-year growth of 35 per cent since inception. An impressive feat even after factorising the small base effect. Al Kay’s has implemented a smart card system at an oil major’s offshore fields. The card enables the client to monitor the number of meals served by the contractor in the canteen on an ongoing basis. The oil company has reportedly recovered the cost of implementing the solution within four and a half months.

as places where people can access the Internet or use government services online. To facilitate public access to government services through a single entry point, an official eGovernment Services Portal has been launched. The portal serves as the main gateway to electronic services offered by the government leading to convenience and cost savings. A National ePayment Gateway (ePG) allows secure online payments (e-payments). The ePG will operate as a critical shared service within the e-governance architecture along with Oman’s forthcoming Government eServices Portal. The gateway is expected to increase the adoption of eServices along with electronic payments, particularly Internet-enabled payments which are easy and efficient.

ITA Driven Initiatives A large part of the credit for fostering a digital culture in the Sultanate rests with the Information Technology Authority (ITA). The Authority was established in 2006 as a part of a national strategy regarding e-governance and building a digital strategy. Since then, ITA has undertaken a number of IT related infrastructure projects, helped the government to provide its services online and has equipped public sector employees with the right skills to benefit from technology. Says S Jayakumar, General Manager, International Information Technology Company (IITC), “ITA has brought about a focus on the industry as a standard driving entity. It is encouraging the usage of IT and bringing in a digital culture.”

A Data Center has been conceived as a part of the Digital Oman Strategy. The Data Center will enable government organisations to provide better business continuity and more effective risk management. Says Fareed Al-Hinai, vice chairman, IMTAC, “ITA is rolling out a number of national level infrastructure projects and focussing on security in a big way". An Innovation and Support Center (ISC) has been established to provide ICT incubators for local entrepreneurs, nurture skill and to transfer knowledge. The first center, established in association with Microsoft Corporation, houses consultants who work with a local team to identify, design and implement innovative solutions to benefit the government of Oman.

As a part of its mandate, ITA is undertaking a number of ICT related initiatives. As a part of the National IT Training and Awareness Framework (NITTA), it is working on a nationwide e.oman initiative which aims to develop ICT awareness, skills and capability within the government and the community. The Government IT Training and Certification (GITTC) project under NITTA aims to provide internationally recognised digital literacy certification to all civil service employees in a phased manner during the period 2008- 2011. As many as 93,000 government employees, both men and women, have completed an internationally certified programme in information technology. In addition, the ITA has tested the efficiency level of 43,392 employees from 36 government institutions and given internationally valid certificates in computer and Internet to over 30,000 employees. It has also trained more than 200 job seekers, and in association with various government departments and institutions made plans to continue the training till they get their certificates. It also takes feedback from the students through a questionnaire. Community Knowledge Centres (CKC) are being established throughout Oman to provide free training of basic IT skills. Anyone from the community who is literate and above the age of 15 is eligible to join these centres. These centres also double up 20

Fillip To IT Business The Digital Oman Strategy has come as a shot in the arm for IT companies due to its business potential. And a number of players have been quick to seize on the attendant opportunities. Exceed IT Services and Training, a Microsoft certified gold partner and Microsoft authorised large account reseller, has signed an agreement with Oman’s government to provide 22 services like capacity building, knowledge transfer, implementation, deployment etc. The company works with ITA to promote digital literacy across the country. Exceed has trained 1,000 people making them computer literate. In addition, it is providing specialised training to 400 Omanis. These people are being imparted programming skills and a knowledge of applications. The company signed an agreement with the government to deploy Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system on 60 per cent of the 31,000 desktops being used by the government in the country from December 2009-June 2012. This works out to 18,000 plus desktops in 70 plus government entities. Says Fawzi Al Harrassy, Managing Director, Exceed, “We follow an approved methodology in which we run a health check on computers, scanners and printers to see where they stand and what needs to be done to upgrade their capabilities". The company chose 60 Omanis from over 1,000


IT OVERVIEW

candidates and put them through a rigorous 12 month IT course. These Microsoft certified professionals have been deploying Windows 7 OS across various organisations. “As of today, we have deployed over 14,000 desktops and we will reach over 18,000 desktops by June 2012,” adds Fawzi. Given the sweep of government led initiatives, it is hardly surprising that contracts from the public sector remains the mainstay of business for most Omani companies. The dependence on government led projects increased as private sector clients have become more cautious about spending in the wake of the global financial crisis. Says Haitham Abu Nasser, General Manager/Partner, Integrated Systems, “2008 was a big year in terms of business. In 2009 and 2010 though the private sector got hit, but the government kept spending on projects. Since February 2011 business has been slow as people have become cautious and decisions are taking longer.” Faced with a slowdown, a number of IT companies are innovating to stay ahead of the curve. Bahwan CyberTek has over the years spread its operations to countries like US, India, the Far East and in the Middle East region. This geographical diversification has stood it in good stead. The company acquired 21 new customers in 2010 in the US. These include Fortune 500 companies like Webster Bank, Biogin, SAIC etc. The subprime crisis forced a number of US based companies to look for small and medium sized partners which could deliver the same or better quality of products and services as large vendors at a more reasonable cost. This worked in favour of companies like Bahwan CyberTek.

The 'Brothers Forever' team recently won 2nd place in the Digital Media category of the Imagine Cup USA 2011 event held in New York City. The Information Technology Authority had supported two teams from Oman throughout the process, by helping to develop the team projects whether offering technical support or assisting the teams with their presentations. The ITA has long been devoted to supporting and motivating students to partake in this international competition, which comes within the context of the endeavors to discover the talented Omani youths and provide them with care and opportunities that enable them to showcase their talents and polish their skills.

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Says S Durgaprasad, Director and CEO, Bahwan CyberTek, “What has enabled us to maintain growth is that we played the game differently. We believed that we need to play the super competition role, while others competed for the run of the mill business. We made some investment in our product initiative and that has paid good dividends. The company also built solutions for mission critical application environment in the government, banking and corporates and that’s a sustained growth model. We went in for thought leadership contracts in the oil and gas sector with PDO.” As a part of the thought leadership programme, Bahwan CyberTek became the first IT company in the region to offer an outcome based contract. As a part of the contract, the deliverables and outcome are measured by a balanced scorecard method and the company’s earnings are proportionate to the value generated for the client. IITC has tried to control costs by hiring less people and outsourcing some of its work. The company has outsourced ERP related work to Wipro, the Indian IT company. It also worked on bringing in new efficiencies in its workspace by using less resources to deliver


IT OVERVIEW

more. Says Jayakumar, “We diversified into areas like managed service contracts, have brought in new areas of technology like portal implementation, virtualisation and went in for specialised services to differentiate ourselves from competition.” New Trends In The Market “Oman is equivalent if not better in terms of IT preparedness to other countries in the region,” avers Sardiwal. The fact that global trends like Cloud Computing, Virtualisation and Convergence are making inroads into the market underscores the point. Says Eyad Shihabi, Managing Director and Enterprise Business Leader for HP Middle East, “We are focussing on bringing in technological innovations to Oman and are offering Cloud Computing solutions with this in mind. HP has come up with a bundle of offerings that is focussed on private cloud and this will bring significant value and benefit to organisations.” Gulf IT which has been selling Google’s Cloud Computing solutions in the market since April 2009, has notched up 60 clients in Oman. Says Rahul Bhavsar, Business Head – Middle East, Gulf IT, “Business was slow in 2009 and 2010 but 2011 looks promising. A number of large customers are talking to us as group companies want consolidation and a single view of various transactions". The company recently signed a deal with the Khimji Ramdas Group. Cloud Computing offers clients a number of advantages. A study done by Gulf IT shows that a company with 100 employees would spend RO7,000-8,000 annually on running a conventional IT system (excluding the cost of buying hardware) while on a Cloud platform it would cost RO2,500. Apart from a price advantage Cloud offers enhanced capabilities, scalability and business continuity. So a company can start with five users and upgrade to 5,000 users overnight. Tareq Hijari, Country Manager, Microsoft Oman and Bahrain says, “With Cloud you can expand your requirements dramatically. When the demand goes up for your product or services, you can expand and vice versa. So you pay as you use”. The fact that the data is stored in large data centres minimises the risk of a breakdown and loss.

Apart from a price advantage Cloud offers enhanced capabilities, scalability and business continuity. So a company can start with five users and upgrade to 5,000 users overnight. With Cloud you can expand your requirements dramatically.

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Despite such assurances there have been security concerns about Cloud Computing. Says Eyad, “We have a fully integrated solution with security at all levels. HP has invested $40 billion in R&D and acquisitions in the last three years and a lot of these acquisitions have been in enhancing the security features of our portfolio”. Companies like Google have gone in for international quality certifications and audits like SAS 70 Type II and FISMA to reassure clients about security. Analysts feel that companies in Oman will adopt private cloud over the next three years but it will take a while before the market gets comfortable with public cloud. Says Fareed,


New Regional Entrants The debt problems that Dubai faced in 2009 and its fallout across the region has led to enhanced competition as companies like CNS, InterTech, IDS have come to Oman looking for business. Even Indian companies like Wipro, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services have joined the fray. New entrants have led to aggressive price cutting and eroding margins. A CEO that did not wish to be quoted on the issue says, “It is not that we are averse to competition and our history is a testament but we should be given a fair chance. If UAE based companies are coming and winning big projects in Oman then we should be given projects in UAE on merit but sadly that is not the case as the preference there always goes to their local companies.” There is also a feeling that foreign companies winning business in the Sultanate are not committed to creating jobs for nationals and if the government is keen on promoting Omanisation, then it should strengthen home grown companies. Says Rogeh Hajj, Chief Information Officer & Head-ICT Division, The Zubair Corporation, “In the long term, it is a matter of sustainability. Regional companies will not offer delivery or after sales support that well connected local companies can extend.” Small and medium sized enterprises are also sore about the government’s predilection towards established names. Says Sunil Gandhi, Chief Operating Officer, Al Kay’s International, “There is no proper rating or evaluation of the top ten companies in Oman and as a result, any contract above RO20,000 always goes to the bigger companies though our solutions and prices may be better”. SMEs feel that if they are not given a fair chance then they will never grow in the market. Others though are more optimistic -“The government has started considering new technology partners

and things are changing,” says Haitham. Undeterred by these challenges, SMEs are adopting best practices. Kay’s IT recently implemented a Quality Management System ISO 9001:2008. Says Baby Sam, its Director-Marketing, “We strive to create long-term relationships with organisations by mapping their current processes and providing technology driven solutions for better profitability and bringing about a new dimension in the way people work together”. The Al Madina Group of Companies has similarly received an ISO 9001:2008 certification and it is working on introducing leading web based solutions and services. The lack of skilled IT professionals in the country remains another major deterrent to growth. Though the government mandates a 35 per cent Omanisation level for IT companies, a number of them struggle to meet these targets. Says Mohammad Sweidan, Branch Manager, Exceed IT, “Finding the right candidates with the right competencies remains a major challenge.” Fawzi recommends incubation programmes for innovation and development to stimulate the industry. He feels that Oman is endowed with the right resources but they have not been utilised properly. “Young Omanis are ready to work in the IT sector as it is seen as a comfortable and glamorous sector. The country can be a base for call centres in the region as the Sultanate offers a cost effective environment and good atmosphere,” he adds. Eng. Shiela H. Jamal, CEO, Al Madina Group of Companies says, “The private sector is not generating business like the public sector and the lack of knowledge centres in Oman remains a problem area.” Durgaprasad adds, “Skill upgradation is the key. The government should insist on companies to do product development rather than trading of software products as that is the only way to grow the industry and generate employment”. He suggests that 4-5 IT companies in Oman should look at neighbouring countries and build competencies (in verticals like auto, oil and gas, banking etc.) that can serve the regional market. This will create a critical mass and the solutions can be replicated in other countries. Looking Ahead Despite such imponderables, Oman remains an attractive market for multinational, regional and local companies. Says Tareq, “Oman is a stable market without large fluctuations and we see a lot of potential in Oman”. The government’s thrust on creating a digital society and a growing economy are the other factors contributing to this confidence. Says Rogeh, “We are very optimistic about ICT in Oman. There will be a steady growth as the government is investing heavily in infrastructure and IT literacy is increasing in the Sultanate”. Like BankMuscat's new headquarters, it’s probably an opportune time for local companies to start establishing new benchmarks in the region. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12

Source: Oman Economic Review

“Cloud computing compresses deployment time but since it is a new idea, it will take sometime for clients to buy in.” Convergence is the other big theme that is making inroads into the market. In layman terms, it means the convergence of technology in a data centre. Jayakumar explains, “Earlier you had a separate voice system for voice, a different data system and the hardware for applications came from multiple vendors. This is changing as the companies are now offering complete solutions”. HP, Cisco, IBM etc. offer clients a converged managed infrastructure in one console. This console manages the converged infrastructure, network, server, software, peripherals, storage etc. Virtualisation is another way of reducing infrastructure costs. If a company wishes to virtualise its server environment it can use a software application to divide one physical server into multiple isolated virtual environments. So if there were 10 servers running five applications, the same can be performed on three servers or less via virtualisation.


NETWORK READINESS

The other countries in the GCC region have also done commendably. The United Arab Emirates is fairly stable at the overall 24th position. The country has risen in the rankings in recent years, reflecting the increasingly central role ICT occupies in the government’s agenda as an enabling infrastructure for economic diversification and a target sector in itself (ranked a high 3rd for government readiness). The government’s focus in the sector has been matched by an equal interest in using the latest technologies by individuals (5th and 21st for individual readiness and usage, respectively), with a stellar increase in ICT penetration rates over the last few years. Other competitive advantages are to be found in the very ICT-friendly market environment (18th) and infrastructure for ICT (28th).

Enabling The Transformation

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Qatar is up five places to 25th rank overall, with improvements across the board, particularly in the readiness (4th, up eight places) and usage (34th, up six places) components. Similar to the United Arab Emirates, the government has consistently prioritised ICT diffusion and usage in recent years (2nd for government readiness), which has prompted an intense ICT uptake from the citizens (10th and 28th for individual readiness and usage, respectively).

Oman has made an impressive growth in the Global Information Technology Report’s (GITR) Networked Readiness Index (NRI). Excerpts from the GITR 2010-2011 edition:

Bahrain consolidates its position at 30th, displaying notable competitive strengths in the quality of its market environment (9th) and the high degree of preparedness of its citizens to use ICT (15th), an aspect that has already converted to high penetration rates (29th for individual usage). The strong government vision and leadership in ICT diffusion (ranked 14th) has also resulted in first-class e-services (8th), significantly expanding outreach of basic services to citizens (11th), high e-participation (11th), and increased government efficiency (12th).

The Global Information Technology Report’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI) has become the most popular tool to measure the enabling factors that drives networked readiness in different countries. It determines the capacity of countries to fully benefit from new technologies in their competitiveness strategies and their citizens’ daily lives.

Saudi Arabia continues to climb in the rankings, with another fiveposition improvement to 33rd place overall. The country posts advances notably in its environment (32nd) and readiness (24th) components (both up six places). Its solid showing is driven by very ICT conducive market (19th) and regulatory (25th) environments, as well as by a coherent ICT prioritisation in the government’s competitiveness agenda (ranked 12th for government readiness). On a more negative note, Kuwait remains the laggard among the Gulf countries at 75th overall.

The latest report applauds Oman for its efforts to improve the NRI. It states, “Oman also realises an impressive nine-place jump to 41st, with remarkable improvements in all three components: the country is up 14, 12, and 9 positions, respectively, for its environment (43rd), readiness (34th), and usage (43rd)”. Oman’s detailed performance on NRI is showcased in the graphic on page 30.

Overall, three countries the United Arab Emirates (24th), Qatar (25th) and Bahrain (30th) features prominently in the Top 30 rankings. This reflects the especially dynamic ICT uptake in most parts of the region in the context of the sector’s increasing prioritisation in national agendas as a crucial instruement for economic diversification, enhanced efficiency and modernisation.


THE NETWORKED READINESS FRAMEWORK

Business Readiness

Political and Regulatory Environment

Business Usage

Individual Readiness

Market Environment

Government Readiness Government Usage

Infrastructure Environment

Individual Usage

Readiness

Usage

Environment

Networked Readiness Index

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


NETWORK READINESS OMAN ON NETWORK READINESS INDEX Readiness component

Key indicators Population (millions), 2009.....................................................2.9 GDP (PPP) per capita (PPP $), 2009 ................................25,635 GDP (US$ billions), 2009 .....................................................46.1 Global Competitiveness Index 2010–2011 rank (out of 139)

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Networked Readiness Index Edition (No. of economies)

Score Rank

2010–2011 (138) ...................................................4.2......41 2009–2010 (133).........................................................3.9 ......50 2008–2009 (134).........................................................4.1 ......50 2007–2008 (127).........................................................4.0 ......53 2006–2007 (122) ........................................................n/a......n/a Environment component Market Environment

1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10

28

43 31

4.5

45

Effectiveness of law-making bodies* ................5.4 ........9 ................5.4........9 Laws relating to ICT* ........................................4.9......30 Judicial independence*....................................5.1 ......31 Efficiency of legal system in settling disputes* .5.2.....16 .4.7 .....23 Efficiency of legal system in challenging regs* .4.7.....23 Property rights*................................................5.5......24 rights*................................................5.5 ......24 Intellectual property protection* .......................5.3......20 Software piracy rate, % software installed...........63 ......55 No. procedures to enforce a contract ..................51 ...132 No. days to enforce a contract..........................598 ......85 Internet & telephony competition, 0–6 (best) .......1 ...128

Infrastructure environment

3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10

4.7

VVenture capital availability* ..............................3.8......15 ..............................3.8 ......15 Financial market sophistication* .......................4.8 ......47 .......................4.8......47 A Availability of latest technologies* ....................5.3......57 ....................5.3 ......57 State of cluster development*...........................4.1 ......31 Burden of government regulation* ....................4.3 ........7 Extent & effect of taxation*...............................5.6 ........4 T tax rate, % profits....................................21.6 ......14 Total No. days to start a business ..............................12 ......45 No. procedures to start a business.......................5 ......22 Freedom of the press* .....................................3.9 ....115

Political and regulatory environment

2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11

4.2

3.3

71

Phone lines/100 pop. .....................................10.5 .....92 Mobile network coverage, % pop. covered......96.5......72 covered......96.5 ......72 Secure Internet servers/million pop. ...............11.5 ......72 ...............11.5......72 Int’l Internet bandwidth, Mb/s per 10,000 pop.13.7 .....69 Electricity production, kWh/capita..............5,297.7......44 kWh/capita..............5,297.7 ......44 T Tertiary education enrollment rate, %...............26.9 ......81 Quality scientific research institutions* .............3.9......57 .............3.9 ......57 A Availability of scientists & engineers* ..............3.8......87 A Availability research & training services*..........3.8 ......85 Accessibility of digital content* ........................5.1 .....56

Individual readiness

4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09

5.2

34

40

Quality of math & science education*................4.2......58 Quality of educational system*...........................4.2......43 Adult literacy rate, % .......................................86.7......93 Residential phone installation (PPP $)..............30.4 ......20 Residential monthly phone subscription (PPP $) .30.4 .30.4...134 ...134 Fixed phone tariffs (PPP $) ..............................0.09 ......51 ..............................0.09......51 Mobile cellular tariffs (PPP $) ..........................0.15......16 Fixed broadband Internet tariffs (PPP $) ...........30.4 ......50 Buyer sophistication*.........................................3.8 ......42

Business readiness

5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08

4.8

4.2

52

Extent of staff training* ......................................4.3......44 ......................................4.3 ......44 Quality of management schools* .......................4.0 .......................4.0......81 ......81 Company spending on R&D*.............................3.2.......51 University-industry collaboration in R&D*..........3.9......50 R&D*..........3.9 ......50 Business phone installation (PPP $).................30.4 ......11 .30.4 ...119 Business monthly phone subscription (PPP $) .30.4...119 Local supplier quality*.......................................4.8......50 Computer, communications, & other services imports, % services imports ..............35.9 ......48

Government readiness

5.1

13

6.01 Gov’t prioritization of ICT* .................................5.5......22 6.02 Gov’t procurement of advanced tech.* ...............4.5......11 6.03 Importance of ICT to gov’t vision*......................5.2......10 Usage component Individual usage

7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08

43

48

3.2

56

Firm-level technology absorption* .....................5.1......52 Capacity for innovation*.....................................3.0......61 innovation*.....................................3.0 ......61 Extent of business Internet use*.........................5.3......42 National office patent applications/million pop ..1.8......79 Patent Cooperation Treaty apps/million pop .......1.4......59 T High-tech exports, % goods exports ...................0.0....119 ...................0.0 ....119 Impact of ICT on new services and products* ....5.0......38 ....5.0 ......38 Impact of ICT on new organizational models* ....4.8 ......32

Government usage

9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04

4.2

Mobile phone subscriptions/100 pop.............139.5......17 Cellular subscriptions w/data, % total ..............30.9 ..............30.9......24 ......24 Households w/ personal computer, %...............39.2 ......55 Broadband Internet subscribers/100 pop............1.4......90 Internet users/100 pop.....................................51.5......42 Internet access in schools* ...............................4.6......46 .....75 networks*............................5.1.....75 Use of virtual social networks*............................5.1 Impact of ICT on access to basic services* ........5.5.....17

Business usage

8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08

3.8

3.9

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Gov’t success in ICT promotion..........................5.2......19 ICT use & gov’t efficiency*................................5.3......18 Government Online Service Index, 0–1 (best) ..0.37......53 E-Participation Index, 0–1 (best)......................0.16......74 (best)......................0.16 ......74

* Out of a 1–7 (best) scale. This indicator is derived from the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey.


COLUMN

ALPNA J DOSHI

‘5G Doesn’t Seem To Be Too Far’ In not too distant future, we will have many billions connected devices -- what the experts call “the Internet of things”

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Network technologies have been continuously evolving and would continue to enhance the speeds. We saw it moving from 1 to 2G to 2.5G (GPRS), 2.75G (EDGE), 3G - WCDMA, HSDPA, HSPA, 4G (LTE) and 5G doesn’t seem to be too far. VAS will become the order of the day as every operator will try to offer its customer a seamless and enjoyable service experience.What is the implication? What are the kinds of services, applications etc. that can be provided if we have such high speed connections? I find it surprising when I hear people saying “we don’t need such high speeds. What are we going to do with it? HSxPA is yet to make inroads. How can 4G bandwidth be monetised? The telecom party is over, etc., etc”. How would a person who has worked on a machine with 640KB RAM and 20MB storage and no further would react if he comes to know that I carry a device in my handbag which has 4GB RAM, and 1TB disk space. Such advancements would throw the market wide open for the likes of smart phone and application developers as their respective prices would fluctuate wildly to beat competition. The economy for devices and service providers has a bright future. Sky is indeed a limit. High speed services can spread the benefits of education, healthcare, governance, to the masses. This is especially true for countries where the benefit of growth has still to trickle down to the rural areas. Mobile broadband can be used to download full length movies, make video calls and watch live television programmes. I see converged wireless devices becoming integral part of human beings. Not just for voice or simple data services. The concepts like “Broadband everywhere, video explosion, prime time to my time” have already become a reality. We are moving from the concept of “connected people” to “connected devices”. By 2010, we have connected billions of people. In not too distant future, we will have many billions connected devices; what the experts call “the Internet of things”. Adoption of smartphones is increasing web capabilities, multimedia, e-book readers, tablets, enabled by gesture and touch technologies supported by various underlying communication requires telecom operators to provide the optimal recipe for the end user satisfaction. We are witnessing the two significant developments in the telecom industry -- increasing speeds and availability of sophisticated devices. That is to say, we develop applications and usages in areas which takes advantage of high speeds, ubiquitous connectivity and provide apps on the sophisticated devices which improves productivity, and provide opportunities for enhancing the quality of life. IT has to ensure that we get maximum bang for the buck by using these two trends to our advantage. This leads to the unavoidable transformation in some shape and form. Let us review those key items. Mobile Applications Service Delivery Platform (SDP): Top three growth drivers for the tablets and associated application


ecosystem shall be -- Firstly, economical data rates. Secondly, open source android OS. Thirdly, market awareness of tablets and converged handset to substitute various functions of PCs. IDC forecast tablet sales to reach 44.6 million units in 2011 and rise to 70.8 million units in 2012. This leads us to have a robust and modular SDP. Cloud Computing: Due to high availability of data bandwidth and IP access via multiple devices like PCs, Tablets, Smartphone etc., cloud offerings shall dictate the IT enterprise business to restructure the processes. This will ensure limitless storage and computing resources available anywhere and anytime. Social Communication and Collaboration: It is being predicted that by 2016, social technologies will be integrated with most business applications. We are bringing together the CRM, business applications, and Internet social site initiatives into a coordinated strategy for effective communication, all-segment marketing and brand awareness. Support of social communication platform from IT backbone is a must. Video: There can be no better consumer of high bandwidth and network speeds than video. It is estimated that 64 per cent of all mobile IP traffic will be video by 2013. As per ballpark estimates, an average subscriber consumes around 100 MB for emails, 1 GB for web browsing and 10 GB for video content. Video delivery platform needs to have adaptive rendering along with support of various codecs available on devices. Next Generation Analytics: Increasing computing capabilities of computers, including mobile devices, along with seamless

It is being predicted that by 2016, social technologies will be integrated with most business applications. Support of social communication platform from IT backbone is a must.

connectivity, are enabling a shift in how businesses support operational decisions. NextGen business analytics shall lead, decide, measure, manage and optimise performance to achieve greater efficiency and financial benefits to the organization.IT vendors, communication service providers, content providers, and other stakeholders need to work collaboratively to harness the benefits of these technologies. This shall result in enhancement of business processes, efficient usage of organisational resources and bring customer delight to our consumers and prosumers. Alpna J Doshi is the Chief Information Officer of Reliance Group and CEO of Reliance Tech Services, the IT arm of the group. Reliance Group has interests in a variety of industry verticals, ranging from communications (Reliance Communications) and financial services (Reliance Capital Ltd), to generation, transmission and distribution of power (Reliance Energy), infrastructure, health and entertainment.

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


COLUMN

KnowledgeOman.com (KO) is an idea which was born for making knowledge available freely to everyone in the country, a journey of spreading and sharing knowledge in the online community. The project was launched in April 2008. The Arabic section was launched in August the same year. KnowledgeOman.com today is Oman’s leading community knowledge sharing platform specifically engineered to create, promote and spread knowledge across the country.

TARIQ BARWANI, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT OF KNOWLEDGEOMAN.COM

KO - Building Knowledge Society Knowledgeoman.com has managed to create the largest, if not the only, community driven knowledge based platform in the region within just three years of its launch.

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The project has attained an international award-winning status by bagging an international standard web technology award at Oman Web Awards 2009 competition and the coveted brand leadership award at the World Brand Congress 2010, along with recognition for the various achievements made in the country. The portal has introduced various initiatives for the country. As a result, ties have been made with reputed organisations, including Microsoft and other government bodies such as the Information Technology Authority (ITA). It is also associated with Tawasul, Dar Al Attaa, Omani Women’s Association and Emax to name a few. It is the only website that doesn't entertain gossips, flames or the likes of non-productive discussion/communications in anyway. Furthermore, the website was launched as a community initiative to solidify His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos’ vision of transforming Oman into a knowledge based society. It is not owned by anyone but rather the people themselves. Over 70 volunteers are working on various initiatives associated with KnowledgeOman.com. We do not consider ourselves as a website but rather a community driven initiative. Every project we undertake is totally free for community development, which is primarily sharing and making knowledge free. We have educational seminars conducted on a periodic basis, besides online school and classes. We also initiate charity campaigns and online quiz competitions, in addition to a "community speaks" channel where renowned industry and academic experts and professionals come together to share their knowledge.” The Projects KO has introduced various initiatives for the country and continues to expand its scope. These projects are set to ‘connect communities with knowledge’ and promote the country’s talent. KO Educational Seminars KO Seminars enable community members to nurture their knowledge through expert speakers for free. The seminars highlight successful individuals in the society through interactive sessions between the speaker(s) and the audience. This targets different sectors to widen the knowledge exposure and establish a platform of intellectual discussions with the general public.


Community Speaks Community Speaks is a platform that brings together writers from various backgrounds and expertise to share their knowledge. Diverse topics are featured to make knowledge accessible and to ensure that the voice of the community is heard. Social Media Platform Omanwall.com The country’s first bilingual social media platform, OmanWall. com, created for both the English and Arabic speaking community, connects people in Oman from youths to professionals through the benefits of social networking technology. Through OmanWall.com, members can create, publish, and exchange information, pictures, videos, music, and also play games with other registered members online. Information is available freely for everyone in Oman to connect and network with each other. Educational Videos (Omanvideos.com) This is an online video knowledge sharing platform allowing members to create, share and exchange educational videos online. KO Charity KO Charity is a creative public platform where budding talents and professionals come together to sell their artwork, photography, crafts and any creative hand-made items, as a fundraising event. The KO Charity project supports and promotes individual creativity while supporting those in dire need of community support.

The country’s first bilingual social media platform, OmanWall.com, created for both the English and Arabic speaking community, connects people in Oman from youths to professionals through the benefits of social networking technology.

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KO School KO School is the first free e-learning community platform in the Sultanate and a major leap towards free online education in Oman. KO School first introduced ICT courses with enrolments in English and Arabic. These courses were in Adobe Photoshop, C++, Web Designing, VB.Net, Networking, Java, IC3, and SQL. Other courses were offered, including a course in team building, teaching effective team work theories and applicable skills. New courses are periodically introduced in diverse knowledge areas. KO Library The KO Library is the first community e-library in Oman with free and open access for all. The KO library features books in both English and Arabic across various knowledge areas, and brings the opportunity for all individuals to take part in contributing with their own e-books as a community driven platform. The library continues to expand with new books, encouraging continuous learning among the community. Show Your Potential (SYP) The SYP programme assists participants in preparing for various Microsoft IT examinations to qualify for official certifications that enhances their scope in the job market and further develop their knowledge and skills. With the programme’s direct link to Microsoft, SYP ensures participants have accurate information about each certification, the most recent knowledge resources, and advice from professional experts. SYP plays a role in Oman’s development by supporting individuals to gain qualifications that enrich the country and move it forward towards a digital knowledgebased society. The programme is made possible in collaboration between KnowledgeOman.com, the Innovation & Support Centre at Microsoft Oman and the ITA. Planning Ahead The sky seems to be the limit for KO but as far as short term goals are concerned, the site has some very interesting and innovative plans in store for its dedicated community. For starters, KO wants to create a physical body/version of the online school – where people are educated beyond the electronic medium. It also wants to ensure the community and organisations are linked together. This is to be achieved by continuing to close the gaps and providing access from organisations to the community and vice versa. The website also aims to open and export local “talent” to the world through software development and anything that contributes to providing solutions to real-world problems, be it business or the like. And finally and above all else, KO aims to become the hub of knowledge about and from Oman to the world.


CYBER LAWS

Has any new Cyber law been formulated last year? There has not been any particular new law that has come through. Since last year, however, a lot of new cyber initiatives have taken place. Rather than any changes to law, there have been many advances in cyber usage as the market develops. There is a growing interest in obtaining information online, such as that provided by through the launch of the Government’s Ubar portal and the ITA’s kiosks for Government services. What are the kinds of issues coming up in the growing market? One of the issues of interest to international companies coming to Oman are the privacy laws here. Another is the VoIP. International companies that come to Oman, often use VoIP as the backbone of their international communication system. So a question for them is – Is it legal to use VoIP here in Oman? Probably these are the two major issues prevalent in the market. CHARLES SCHOFIELD, PARTNER, TROWERS & HAMLINS

Rules Of Cyberspace Cyber communication brings up many pertinent issues as the IT market is growing in Oman. Charles Schofield, Partner, Trowers & Hamlins, in a freewheeling chat with Susmita De, shares his viewpoints.

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Is it legal for the corporates to use VOIP? VOIP is a contentious issue at the moment. There are many companies that use VoIP as an internal communication system deployed on an international basis but it is subject to regulatory approval in Oman. The Internet connection is provided by Nawras and Omantel, but the software is located externally. From time to time, VoIP becomes a public issue, such as when the Royal Oman Police (ROP) clamps down on Internet shops due to illegal commercial usage of VoIP. However, many companies are discussing VoIP issues with TRA which is very responsive towards such approaches. How do we stack up against other markets in the region in terms of cyber laws? You have said earlier that Electronic Transaction Law (ETL) is a platform from where they can take-off for more detailed cyber laws in the future. I think Oman is doing very well. It has a designated government department, ITA, which is effective in leading the way for the country. In that respect, Oman has a champion for development of ICT at the government level. The ETL here is more advanced than laws in some of the neighbouring jurisdictions. Probably, data protection is one area for development in the region generally. I anticipate that these types of issues will be of growing importance in Oman. At some point of time, Oman will require data protection laws to facilitate an easy exchange of personal data between Oman and other countries; I think that is the next step in terms of development of laws. From legal perspective, the key issue really is one from an individual’s point of view, ‘Is my personal information being properly protected?’


CYBER LAWS

Data protection laws in Oman are still in their infancy. As I said before, the main driver here will be the growing cyber society as more people are asked to give more data online. The second aspect will be the international environment in which Oman is operating that requires personal data protection laws in the country, so there can be easy exchanges of personal data with other jurisdictions. And this is something that will become more and more of an issue in next 5 to 10 years. Electronic funds transfers by individuals are still very much a growing area in Oman with e-payments systems having only been launched in the past 18 months or so. How does the availability of information on the web work out in a market, which is highly regulated? This is not so much a legal issue; it’s an enforcement or operational issue. If you publish something insulting on the Internet about an individual, there are laws that can intervene. This is what happens in the print media and the same happens online as well. Blogs generally have been used by individuals to target certain corporates as well. The practice is getting more popular in Oman. How do we secure the interests of the bloggers on the one hand and the corporates on the other? That is one of the major issues about the Internet. How much freedom should Internet enjoy in the flow of information? Very often the same laws work online as they do for offline. But in the Internet, it is often hard to find the people who are responsible. They may be in a jurisdiction well away from the relevant country and they may disguise their true identity. The protection of organisations’ and people’s reputations is much harder to enforce online. Bloggers can have tremendous power. But if they are not using those powers responsibly, there needs to be a defamation law to ensure fairness in the system. But it is a tricky practical area, for the reasons I stated, rather than a legal issue. Oman says if non-carrier service providers like Skype, which is freely available and a legal entity, has to have operations in Oman, they need to take a license for that. How does the whole arrangement work out? Skype and VOIP are of great interest to expatriates as they often have family and friends overseas. But at the end of the day, nations have powers to control or regulate their own telecommunication activities. Oman has a very advanced telecommunication system in place. If an operator is outside Oman and offering services inside the Sultanate, there will be a time when it will be proper for the government to regulate its activities. Every country has to 38

decide how far to take it and where to draw the line. And so it is in Oman. Do we have cyber law enforcement capabilities in place before one comes to a law agency or ROP after one deals with different jurisdictions for a financial transaction related issue? It is an issue that poses a challenge internationally. In a financial transaction, you might be dealing with four or five different jurisdictions and multiple financial institutions. But there is no international body that you can go to who will deal with the different organisations in different countries. In Oman, ITA has regulatory oversight as they oversee the Electronic Transactions Law. ROP and the Ministry of Commerce & Industry are the other bodies that can be approached. It depends on the issue, as to who you would approach. For electronic transactions, many countries have an ombudsman that you can complain to, who will have the power to sanction financial institutions. Oman probably doesn’t need this now, because it is at an early stage of development for its e-payment system, but there will come a time when the banks in Oman will be more involved in facilitating e-payments. At that time, it may be appropriate for Oman to have some kind of industry ombudsman who will oversee and deal with these types of complaints. The awareness for the Electronic Transactions Law is probably reasonably low. It will grow, as the uptake of IT and IT services increases. Is it because that e-commerce has not taken off in a very big way in this country? I think for Oman it is more about people getting access to local services online and getting more businesses online. I believe once there is a widespread Internet network, along with the online services and facilities in place, then it will be worthwhile for many to go online. The issue is more structural than legally driven at the moment. Is there any global body or international organisation working towards having something like a minimum standard of cyber laws in different countries? The United Nations has provided some international standards which can be adopted by countries if they want to. The European Union countries make rules that if you want to share personal data with them; you have to have an equivalent system in your own country. So a sort of pressure comes in that way, by countries seeking equivalent protection in an environment of globalisation.


CORPORATE PROFILE

It’s no secret that a company’s IT systems are the heartbeat of the company’s production and efficiency. That being said, The Zubair Corporation makes sure it’s continually on the cutting edge of technologies that make its group of companies work to their utmost capabilities and efficiencies. Rogeh Hajj, Chief Information Officer and Head - ICT Division at The Zubair Corporation, works hard to ensure it will stay that way– now and into the future.“Without the proper systems used in the correct manner to meet the IT needs of a company at any given time,” Hajj said, “one cannot see the most efficient movement forward of that company into the next decades”. Hajj makes it his business to research the latest systems and see that the right platforms are put into place. Knowing that the right IT support systems are vital to the strategic success of the Zubair group of companies, Hajj makes sure his associates and co-workers constantly and consistently look into the future as well. ROGEH HAJJ, CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER & HEAD-ICT DIVISION، THE ZUBAIR CORPORATION

Forward Thinker The Zubair Corporation has identified information and communication technology as a vital area of growth, and currently has several remarkable and growing companies in its Information and Communication Technology Division, which all reside under the corporate umbrella.

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“We at The Zubair Corporation take great pains to ensure that all systems and platforms fit best for what we need right now, as well as being compatible with what might be coming over the horizon-and this is the key. I cannot stress enough how important it is that a company implement the right system solutions at the right time, along with strategic thinking forward into the future.” The Zubair Corporation is no stranger to forward thinking. Back in 1973, it was involved in the establishment of the first national telephone infrastructure network in Oman, which comprised of 23 automatic exchanges with a total of 12،000 lines distributed throughout the country. Today, The Zubair Corporation has identified information and communication technology as a vital area of growth, and currently has several remarkable and growing companies in its Information and Communication Technology Division, which all reside under the overall corporate umbrella. The ICT Division offers business solutions to a wide range of industries, including telecom, government, banking and financial services, healthcare and hospitality, as well as technology solutions in software development, storage, disaster recovery, wireless technology, mobile solutions, ERP and integration projects. The flagship company of The Zubair Corporation’s ICT Division is OCS Infotech. Established in 1981, OCS Infotech is a pioneer of information technology in the Sultanate of Oman and one of the leading IT solutions provider in the Middle East. OCS Infotech practices a dynamic blend of integrating innovative technology with an uncompromising dedication by focusing on delivering


a wide range of total solutions (software, hardware, consulting services), including ERP, e-Solutions, package implementation, networking and hardware solutions in association with major global companies such as SUN, Dell, Cisco, Oracle and Microsoft. OCS Infotech has expertise in storage, disaster recovery, data centers and software development. The company maintains a strong and flexible synergy, which over the years has fostered a proven track-record of sustained growth assisting clients to achieve their potentials while at the same time contributing to the economic development of Oman, as well as to the training and development of local talent. Another of The Zubair Corporation’s most successful ICT companies--currently expanding and doing well in international markets-- is Nitor. Nitor is a Global Information Technology firm that creates newage ‘Digital Enterprise’ products and solutions for its customers. Nitor is a product engineering services firm with a razor-sharp focus on Portals & Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Corporate Performance Management and Software Services. Based in Pune in India, Nitor serves its customers in the North America, Europe, South East Asia and the Middle East through the Global Delivery Centre (GDC) approach using a self-devised ‘Strategic Wisdom of Outsourced Collaboration’ (S.W.O.C.) based offshore business engagement model. Nitor offers such services to its customers as product engineering services, high-end business technology consulting, QA and testing, and application management and technology implementation services. It focuses on various Microsoft technologies, including SharePoint, Silverlight for Rich Internet Applications, Microsoft Business Intelligence and Performance Management suite, etc. Offering outstanding services in a different sector of the ICT world is Zubair Telecommunications & Services. ZTS was established in 1994 to provide convergent communication solutions covering voice and data, broadband wireless solutions, and satellite and radio communication infrastructure. Zubair Telecommunication also provides fiber and radio infrastructure projects for telecommunication operators, oil and gas establishments and other government organisations. ZTS conducted the first video conferencing and Q-management system in the country and offers the latest independent wireless communication solutions to cover both the IP, as well as traditional communication, platforms. Begun in 2004, The Zubair Corporation’s next venture into IT solutions was Infocomm, and since that time, Infocomm

Executive

SUMMARY The Zubair Corporation, in 1973, was involved in the establishment of the first national telephone infrastructure network in Oman. Nitor is a product engineering services firm with a razor sharp focus on Portals & Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Corporate Performance Management and Software Services. Zubair Telecommunications & Services. ZTS provides convergent communication solutions Infocomm is an ICT services and solutions venture between The Zubair Corporation and iGroup, Singapore, OCS Infotech practices a dynamic blend of integrating innovative technology with an uncompromising dedication by focusing on delivering a wide range of total solutions

has grown at a steady pace. The company is an ICT services and solutions venture between The Zubair Corporation and iGroup, Singapore, which provides full turnkey wireless and mobile enabling technology to telecom operators, government organisations, hotels, shopping malls and business communities in the Sultanate and throughout the Middle East. Infocomm now has a branch office in the Dubai Internet City and has, in a short space of time, achieved an impressive client base for its HSIA/WiFi solutions in leading international hotels such as the InterContinental chain, the Radisson SAS, and Traders. It is clear that Rogeh Hajj and The Zubair Corporation are keeping busy staying up to date on technologies that continue to meet the global demand for integrated and strategic IT solutions. As evidence of this, Zubair Corporation is currently investing time and energy on cutting-edge mobile, telecommunication and broadband technologies.

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


INTERVIEW

Can you please elaborate on Huawei’s present contracts in Oman? How do you look at business opportunities in Oman? Huawei currently leads in the market as the vendor for telecom solutions and we see huge potential in re-creating the same level of success in providing ICT solutions for the enterprise business market in Oman. While Huawei Enterprise Business has already successfully implemented some of the most impressive ICT infrastructures in Oman and outside the region, we are keen to share our expertise and have end-users enjoy the life-changing benefits that our solutions provide. From putting in place a transmission system for the Omani government and oil sectors to an IP networking solution for e-government, Huawei Enterprise Business can offer a broad product and solutions portfolio that delivers high bandwidth and fast connectivity, allowing people and businesses to experience a greater impact on their lives for the better.

DR. LIU QI, VICE PRESIDENT, HUAWEI

Give us some details on the solutions available for Omani customers? Is cloud computing catching up among Oman’s corporate customers? Organisations across vertical industries are realising the need to assess and understand the growth, expansion and future requirements of their own business. To do this, they understand how vital it is to align, plan and utilise the right ICT solutions and products to be able to meet their business needs. In the Omani enterprise market, Huawei Enterprise has already put in place a range of solutions to build a state-of-the-art network and communications infrastructure, data centers for enterprises across industry verticals as well as industry applications. These include the implementation of solutions for governments and public utilities (eGovernment, eCity, eHealth, eEducation, etc.), GSM-R solutions for high-speed railways, digital oilfields and smart grids.

In Expansion Mode Dr. Liu Qi, Vice President, Enterprise Business, Middle East, Huawei Technologies speaks on Huawei’s business presence in Oman market.

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Additionally, Huawei Enterprise leverages the opportunities brought by the technological revolution and business model innovation based on cloud computing. In providing cloud computing data center solutions and enterprise applications based on cloud computing, Huawei will continue to strengthen its foothold in the market as a leading solutions' provider in building the ICT infrastructure in the enterprise business market. Cloud computing has become a hot topic in the region because of how the concept has made a total shift in the way that business operates. Decision makers and leaders in Oman came to attend COMEX because they have seen the enormous impact that cloud


computing is having on businesses. The businesses enjoy a reduction in capital expenses in their IT infrastructure, a substantial reduction in operational expenses, and are also able to focus on their core business activities. Huawei’s cloud computing solutions offer cloud services for the following three layers: Infrastructure as a service, Platform as a Service, and Software as a Service with the support of a number of applications. From integrating business related applications, we can offer clouds for e-learning, healthcare, desktop, web hosting and many more. These solutions will ease the way businesses across industries operate through increasing the level of communication and allowing ultimately, a faster time to market. What is the total size of Huawei’s business in terms of revenue in the Gulf region? Huawei is currently the leading vendor in providing telecommunications' solutions in Oman, logging around $2.7 billion in contract sales in the Middle East market in 2010 -presenting an annual growth rate of 24 percent. Can you elaborate on the expansion plans of the company in the Gulf region? Currently, there are five large business units under Huawei Enterprise Business, namely, the IP Product Line (basic network infrastructure), the Communications Technology Product Line (enterprise communication), the IT Product Line (cloud computing based data centre), the Industry Solutions Dept. (vertical integrated ICT solutions), and the service department. Based on the above-mentioned five business units, we have set up enterprise business divisions in all regions worldwide so that we can establish our leadership in the global market and support our global business operations. Huawei’s presence in the GCC region already spans an impressive decade covering 12 countries across the Middle East. Our focus over the next few years will be to drive our enterprise business in the Middle East with a target of hiring over 400 employees by the end of 2011, with dedicated teams to work on the five business units, according to the corporate strategy. We also look forward to establishing training centres in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain so that our partners and end-users have the opportunity to receive professional training on our products and solutions. The launch of the enterprise business is a core part of the company’s global mission to become the first choice solutions provider in building the ICT infrastructure across various industries. These include government, transportation, power, finance, oil & gas, smart cities and more.

Over the next 10 years, Huawei will transform itself from pioneers in Communications Technology to the Information Communications Technology business.

How do you look at the business potential in the Gulf? With the emergence of cloud computing and the convergence of ICT, the transformation of the entire industry has offered Huawei unprecedented new opportunities in the Gulf region and the enterprise business will provide enormous room for Huawei's strategic growth. Huawei’s proven track record in building next generation ICT infrastructures in the telecom markets is a testimony of the capabilities it can also provide in the enterprise market. Huawei’s continuous effort over the past decade has allowed the company to establish itself as leaders in the Communications Technology field, particularly in the Gulf. Over the next 10 years, Huawei will transform itself from pioneers in Communications Technology to the Information Communications Technology business. The enterprise business will remain key in the strategic development of Huawei Technologies. As we approach each of these opportunities in the enterprise business, our target will apply the same rigorous strategic approach and discipline that we have applied in the telecom sector, to ensure our customers receive returns on investments. We are excited about the growth potential for Huawei Enterprise and we believe we have the qualified talent, resources and level of innovation to deliver value to our customers Also, give us details on the total revenue of the company? How it is expected to grow this year? Huawei's sales revenue for 2010 exceeded $28 billion. That’s a year-on-year increase of 24 percent. Huawei was ranked 397th in the Fortune Global 500 list for its sales revenue in 2009 and looks forward to driving the enterprise business as part of our strategic direction in the coming years. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


GLOBAL INTERNET MARKET

The total amound of global Internet traffic is expected to quadruple by 2015 and hit 966 exabytes per year. Try this for reference: all the words ever spoken by humans since the dawn of time would add up to just about 5 exabytes. So how much information is whizzing across the globe in digital form? What's driving this growth? The usual suspects: the rising number of Internet users and faster broadband speed.

ANNUAL GLOBAL IP TRAFFIC BY 2015

966,000,000,000,000,000,000Bytes or 966 Exabytes (Up from 242.4 Exabytes in 2010)

GLOBAL IP TRAFFIC FORECAST 2010-15 902 million 20 Mbps

2.3 billion 36 Mbps

( 229%)

( 290%) 18.9 EB/month ( 295%)

2.2 billion 27 Mbps

3.7 EB/month ( 424%)

727 million 63 Mbps

Western Europe

( 266%) 22.3 EB/month ( 218%)

( 312%)

4.8 EB/month ( 235%)

North America

5.8 billion 25 Mbps

1.3 billion 7 Mbps 1.3 billion 8 Mbps ( 191%)

( 154%)

2.0 EB/month ( 699%)

4.7 EB/month ( 604%)

Average global fixed broadband speed growth

300%

(From7 Mbps in 2010 to 28 Mbps in 2015)

44

Japan

( 359%) 24.1 EB/month ( 350%)

Asia Pacific Middle East/ Africa

Network-connected Devices Broadband Speed Traffic growth (Exabytes (EB))

Latin America

DOWNLOAD

Central/Eastern Europe

Network-connected devices globally

14.6 Billion

Global Internet users

3

Billion (40% of the world's population in 2015)


INTERVIEW

Getting Ready for Future Dr.Mohammed Ali Al-Wahaibi, Under Secretary – Communications, Ministry of Transport & Communications talks about some of the issues and developments concerning the telecom space in the Sultanate

Many areas in Oman are yet to meaningfully benefit from the broadband communication. What steps are you taking to speed up the process? Broadband is one of the key services that should be available for all individuals and companies. There is much scope for improvement in this area in the Sultanate. Although the current telecom operators are making efforts to roll out the service, still the penetration rate is low. We, at the Ministry, are developing a national strategy for broadband to roll out the services in all regions and governorates. We have already signed a contract with a consulting firm to study the best methods to roll out this service. What has been the development on Universal Service Obligation (USO) project? The USO is a mandatory service by the government to make available the basic communication services in the various regions and governorates. The government has spared no effort in this area. The USO policy had been approved by the cabinet in 2009. The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) was delegated with the task of conducting a study to avail the service. A tender was later floated and is now being finalized. Hopefully, the implementation will start soon. What are your expectations on the growth of fixed lines penetration which was pegged below 10 per cent in 2010? The fixed line services are witnessing decline in the world, not only

HE DR. MOHAMMED AL-WAHAIBI, UNDER SECRETARYCOMMUNICATIONS, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT & COMMUNICATIONS

in Oman, due to the high penetration rates of the mobile services especially after the introduction of broadband through the mobile services. We should note that it is difficult to spread these services through the fixed lines. Are you satisfied with the quality of investments made by new telecom entrants especially in class 2 mobile service segment? The government always seeks to provide the best services in the communication sector. Although much of this has been achieved, still we need to do more to create a conducive and healthy business environment that can produce high quality services at reasonable rates. As for the infrastructure, the government is preparing a national broadband strategy which hopefully will contribute to achieving better growth rates. Do you think the Ministry needs to step in to create a better environment for ensuring that service providers offer products around VoIP? VoIP is very common in many countries of the world. In many cases, it is used illegally and without license. This will have a negative impact on the operation. As for the current operators, they have the right to use this type of service and they have the license for the same. They can provide this service if they want. For example, Nawras uses VoIP in international communication between the Sultanate and certain countries. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


TRA

The Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) works diligently to achieve its objectives according to the Telecommunications Regulatory Act, its regulations, and strategic policies and plans for the development of the Sultanate. These objectives can be summarised as follows: to provide telecommunications services throughout the Sultanate at an affordable price; to improve the quality of services, which includes improving both the quality and diversity of the services so that the users can enjoy multiple options and a variety of telecommunications services.

H.E. DR. HAMAD BIN SALIM BIN RASHID AL RAWAHI CHIEF EXECUTIVE,TRA

The TRA is keen to ensure the quality of services in conformity with the conditions and standards of various international organisations specialised in the telecom sector across the world. Another important goal of the TRA is to encourage investment in the telecommunications sector, and to promote the sector as one of the best sectors at the regional level. It also seeks to create a competitive environment between the licensed operators in the market. The TRA has also taken up many of the responsibilities related to the telecom sector such as the development of infrastructure facilities, liberalisation of investment and encouraging competition among service providers. The authority represents the Sultanate in various international forums and educates the users.

Complete Dedication 'The TRA is keen to ensure the quality of services in conformity with the conditions and standards of various international organisations specialised in the telecom sector across the world,' H.E. Dr. Hamad bin Salim bin Rashid al Rawahi, Chief Executive, TRA.

46

To safeguard the interest of the consumer, TRA also undertake the following measures:y Ensuring access to telecommunications services throughout the Sultanate by meeting the requirements of people in this regard at reasonable prices. y

Improving the level of services provided by the telecommunications sector for the benefit of the customers.

y

Evaluating the performance of the licensees in terms of their adherence to the quality standards and their commitment to the conditions specified in the licenses granted to them.


Fair Play The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has introduced a number of market-friendly regulations that have led to the development of the telecom sector. ICT Report tracks some of the major activities of TRA during 2010.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has a commitment towards the development of telecommunications sector in the Sultanate by regulating telecom services, promoting the interest of telecommunications’ service providers and beneficiaries, and ensuring that consumers receive a world-class telecommunication services, with a wide range of choices at affordable prices. The Authority's policies and regulations aim at the development of infrastructure and increasing private investment in the sector, to benefit the Sultanate’s economy and in turn, its citizens as stipulated in the Telecommunications Regulatory Act. TRA in 2010 The telecom sector in Oman has been progressing steadily after the liberalization policy was introduced in 2003. Currently there are two integrated competitors in the mobile and fixed line markets -Omantel and Nawras. The competition in the mobile market gained further momentum in 2010, with the launch of another two resellers of mobile services (Injaz and Samatel) to the already existing three resellers which launched their services during 2009 (Renna, Friendi and Mazoon). This boosted penetration rate in the segment, which reached to 171 per cent. At the end of 2010, mobile services achieved coverage of 97 per cent of the population in the Sultanate. In contrast to the growth and penetration rates of fixed line services, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of mobile phone subscribers. The mobile phone subscribers have increased

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


TRA

significantly over a period of six years, demonstrating a growth of almost 245 per cent since 2005. The number of mobile subscribers in 2010 has shown 16 per cent increase from 2009. The penetration rate at the end of 2010 reached 171 per cent as compared to 138 per cent at the end of 2009. The fixed telephone line penetration has remained constant during the last two years at 10.4 per cent. The Internet penetration per household reached 18.4 per cent by 2010 with 19.3 per cent reduction from 2009, while fixed broadband penetration rate has increased by 9.2 per cent. Subscribers: Fixed Line- Globally, the fixed lines have shown a downward trend and Oman is not an exception. By 2010 end, the number of fixed lines stood at approximately 281,755, a drop of almost 5 per cent from the previous year. Fixed Internet: The year 2010 witnessed a decrease in number of Internet subscribers by almost 5.1 per cent to 73,908 compared to 78,135 in 2009. Fixed Broadband: By 2010, total fixed broadband subscribers base reached to 52,630 subscribers, registering a growth rate of 26.8 per cent as compared to year 2009. Mobile Broadband: By December 2010, both the operators had a total of 1,847,223 mobile broadband subscriptions, registering 69 per cent penetration rate; an increase of 50.7 per cent from the previous year. This indicator has been calculated using the assumptions that all the mobile subscribers having 3G supported handsets are considered mobile broadband subscribers. Estimated Internet Users and Penetration Rate: By the end of 2010, there were a total of 1,670,774 estimated Internet users; an increase of 13.14 per cent from the previous year. The telecom sector generated RO 634.979 million revenue in 2010, a slight decline of 0.02 per cent compared to the previous year. The workforce in the telecom sector has increased by 27.6 per cent since 2005 (which includes Omantel, Oman Mobile, Nawras, Friendi, Renna, Injaz, Samatel and TRA). Mobile Market The pre-paid subscribers clearly form the bulk of users in the mobile segment, accounting for 91 per cent of the subscriber base (4,192,122 pre-paid subscribers), and the rest being accounted

48


for by post-paid connections of 414,011 subscribers. The resellers have been in the market for almost two years, and have captured a share of around 11 per cent. Quality of Service The TRA has always been trying to promote and protect the interest of the users of telecommunication services in the Sultanate and to assure them better quality of service. To achieve this, the TRA monitors the quality of services (QoS) of the operators to ensure that they are meeting their targets and license obligations. It ask the operators to publish their quality of service in the newspapers on a half yearly basis. It also works towards improving the QoS targets for operators to make them as per the international best practices. In order to accomplish better QoS, the TRA actively engages with the operators and obtains periodic reports on the quality of service from all operators to monitor their QoS targets. In case, the licensee does not meet their target as per license obligations, TRA investigates the issues and directs the concerned operator for taking corrective and preventive measures. During 2010, the TRA had prepared a draft regulation on the quality of service which included new Key Performance Indicators for various telecommunications services. Competition One of the TRA's main roles is to liberalize the telecom market and increase competition. The TRA has been very active in facilitating competition in the sector and the launch of the services by the second fixed Licensee in 2010 is an important milestone towards fulfilling further competition targets in the Omani market. The TRA is also playing a very important role in encouraging further investment in the infrastructure to develop the networks in the Sultanate. The TRA is coordinating with Haya Water that is working on laying its fiber optic cables along with its wastewater infrastructure. The laying of the telecom infrastructure will ease the access and reduce the costs on the fixed service providers in the future which will definitely increase competition in the fixed and broadband market. USO projects The TRA has carried out a study with the assistance of a consultant to develop Universal Service Policy and Implementation Strategy for the Sultanate of Oman. This aimed towards providing telecommunications services in many rural and remote areas in the Sultanate that lack telecommunication facilities. The policy set out how the Authority plans to implement the Universal Service projects in Oman. The council of ministers has approved the USO Policy in June, 2009. The USO Policy document serves as a guideline on how the obligations set out in the Article (38) of the telecom Act are met and to ensure the availability and provision of the set of telecom services in Oman.

TRA's

MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2010: Granting Class II licenses to Samatel & Injaz as mobile re-sellers. Nawras launched its fixed services in July 2010, encouraging further competition in the fixed line voice segment and broadband internet services. The TRA approved 38 new services, and 119 promotional Tariff Proposals. Total of 3,674 new Radio Frequency licenses were issued, 26% up from year 2009. Total of 6,464 of new frequencies assigned. TRA was awarded G-REX Award 2010 by International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Seven regulatory decisions were issued during year 2010. Mobile phone subscriber base grew more than 5% in 2010, reaching penetration rates as high as 170%. The new policy framework of telecom sector was forwarded to the Council of Ministers through MOTC during 2010. TRA staff participated in 73 national, regional and international events in 2010. 93% Omanization reached by the end of 2010. 5 Disputes and complaints on account of anti-competitive conducts were handled.

Telecenters The TRA is currently studying the implementation of Telecenters in the Sultanate in specified geographical locations based on a set of selection criteria. The aim is to promote the government initiatives to reduce the digital divide, to enhance social and economic development, and to promote the e-government services in all areas. The centers will not only address the basic communication needs for services like voice, fax, photocopy, printing, scanning, and Internet access but also will provide ICT trainings in coordination with other government agencies to ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


TRA

Telecom Sector Revenue (RO Millions) 700 600

550.449

587.626

635.086 634.979

452.071

500 355.244

400 300 200 100 0

2005

2006

2007 2008 Revenue

2009

2010

■ Total

Contribution to Telecom Sector Revenues 80% 70%

Contribution

60% 50% 40%

57% 43%

39%

69%

64%

61%

36%

30%

33%

31%

70%

67%

30%

20% 10% 0%

2005

■ Fixed

2006

2007

Voice and Internet Revenue

2008

2009

■ Mobile

2010

Revenue

Employment in the Telecom Sector 4,000 3,500 3,000

3,612 3,005

3,212

3,306

3,833 3,598

Employees

2,500 2,000 1,500 1,000 500 0

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

enhance the local knowledge and create new job opportunities for the area. TRA is in the process to finalize a public consultation paper aimed to collect feedback and views of the public and private sector. Domain Names: Awarding of .om According to the Telecom Act, TRA has the function of managing the country code top level domain names '.om' which is partially being done by Omantel currently. In order for TRA to fully pursue this function, the .om infrastructure (registry and Domain Names System) has to be deployed. TRA had floated a tender for the provision of the new Domain Name Registry and DNS System. AusRegistry International has been awarded the assignment to execute the related works. The system will provide benefits to the Omani Internet community. The new Domain Name Registry System will encompass both the existing .om country-code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) and the planned .‫( ﻋﻤﺎﻥ‬.oman) Arabic script International country-code Top-Level Domain (IDN ccTLD). Numbers and domain names allocation In 2010, TRA had continued its function in allocating numbers and domain names. The fixed numbering allocation has increased due to the entry of the second fixed operator. The mobile numbering allocation has declined due to optimization of numbering resources by TRA through issuance of directives to operators to reduce the SIM validity period and the quarantine period. TRA directives have helped in recovering the numbering resources also and the same was in line with the aim of TRA to preserve the national resources. Arabic Language Internet Domains: Approval Obtained (.‫ )ﻋﻤﺎﻥ‬from ICANN In October 2010, TRA received approval from ICANN, the international body responsible for managing and assigning names, for the internet addresses to have its internet domains written in Arabic. The approval was for ( .‫ ) ﻋﻤﺎﻥ‬to be the Arabic top level

TELECOM MARKET IN OMAN :

* Fixed internet/fixed broadband penetrations have been calculated per 100 households, while mobile and fixed telephone lines penetrations are per 100 inhabitants. 50


domain name for Oman. Arabic speaking Internet users will be able to use the Internet using their native language by typing directly into their web browsers without the need to use the Latin characters (the 26 letters "a-z", numbers 0 to 9, and hyphens). Numbering Plan TRA had decided to develop a new Numbering Management System for Oman. The system will facilitate towards efficient, transparent and timely handling of numbering applications. TRA has invited proposals for the implementation of the system. The system will allow TRA to record, track, and efficiently manage online applications for numbering resources. Monitoring and assigning number blocks using a centralized database will save time and minimize potential human errors. It also will allow TRA to produce automatic reports for further analysis and improve transparency and efficiency. Numbering resource forecasts, usage patterns and resource utilization will facilitate maximization of limited numbering resources. Equipment Guidelines In accordance to Chapter 6 of the Executive Regulations, TRA in June 2010, issued the Labeling Guidelines for the approved telecom equipment. By enforcing the TRA Labeling to be placed on the approved telecom equipment, TRA aims to eliminate the phenomena of flooding the market with unapproved types of telecom equipment and to improve the consumer protection. TRA has continued to approve telecommunications equipment after checking the compliance of these equipment to the international standards on Safety, Electromagnetic compatibility, and Radio Frequency (RF). Due to the demand from the market, and the new technological advancements, the highest number of approved equipment in 2010, were from the category of Radio telecom equipment. There was total number of 470 newly registered/renewed dealers of telecom equipment during year 2010. Inspection of Spectrum Users In order to check on the compliance of technical specifications of radio equipment into operation with the issued radio licenses, TRA conducted 114 inspection visits for 111 spectrum users in different areas of the sultanate. This includes the inspection of 55 spectrum users in land services, inspection of 59 ships /boats and inspection of 21 dealer of radio equipment. As part of the process of issuing new radio licenses, 22 survey processes were carried out as well. In total, about 157 inspection visit was carried out for spectrum user and dealers of radio equipment during the year 2010. The inspection process resulted in finding 24 spectrum users either operating radio equipment illegally without license or not complying with the issued radio license.

HILAL OMAR AL SIYABI, MEDIA AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS MANAGER, TRA

“ Mobile users should understand the legal liability which may arise from giving their sim cards to others. Fake registered sim cards might be used to disturb others. If you give away your SIM card, make sure you complete the necessary official transfer of registration of the SIM card to the new user. Cancel all SIM cards that are registered in your name if they are being used by someone you do not trust. Educate your family, relatives and friends on the legal consequences which may arise in case of giving their number to other users."

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


TRA

Radio Licensing The number of new frequency assignments during 2010 was 6464. The total number of new radio licenses issued was 3674 while the number of those which were renewed is 18,407 adding up to the total number of 22,081 radio licenses. On the other hand the total number of licenses cancelled during 2010 was 1,222 excluding the ones are temporary licensed. Consumer complaints During 2010, the TRA received a total of 46 valid complaints from consumers on issues where no settlement was reached with their service providers compared to 20 complaints in 2009, registering an increase of 130 per cent over the previous year. Most of the complaints (around 74 per cent) were in relation to Mobile in respect of billing and withdrawal of numbers. Six complaints were in relation to fixed lines and another six to Internet representing 26 per cent of the total complaints. TRA arranged amicable settlements between beneficiaries and service providers and issued determinations on unresolved disputes. TRA continued its efforts in raising the beneficiaries’ awareness in various aspects of the telecom sector. During 2010, TRA organized a number of awareness programmes including the broadcasting campaign on

Mobile Market Segmentation

Al Wisal Radio by broadcasting three messages within 10 days (as part of the TRA’s participation in COMEX 2010).

■ 9% Postpaid

■ 91% Prepaid

Mobile Prepaid Subscribers Market Share

■ 11% Resellers ■ 45% Oman Mobile ■ 44% Nawras

52

y

Wi-Fi security and

y

Obtaining mobile numbers used by others and the resulting legal liability

My Number, My Identity Campaign Earlier this year, TRA revealed it campaign "My Number, My Identity" to raise awareness not to register mobile numbers used by others and the resulting legal liability, which coincided with the Authority's decision to cap the numbers registered in the name of one person for no more than 10 numbers to each operator. According to Hilal Omar Al Siyabi, Media and Consumer Affairs Manager of TRA, “Users should also understand the legal liability which may arise from giving their sim cards to others. Fake registered sim cards might be used to disturb others. If you give away your SIM card, make sure you complete the necessary official transfer of registration of the SIM card to the new user. Cancel all SIM cards that are registered in your name if they are being used by someone you do not trust. Educate your family, relatives and friends on the legal consequences which may arise in case of giving their number to other users."

Source: TRA

The broadcasting campaign focused on three areas: y Hazards of fraudulent SMS


TELECOM OVERVIEW “Broadband networks are increasingly recognised as a fundamental prerequisite for economic and social development. They serve as a communication and transaction platform for the entire economy and can improve productivity across all sectors. It is, therefore, a key driver of economic growth and national competitiveness, and can contribute to social and cultural development,” stated Dr.Mohammed Ali Al-Wahaibi, Under Secretary-Communications, Ministry of Transport & Communications in Oman while talking about the broadband in an industry event ‘SAMENA-Broadband’ held at Muscat this year. It really indicates that Oman is extremely conscious of the importance of broadband to march ahead in economic and social development. The emphasis on building and expanding the next generation network by Omantel as well as Nawras, the two main service providers, is a reflection of the growing popularity of the applications that runs on broadband. To maintain and build on their market share, the two telecom majors are eying broadband as the going is getting tougher and tougher in other turfs such as mobile and fixed line services. FIXED LINE – OPTION ARRIVES Like the trend worldwide, the fixed line growth in Oman has been under tremendous pressure with telecom users opting in favour of mobile connections. The Sultanate had 300,139 fixed line subscribers at the end of December 2009 (source: MONE/TRA). See the table on page 52 for more details. The figure dropped to 279,425 by the end of last year, a decline of -6.9 per cent on a year-on-year (yoy) basis. This negative trend is despite the launch of fixed line services by Nawras in the second quarter of 2010, breaking Omantel’s monopoly on the fixed line segment.

Broadband – The Next Battleground Low penetration level and promise of higher average revenue per user (ARPU) makes broadband one of the most lucrative segments for service providers and resellers alike.

54

Nawras’ fixed line services are powered by WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology. Nawras is the only operator to deploy this next generation wireless network commercially in the Sultanate. “This milestone event enabled Nawras to expand to become a full-service provider giving all customers access to a full range of communication solutions,” stated Ross Cormack, Chief Executive Officer, Nawras while talking about the new service in the company’s annual report for 2010. The company managed to rope in 8,000 odd customers including over 50 corporate clients by 2010 end. It is going to be interesting to see whether Nawras manages to lift the segment or not in 2011, the first full year of its fixed line operations. MOBILE SERVICES – CONTINUES TO GROW The growth momentum continues unabated in the mobile services segment. Oman with a total population of 2.7 million had over 4.564 million mobile subscribers by 2010 end (source: MONE/


TRA), resulting in a mobile penetration of almost 170 per cent and a growth of almost 15 per cent over the corresponding figure in 2009. “Oman Mobile (part of Omantel) continues to lead mobile subscriber’s segment with a market share of 55 per cent (including resellers at the end of 2010). Our total subscriber base was 2.492 million including 358,000 subscribers of the resellers,” informed Dr.Amer Al Rawas, Chief Executive Officer, Omantel while making a presentation to the investor community in February this year. It was an impressive growth of over 18 per cent on a y-o-y basis for Omantel. However, Nawras didn’t perform as well and managed to grow at just over 8.8 per cent to cross the 2-million mark. The mobile service resellers including Friendi, Renna, Samatel, Mazoon and Injaz in totality grew at a frenetic pace. Their combined tally of subscribers went up from 239,951 in 2009 end to 417,081 by 2010 end, a massive growth of 73.8 per cent (source: MONE/ TRA). CAPITAL EXPENDITURE ON THE RISE Both Omantel and Nawras continues to invest in ramping up the infrastructure. Omantel invested RO 109.7 million in 2009 and another RO 75.8 million in 2010. The company has been developing and enhancing the 3.5G network services across Oman. It completed the installation of 795 sites that provides an extensive coverage of 3.5G during 2010. Nawras also spent RO 74 million

Executive

SUMMARY The fixed line growth in Oman has been under tremendous pressure with telecom users opting in favour of mobile connections. Oman with a total population of 2.7 million had over 4.564 million mobile subscribers by 2010 end. Both Omantel and Nawras continues to invest in ramping up the infrastructure. Two mobile resellers Friendi and Renna ventured into offering prepaid mobile broadband services this year. Currently in Oman, the coverage (broadband) is reasonable yet the penetration is relatively low.

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


TELECOM OVERVIEW last year including RO 50 million towards fixed service roll-out. The company has plans to invest another RO 140 million by the end of this year. BROADBAND – FOCUS AREA Oman is one of the most competitive mobile services markets in the Arab league but opportunities exist for considerable growth, especially for mobile and fixed broadband services, according to Arab Advisors Report ‘Competition Levels in Arab Cellular Markets 2010’. Two mobile resellers Friendi and Renna realising that the average revenue per user (ARPU) is much lower, ventured into offering prepaid mobile broadband services this year. Omantel is betting big time on the broadband services. According to Dr.Rawas, the ADSL growth has slowed down due to a significant off-take of mobile broadband services. Omantel had around 35,000 fixed broadband subscribers in the first quarter of 2009. The figure was around 45,000 towards the end of 2010. On the other hand, Omantel’s mobile broadband subscriber base of just 15,000 in the third quarter of 2009 shot up to 182,000 mark in 2010 end, a stupendous over 1113 per cent growth in just 18-months. High-speed Internet offers the best ARPU to the telecom service provider compared to fixed line or mobile service. Take Omantel for example, it reported an ARPU of RO 28.6 towards the end of 2010. It was pegged at just RO 17 in 2008. In the same duration, fixed line ARPU came down from RO 12.6 to RO 9.8 whereas mobile ARPU also recorded negative growth by contracting to RO 14.2 against RO 15.2 in 2008 (source: Omantel). Nawras’ ARPU is also coming down steadily over the years. The company has already set-up 495 3G base stations and building a complementary WiMAX network that covered 54 per cent of the population by 2010 end. The WiMAX coverage is expected to cover 81 per cent of the population by this year’s end. However, the growth in broadband is also leading to critical issues. Lars O Gustafsson, Vice President-Business Development, Omantel stated in March this year: “Currently in Oman, the coverage (broadband) is reasonable yet the penetration is relatively low. Price is no longer the reason for the limited uptake. Following recent price changes, Oman has the lowest prices in the GCC region.” He added, “If the demand for content usage goes up and the speeds currently offered through existing networks is regarded insufficient, then major investments in future networks would be required. This calls for a review of the regulatory framework in the country to incentivise investments in new technologies like LTE etc.” 56

Connectivity Plus As they build the next-generation networks, can telecom operators offer new services to business customers to spread their risk and develop new revenue streams? Vincent de La Bachelerie, Global Telecommunications Leader, Ernst & Young said, “There appears to be a significant revenue opportunity for operators in addressing the needs of their enterprise customers but there are very few examples of that being done successfully… many of our clients still have some way to go to overcome skepticism about the services they can provide, especially if they aim to position themselves beyond the core network”. In Oman, the two major operators especially Omantel have been active in looking beyond providing just the connectivity. For example, through its subsidiaries Infoline LLC and Omania E-Commerce LLC, the telecom major has been tapping revenue streams such as business process outsourcing (BPO) and e-commerce with mixed results. Nawras launched service ‘Backstage’ offering music from giants such as Universal Music through a dedicated application is an indication of the new services that we are going to see more often in Oman’s telecom space.


FIXED LINE OVERVIEW

Fixed Goes Wireless The fixed line segment is depending on ‘fixed wireless’ in its survival fight against ‘mobile services’

58

Globally, the fixed line growth has been hampered by the growing popularity of mobile services. Under the monopoly of Omantel, the fixed line segment has been stagnating for the last couple of years in Oman. From 286,000 fixed line subscribers at the end of the first quarter of 2009 (source: Omantel), the number came down to 252,000 by the end of last year. However, this segment has been revived with the entry of Nawras in May last year as the second operator. The development has also made Omantel to repackage its offerings to the customers. Omantel understands very well what liberalisation can do in the fixed line business as it has a firsthand experience of it in the mobile segment. Omantel – Goes Aggressive Omantel has been offering different packages at different price points to woo the customers for voice services. However, it is relying on fixed wireless services to penetrate the segment. With an aggressive pricing strategy, it is making inroads into the ADSL broadband market by promising better bandwidth on a sustainable basis. As a result, the prices have dropped down to just RO 7 per month for a download speed of 2Mbps. The other highly attractive packages are unlimited data usage against a fixed monthly fee of RO 20 (upto 2Mbps speed) and RO 25 (upto 3-5 Mbps speed). These


March 2011

Dec 2010

% change

Post paid

199,739

200,467

-0.36

Pre paid

28,713

37,523

-23.48

Public telephone – pay phone

6,801

6,801

0

ISDN equivalent channels

37,870

36,964

2.45

Total fixed lines

273,123

281,755

-3.06

Fixed line penetration

10.14%

10.46%

-

The company launched the new ADSL services with an eye-catchy advertising campaign emphasising on the main benefits for the customers. All the unlimited price plans that are being offered come with the fixed line rental fee included for post-paid service. Omantel has also been the first company to introduce Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology – ensuring world class broadband Internet services

# of Lines

RESIDENTIAL/BUSINESS FIXED LINES SUBSCRIBERS 180,000 160,000 140,000 120,000 100,000 80.000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0

164,773

154,785

82.204

82,579

Q4, 2010

Q1, 2011

# of Residenttial Fixed Lines

# of Business Fixed Lines

TOTAL FIXED REVENUE (Million RO) Revenue (Million RO)

new schemes have made fixed broadband probably the cheapest in the GCC region and definitely far more competitive than existing mobile broadband offerings in Oman. There are a number of other price plans targeted at the residential and small-office-home-office (SOHO) segments. Some of them even offer downloading speed of up to 40Mbps. Omantel’s Vice President of the Consumer Business Unit, Rao Chagalarmudi said, “We have made the pricing plans simple, transparent and easy to use and are offering services that will deliver much higher speeds in a reliable, fast and effective manner. All of our customers will benefit from the new plans – both our existing customers who will enjoy a seamless upgrade to a new plan that gives them faster services at a lower price – and new customers who will be able to sign up for fixed broadband service at attractive price points.”

Source: TRA

FIXED LINE SUBSCRIBERS

60.000 50.000 40.000 30.000 20.000 10.000 0

41.328

Q1, 2010

FIXED TELEPHONE SERVICES

48.928 37.100

36.590

37.565

Q2, 2010

Q3, 2010

Q4, 2010

Q1, 2011

FIXED TELEPHONE (Postpaid + Prepaid) ARPU/MONTH (RO)

Fixed Telephone Lines

Penetration Rates

10.6% 10.4% 10.2% 10.0% 9.8% 9.6% 9.4% 9.2%

25.000 ARPU/Month (RO)

284,000 282,855 283,155 10.46% 282,000 10.14% 280,000 278,741 281,755 278,000 9.87% 9.88% 276,000 9.72% 274.000 273,123 272,000 270,000 268,000 Q1, 2010 Q2, 2010 Q3, 2010 Q4, 2010 Q1, 2011

Penetration Rates

# of Telephone Lines

TOTAL FIXED TELEPHONE LINES

20.000

17.479

16.992 14.075

15.076

15.750

Q4, 2010

Q1, 2011

15.000 10.000 5.000 0.000 Q1, 2010

Q2, 2010

Q3, 2010

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


FIXED LINE OVERVIEW and connectivity to new homes being built at two of Muscat’s most prestigious new residential developments at The Wave and Muscat Hills as well as Knowledge Oasis Muscat’s fourth building. Nawras – Differentiated Technology Nawras entered the fixed line market riding on WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology. Last year, it became a full-service provider by launching fixed-line business services in May and rolled-out the home broadband and voice services in the next month. By the end of 2010, Nawras had 8,000 fixed subscribers in its fold. Talking about the fixed line backbone, Ross Cormack, chief executive officer of Nawras, said, “Our WiMAX network is intended to reach 81 per cent of the population during 2011, using up to 30MHz of spectrum included as part of the fixed license that Nawras was issued in 2009. The networks are supported by Nawras’ IP/MPLS backbone, of which more than 3,000 km was operational by the end of 2010, with plans to reach about 5,000 km during this year. We have adopted a ring-based transmission structure, which improves reliability and reduces network interruption further enhanced by several sub-rings to maximise resilience.”

Executive

SUMMARY Omantel has been offering different packages at different price points to woo the customers for voice services. Nawras' WiMAX network is intended to reach 81 per cent of the population during 2011, using up to 30MHz of spectrum. The way content is becoming more high-definition multimedia oriented, the pressure will be on the operators to provide the full spectrum of integrated services across devices – smart phones, tablet PCs and Internet-ready TVs. 60

He added, “This backbone provides major savings in transmission and in leasing lines from the incumbent operator (Omantel) while enabling increased revenue from wholesale and corporate customers, who will benefit from the superior quality control built into end-to-end Nawras ownership and management of the network.” With Nawras joining the fray, now there are two service providers offering a unified bouquet of services on fixed and mobile platforms to attract the corporate and government customers apart from the retail customers. Though difficult to say at this stage but Nawras will not find it easy to penetrate the fixed line business in the enterprise segment. Many organisations have an ongoing relationship with Omantel and they may not like to disturb the applecart. With a much more attractive product line-up in the broadband, Omantel will not be easy to beat even in this category also. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how fixed broadband fares against mobile broadband. If mobility is the key driver, what would happen to the growth of fixed broadband? Though broadband users do advocate speed and reliability as their major concerns while choosing a broadband plan but would they go for options such as FTTH viza-viz HSDPA or HSPA+? If mobile broadband has to move up the value chain than who would invest in costly technologies like LTE? The answers to these questions may not be available at the moment but one thing is sure. The way content is becoming more highdefinition multimedia oriented, the pressure will be on the operators to provide the full spectrum of integrated services across devices – smart phones, tablet PCs and Internet-ready TVs.


contact 99269148 or email at: jacob@umsoman.com


MOBILE OVERVIEW

Scope For Growth The competition within mobile services segment is getting further intensified with resellers giving a tough fight to the main service providers.

62

Towards the end of 2010, the mobile penetration in Oman touched a peak of 170 per cent approximately. However, in the first quarter of 2011, it marginally declined to 166 per cent as the total mobile subscribers base has come down to 4.474 million from a high of 4.606 million by end of 2010. On a quarter-on-quarter (QoQ)basis, it indicates a steep decline of 2.87 per cent. The change in figure is mainly attributed to the implementation of a new policy where any connection inactive for six months has to be cancelled by the operator. The new guideline has impacted the prepaid segment where the numbers have dwindled by 3 per cent on a QoQ. The postpaid segment has shrunk by 1 per cent in the same period. Almost 90.85 per cent of the market is prepaid and rest comprises of postpaid subscribers. The market is led by Omantel as it commands 46 per cent of the market share. It is closely followed by Nawras with 43 per cent


MOBILE CELLULAR SERVICE TOTAL MOBILE SUBSCRIBERS 170.97%

4,700,000

175% 166.06% 170% 157.86% 4,606,133 165% 4,500,000 160% 4,473,920 153.26% 4,400,000 155% 4,525,742 150% 4,300,000 146.98% 4,394,075 145% 4,200,000 4,213,809 140% 4,100,000 135% 130% 4,000,000 Q1, 2010 Q2, 2010 Q3, 2010 Q4, 2010 Q1, 2011

Mobile Services

Penetration Rates

Subscribers

4,600,000

Penetration Rate

MOBILE SUBSCRIBERS

Mobile Pre paid

Mobile Post paid

Q1,2010

3,844,242

369,567

Q2,2010

3,995,945

398,130

Q3,2010

4,119,764

405,978

Q4,2010

4,192,122

414,011

Q1,2011

4,064,241

409,679

Market share %

MARKET SHARE FOR MOBILE SERVICE PROVIDERS (%) 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

7.1

8.1

9

10

11

46

45

44

44

43

46.9

47

47

46

46

Q1, 2010

Q2, 2010

Resellers

Q4, 2010

Nawras

Q1, 2011

Oman Mobile

Revenue (Millions RO)

TOTAL MOBILE REVENUES (RO MILLION) 120.000 115.000 110.000

108.290 104.550

111.59 106.967

104.414

105.000 100.000 95.000

Q1, 2010

Q2, 2010

Q3, 2010

Q4, 2010

Q1, 2011

TOTAL MOBILE ARPU/MONTH 8.500

8.278

8.210

8.000

8.100

8.200

Q4, 2010

Q1, 2011

7.690

Source: TRA

ARPU/Month (RO)

share. Rest of the 11 per cent is in the hands of resellers (class two license holders). In the first quarter of 2010, resellers had cornered just 7.1 per cent market share whereas the share of Omantel and Nawras was pegged at 46.9 per cent and 46 per cent respectively. It is quite clear that resellers have gained the market share mainly at the expense of Nawras. The total mobile revenue was valued at RO 428.844 million in 2010. It was a shade higher than RO 425.507 million in 2009. In the first quarter of 2011, the mobile sector generated revenue of RO 106.967 million, higher than RO 104.550 million in the corresponding period in 2010. But the average revenue per user (ARPU) has been on a downward curve. It was around RO 11.7 in 2007 but went down to RO 9 in 2009. It further slumped to RO 7.690 in the third quarter of 2010 before increasing to RO 8.2 in the first quarter of 2011. The mobile service providers are grappling with the challenge of dwindling ARPUs with competition getting more intense.

Q3, 2010

7.500 7.000

Q1, 2010

Q2, 2010

Q3, 2010

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


MOBILE OVERVIEW

Subscribers

2,000,000 1,500,000

75.34%

68.57%

2,500,000 45.40%

1,000,000 1,301,668

47.30%

56.75%

1,626,896 1,355,451

2,029,602 1,847,223

500,000 0

Q1, 2010 Q2, 2010 Q3, 2010 Q4, 2010 Q1, 2011

Mobile Services

80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

Penetration Rates

MOBILE BROADBAND SUBSCRIBERS

Penetration Rate

Traffic (million minutes)

OUTGOING MOBILE TRAFFIC (MILLION MINUTES) 2,000 1,500 1,000 500 0

929

Q1, 2010

1,132

Q2, 2010

1,255

1,450

1,430

Q3, 2010

Q4, 2010

Q1, 2011

64

SMS Messages (In millions)

Source: TRA

OUTGOING SMS (IN MILLIONS) 1,500 1,400 1,300

1,310

1,420

1,418

Q4, 2010

Q1, 2011

1,333

1,223

1,200 1,100

Q1, 2010

Q2, 2010

Q3, 2010

The mobile traffic in terms of minutes has been on the upswing. In 2010, the total originated mobile traffic reached 4766 million minutes. In the first quarter of 2011, the traffic was 1430 million minutes. The figure was almost 54 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2010. Moving on, the news on SMS and MMS traffic has also been quite encouraging. In 2010, the volume of originated SMS was 5286 million. In the first quarter of 2011, it was pegged at 1418 million; 15.9 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2010. The MMS traffic is also gradually picking up. It totaled 27.16 million in 2010. It shot up by 26.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 over the corresponding period in 2010. It will be interesting to see whether the growth in mobile traffic is going to be consistent during rest of the year or not. It seems that the social developments during the first quarter of the year led to a surge in mobile traffic as people were sharing information and views more frequently than seen before. One of the most promising areas for growth is mobile broadband for the mobile service providers. The mobile broadband subscribers penetration has been on constant rise in the last couple of years. In the first quarter of 2010, it was 45.4 per cent and it peaked to 75.34 per cent by the end of the first quarter of 2011. The numbers are expected to go up further as more and more subscribers are opting for 3G supported devices.


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CEO SPEAK

One more class-I service provider in the international services segment has been given the license by TRA. How do you look at the development? The Sultanate of Oman's telecommunications sector is a fast developing sector, and the Government has made significant strides towards its liberalisation by turning it into one of the main contributors to the country’s economic and social progress. With regard to the new class-I licensee, we would emphasise that the Omani market is relatively a limited market due to its low population consisting mainly of youth segment. We are of the opinion that the regulator would have conducted a thorough regulatory impact assessment before awarding the license, the results of which we are unaware. However, Omantel has always welcomed competition in the telecom market and we envisage to tackle the situation positively.

DR. AMER BIN AWADH AL-RAWAS, CEO, OMANTEL

In your opinion, what should be the role of the Government in the development of Next Generation Broadband Network in Oman? At Omantel, we work very closely with the Government to ensure that the Sultanate is able to benefit from the latest and most advanced telecommunications infrastructure systems. When it comes to Next Generation Broadband we hope that the Government would help to put the regulatory framework in place that can allow an operator like Omantel to ensure its introduction. As a business, Omantel is fully committed to ensuring that the most advance technology, that is suited to the Omani business environment, is introduced to the Sultanate.

Taking The Lead ‘The past 12 months have been hugely successful for our business and our growth in an increasingly competitive environment,’ says Dr.Amer bin Awadh AlRawas, CEO of Omantel, Sultanate’s number one telecom service provider. Excerpts of the interview with him:

66

What are going to be the future trends in Oman as far as the investments in the expansion and upgradation of the telecom infrastructure is concerned? Over the past two years, we successfully delivered our 3.5G network – and we will continue to expand that as we steadily broaden our base stations across Oman to bring the largest number of customers into the 3.5G system for mobile telephony and mobile broadband services. There will also be major investments to be made in other infrastructure areas for a number of the large development projects underway in Oman. These include the development of the Duqm Industrial City and Port, building the new airports in Muscat and Salalah, highway improvements and new roads and integrated tourism complexes and other new industrial and commercial projects. All of these projects need state of the art telecom services from broadband to data, mobile and fixed line services – and Omantel is proud to be


playing a lead role in ensuring that the right cabling and network systems are in place to assist in the successful implementation of these large scale projects.

the initiative that the ITA is taking, with Omantel’s support, will help to solve the supply side issue in the future. Information and Communication Technologies underpin almost all the activities on the planet. Which sectors in Oman are yet to optimally benefit from the application of ICT networks and applications? Oman has seen great strides in the past four decades in ICT as well as other areas of development. The Government has a clear mandate to encourage the growth and development of the ICT sector – led by the creation of Knowledge Oasis and the Information Technology Authority.

Do you think with the convergence of technologies in terms of communication, information and entertainment, Oman has the right kind of regulatory framework in place to meet the needs of the changing marketplace? As a business we work very closely with the regulator – the TRA – and the Government to ensure that Oman can benefit from new technologies and increasing convergence. Omantel has already taken the lead for example in providing Fibre to the Home (FTTH) systems of new residential developments, such as the Wave and Muscat Hills, and to corporates located in the fourth building (KOM-4) at Knowledge Oasis Muscat, and we are now set to roll out our Fibre to the Workplace systems as well for new commercial developments.

As these bodies grow in strength and influence, Omantel is confident that all sectors of the Omani economy and society will continue to benefit from the application of ICT networks here in the Sultanate.

Though we often talk about the need and ways to improve the supply side of broadband but do you think enough steps have been taken to improve the demand side as well by creating the right quality and quantity of digital services for the society and enterprises? We believe this is predominantly a supply side issue – and one that is being addressed in an innovative and pioneering manner through the National PC Initiative led by ITA to deliver new laptops to tens of thousands of people across the Sultanate. The demand is there and

Tell us about the growth of Omantel in terms of mobile, fixed line and broadband Internet segments in the last one year? What have been the underlying factors behind the impressive growth? The past 12 months have been hugely successful for our business and our growth in an increasingly competitive environment. In 2010, we were the fastest growing mobile operator in the Sultanate as thousands more people in Oman recognised the quality, innovation and cost effectiveness of our services from our Oman

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


CEO SPEAK

opportunities that are going to be your focus areas in the coming year or two? Within the corporate sector, our business has continued to grow, develop and prosper – we are confident that through the establishment of our Omantel Business brand – our corporate business unit will grow steadily in the future. We were able to secure a number of additional contracts in the corporate sector in 2010 and remain the leader in this field – helping companies in the oil and gas, financial services, retail, manufacturing, government and other business areas to stay connected. Omantel has the largest network reach in the country and this provides our customers with the confidence they need, for example, to link complex ATM systems for banks in a safe and totally secure manner or to keep Muscat head offices in contact with remote installations in the desert in the oil and gas industry.

Mobile business. But across all of Omantel’s business we have seen impressive growth in our consumer, corporate and wholesale businesses – as we have moved forward as one consolidated company offering greater efficiencies of scale and an enhanced customer service in all of our sectors. In our consumer business, we have seen the introduction of a raft of new and innovative products including Mada Liberty and Mada Infinity, introducing the Android Smartphone, new Blackberry Hayyak services and significantly grown the footprint of our 3.5G service that has celebrated its second anniversary through introducing hundreds more base stations across the nation. Our corporate offer has been enhanced with the introduction of Omantel Business – giving an even clearer focus to our innovative approach to working with our corporate customers and ensuring they have highly focused and bespoke solutions – delivered by dedicated account managers who understand their business. In the wholesale area, Omantel has strengthened its position as the “Carrier of Carriers” with new contracts secured to introduce new landing stations in Oman as the nation becomes a regional hub for global cable systems that will deliver enhanced high speed Internet and data connections for the region. Here, Omantel is partnering with some of the world’s leading telecom companies to bring both undersea and land-based cables through the Omani hub and into the region. What is your assessment of the business in the enterprise segment? What have been the gains for you and emerging 68

In the last one year, Omantel has reduced its pricing in fixed and wireless broadband retail products. What has been the underlying strategy behind it? Has it led to desired results or the consumer off-take is still on the lower side? What are the reasons behind the low penetration levels of FBB and MBB? Omantel is seeing very healthy growth in both the mobile and fixed broadband sectors. The nature of a highly mobile society like Oman however means that the largest growth has been in the mobile broadband sector – fuelled by the rapid growth and expansion of our 3.5G network and increased network coverage. In relation to the perceived low levels of Internet penetration, there are a number of reasons behind this. One is that Oman is a highly geographically spread and diverse nation – where for example bringing fixed broadband into areas is more expensive than in tighter urban areas – and especially those with a large number of high rise buildings. For example, it is far easier and quicker to connect a 40 or 50 storey residential or office tower block in some of the neighboring countries and instantly connect hundreds of people in one building. Here in Oman because most people live in villas, or relatively small apartment blocks – there is a need for much greater infrastructure to connect the same number of people. You had stated in the SAMENA Summit in Muscat that Oman has the lowest broadband rates in the GCC. Do you think your aggressive pricing is justified? Will it not lead to undercutting and spoiling of the market? Oman currently is behind other GCC colleagues in terms of broadband penetration and we believe that it is vitally important to have a pricing structure that allows as many individuals as possible to get online and benefit from Internet connectivity.


Omantel is confident that our pricing structure is fully in line with the set plans of ensuring that Oman becomes an increasingly e-connected society – bringing it with the social and economic benefits of the Internet age. Tell us about the steps taken up by Omantel in expanding or improving its infrastructure in the recent years? In relation to infrastructure, Omantel has been busy in the past year in a number of areas that are helping to reinforce our network coverage that is already by far the most comprehensive in Oman. As we continue to roll out our highly successful 3.5G technology, we are installing on an average one or more new base station(s) a day across the country to enable people to benefit from this. On the fixed network side, the company has made significant investments to transform its network into a state-of-the-art IP network. We are also helping put telecom infrastructure in place for a number of the biggest civil construction projects in the country including Duqm and the new airports in Muscat and Salalah. What has been the response to your rebranding exercise undertaken more than a year ago from the perspectives of your consumers, employees, partners and society at large? How Omantel has changed as a result of the new branding? The introduction of our enhanced brand in February 2010 and our new “Together” tagline has been a marked success. As one integrated business we have enjoyed one of our most successful years of operation. For our customers they now benefit from one single point of contact – one call centre; one integrated website and now the introduction of new and freshly branded shops and customer service centres that are being rolled our across the nation. For our staff, they are now benefitting from being integrated into one seamless business operating from our new single office building in Mawaleh. This has led to significant operating, quicker and more rapid response to customer needs – and our staff is now enjoying working more closely together as a single integrated team in a building designed for Omantel’s requirements. As a single unified brand, we are now operating more closely than ever with our key partners – and also using the enhanced brand as a platform to support some of Oman’s biggest and high profile events such as the annual Muscat Festival, the annual Salalah Tourism Festival and Tour of Oman cycling race, in addition to other grand sports events that take place in the Sultanate, such as the 2nd Asian Beach Games Muscat 2010, where Omantel was the official partner who successfully installed the required telecommunications infrastructure for the Games facilities at Musannah Sports City and other Games venues. I believe there is now more confidence than ever among our people at Omantel following the introduction of

Executive

SUMMARY Over the past two years, Omantel has successfully delivered 3.5G network. Omantel has taken the lead in providing Fibre to the Home (FTTH). In 2010, Omantel was the fastest growing mobile operator in the Sultanate. The introduction of Omantel's enhanced brand in February 2010 and new “Together” tagline has been a marked success.

the enhanced brand. We are a stronger business, more unified and ever more focused on ensuring that we offer an always enhanced customer experience. Tell us about some of your key CSR initiatives taken up in the last one year or so. Our biggest annual commitment to society is our "Give, Share and Care – Together” campaign that Omantel manages during the holy month of Ramadan. Last year we distributed over 1200 food boxes to needy families in every part of Oman, and we also donated funds to support widows raising orphans that targeted over 1900 families in need. This initiative was undertaken by Omantel staff across the country working with volunteers from a range of organisations including Dar Al Atta, the Ministry of Social Development, the Omani Women’s Association and Al Wafa Philanthropic Centres. The campaign was recognised as the best of its kind in the annual Tawasul Civil Society Awards in December 2010. Additionally Omantel has also been honoured by the Oman Association of Disabled for its work to support the organisation through both financial and volunteer support. Omantel has also undertaken a partnership with UNICEF to sponsor and support the organisation in Oman to help in promoting and raising awareness of children’s rights and jointly hold a workshop on cyber protection. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


CEO SPEAK

What distinguishes Nawras from the rest? Nawras is distinguished by doing things differently – always seeking new and better ways to surprise and enthuse our customers. Care and Excellence are our watchwords. Care in the sense of being open and honest with our customers, listening to them, and striving to build close relationships. Excellence by delivering user friendly services that leave our customers with a lasting sense of satisfaction. This is perhaps best illustrated by our tradition of ‘Nawras firsts’ – market-leading product and service innovations that provide customers with the latest outstanding features and capabilities.

ROSS CORMACK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NAWRAS

Talking of 2010, what have been your major achievements in the year? ‘Living the customer experience’ is at the heart of Nawras’ values, so the positive response from a major customer satisfaction survey is one of the year’s highlights. Research specialists IPSOS first conducted the survey at the beginning of the year and the results confirmed that Nawras is very much on the right track. These high ratings were echoed in August when our recurring Brand Value Tracker showed consumer satisfaction rising to 95 per cent. Of course, the successful initial public offering (IPO) and listing on Muscat Securities Market in November was a major highlight of the year for us. We raised a total of RO 182 million for our shareholders. Nawras IPO was the largest in Oman since 2005 and the second largest of all time in the Sultanate. On the first day of trading, Nawras was the fourth largest Omani company on the MSM by market capitalisation. This achievement was recognised with the company winning ‘Best IPO Middle East’ at the EMEA finance awards in London.

Enriching Lives “Nawras has always done things with flair, and that is how we plan to continue,” says Ross Cormack, CEO, Nawras.

70

We have been building a WiMAX network that covered 54 per cent of the population by the end of 2010 and has now reached 81 per cent of households. The networks are supported by Nawras’ IP/ MPLS backbone, of which more than 3,000 km was operational by the end of 2010 extending to 5,000 km during 2011. In 2010, Nawras became a full service provider offering a complete range of communication solutions following the launch of Home Broadband and innovative new services for business customers. Nawras Business portfolio includes services for SMEs, corporate and Government customers – covering voice and data, Internet, Ethernet and leased line products with a range of pricing solutions. Customers also welcomed the benefits arising from our new international voice and data gateway, which became operational in May 2010. Although mobile and broadband services will always be Nawras’ main revenue drivers, the new gateway represents a


significant source of local and international wholesale revenues – enabling us to secure a significant share of incoming international traffic, and transmission wholesale business. Our international network strategy will receive further impetus when our new submarine cable connection is operational in the latter half of 2011. It will allow us to have total end-to-end quality control under our own supervision and to expand our service portfolio to include international data and transmission services. Tell us more about your fixed voice and broadband services. Expansion of technical resources will build on the quality benefits stemming from the launch of Nawras fixed services during 2010. The launch of Nawras fixed-line solutions for business and home came after extensive design, implementation, and testing of IT and network systems. The implementation of fibre optic, microwave and WiMAX technologies was successfully achieved, while continuing to serve mobile customers and secure optimal synergy between mobile and fixed technologies. Nawras now offers its business products over a wide range of access technologies and is a complete one-stop-shop, supported by dedicated key account managers and after-sales personnel. The Nawras Residential services cover both voice and broadband. They are based on Nawras’ state-of-the art fixed wireless broadband network that allows for a simple ‘plug and play’ installation giving customers immediate access. What is going to be your strategy as Nawras moves into the next phase of growth? We will remain firmly focused on our customers and continue providing them with pleasingly different products and services. This has been our successful strategy from the very beginning. We will continue to lead the industry at every customer touch point; efficiency – in optimising our infrastructure; and people – by being one of Oman’s top five companies to work with. We will carry on introducing attractive promotions, innovative offers and serving underpenetrated segments and regions while providing a superior customer experience with the focus on data products and innovative solutions. Capturing a significant share of the growing mobile and fixed broadband market will generate new revenue streams, including reliable and integrated products that increase our share of the business market. Similarly, we seek to achieve a share of the growing international carrier services business, while selling spare voice and data capacity to other network operators, resellers and service providers. Exploiting synergies between mobile and fixed business through shared systems and services will help us remain a lean and efficient operator. Our international

Executive

SUMMARY Customer base of over 2 million Listing on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM) in 2010 Launched fixed-line business and home broadband services in 2010 Own international voice & data gateway launched in 2010 Won Customer Service Provider of the Year 2010 Award from CommsMEA New submarine cable connection to be operational in the latter half of 2011 Created 150 new jobs for nationals at the beginning of 2011 Won Excellence in Branding & Marketing and Asia's Best Employer Brand Award 2010 from CMO Asia. Awarded Leader in Telecommunications at Arab Investment Summit held in Abu Dhabi

gateway and sea cable will enable us to reduce costs for international traffic. And continued investment in our people will reinforce our status as an employer of choice as one of Oman’s top five companies to work for. How do you look at the opportunities in 2011 and beyond? Nawras has always done things with flair, and that is how we plan to continue. Over the past six years we have amply demonstrated Nawras’ capabilities and capacity for exciting growth, but there is no room for complacency. In 2011 and beyond, we intend to build on established strengths while continually seeking new opportunities to lead, innovate, and deliver – for all our stakeholders. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


NAWRAS AND THE COMMUNITY

Giving back to the society Nawras invested more than RO 417,000 in community projects, sponsorships, wider social activities and events during 2010.

Standing on top of the African continent, Muna Al Shanfari became the first Omani woman to courageously scale the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa’s tallest mountain and one of the most iconic natural wonders on the continent. Her trip was sponsored by Nawras.

72

Pleasingly different tradition of caring For the last six years during Ramadan, Nawras Goodwill Journey convoys have travelled tens of thousands of kilometres to visit those attending and working at charitable organisations all over the country. Caring Nawras people have also visited schools and hospitals in the different wilyats and even laid out football pitches and arranged to put up buildings. Ahead of each journey, Nawras takes time to understand the specific needs of each group and places orders for IT equipment, toys, furniture, vehicles or whatever is urgently required. Every detail is considered and precise planning involved ensuring that all items suit the intended purpose and safely reach the correct destination ahead of the donation date. “We are totally committed to this caring journey and each year we look forward to having the opportunity to spread more happiness to those who truly need and deserve it. We take time to make a real difference in people’s lives so what they gain from Nawras is not just for a day or two but benefits remain over the long term,” explained Nawras Chief Executive Officer, Ross Cormack. “We are delighted to see that other companies are now following our lead and actively reaching out to provide help and show compassion for the needy, at this special time of the year.” What started as an employee initiative during the earliest days of Nawras has remained that way even as the company has grown from being Oman’s pleasingly different mobile services provider to being a full telecommunications services provider. The Nawras family has grown in number and yet the willingness to give and to share is as strong today as it was when the Nawras Goodwill Journey first began in 2005. Supporting Muscat Community Football League for youngsters As part of a varied and comprehensive CSR programme and to promote sports among the youth, Nawras once again sponsored the Muscat Community Football League (MCFL) in 2010. Six Nawras and Shababiah teams of youngsters played every Thursday and over 650 children participated in the Nawras Shababiah Tournaments in March. The league provides great enjoyment and exercise for


hundreds of children as they practice at training sessions during the week before playing competitively in matches every Thursday. Children learn about the benefits of teamwork and being united to achieve a common goal while having fun. GCC Award for Omanisation achievements In the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) 9th Annual Ceremony to celebrate the successful nationalisation programmes of private companies in member countries, Nawras was felicitated for its Omanisation achievements. Kumail Al-Moosawi and Majid AlMarzooqi work on the Omanisation programme of Nawras and represented the company at the prestigious event. Al-Marzooqi said, “Every year, two companies from each GCC country receive an award and this year we were honoured that Nawras was chosen. It was an unforgettable experience to be able to represent our successful Omani company on the regional stage and on such an important occasion." Pioneers an innovative graduate programme After receiving 2400 applications from enthusiastic young Omanis, Nawras began its innovative graduate programme last year with 33 new Omani employees undergoing an intensive

training course known as Ruwaad Al-Nawras (Nawras Pioneers). The programme is another important step taken by Nawras to train and develop the telecommunications professionals of the future. Pioneers are learning the Nawras way in IT, engineering, finance, marketing, sales, human resources and the company secretariat department. During their introduction to Nawras, they also spent time in team building activities and learning the core values of the company. Nawras also undertakes leadership development of Omanis through the UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management, having established a collaborative programme several years ago that takes students to certificate and diploma levels, depending on the individual’s management grade. To date, 42 managers have completed the ILM programme with a further 22 enrolled in the current session. Another intake of around 20 students is planned for the second half of 2011. Creates 17 per cent more jobs In March 2011, Nawras undertook the initiative to create around 150 new jobs in a move that saw the company’s employee numbers jump significantly with an immediate increase of 17 per cent. The drive was taken up under the guidance of the Ministry of Manpower and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


BROADBAND

Broadband Game in $2 Trillion MENA Market In the coming years, connectivity prices will continue to decline and the value will shift away from the operators to software, services and content providers, writes Akshay Bhatnagar

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It has been widely acknowledged that broadband infrastructure development has a direct correlation with the gross domestic production (GDP) growth of a nation. Broadband could also lead to a change in the fate of a country and hundreds of millions of people. This has been amply demonstrated in the developments witnessed in many Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region states in the last one year. Driven by a rapidly expanding broadband network, it is not just the social media websites that are being increasingly used by the new media savvy society in the MENA region. A new digital ecosystem is evolving in many MENA countries especially the oil-exporting GCC states. Increased popularity and usage of social media is a manifestation of this new digital order. The $2 trillion MENA market is on the verge of an explosive broadband growth that will lead to a host of new business opportunities in the information, communication and entertainment (ICE) space. In turn, this will revolutionise the way business is conducted in all the other industries. Enablers of Digitization Momentum As the market gets more matured, the pace of digitisation of economies will accelerate further in the region. With oil prices already in excess of $80 per barrel, various governments in the region are utilising the windfall revenue to make massive investments in the implementation of ICT solutions across the ministries and related bodies to create operational efficiency and


enable ease of business. The telcos are busy setting up Next Generation Broadband Networks. They are designing supply side initiatives and developing tailored sectoral digitisation solutions at a frantic pace. As a result, the connectivity costs have come down by 40 per cent in the last three years. For a home broadband consumer in Muscat, the cost has come down to $52 per month for an always on unlimited connection with a download speed of 2Mbps. The consumer demand for online and mobile services has been growing very rapidly. The fixed broadband is expected to grow from just 20 million users in 2009 to 77 million by 2014, a jump of 285 per cent in five years. The mobile broadband user base will advance by a whopping 14 times to touch 107 million mark in 2014 from a figure of 7 million in 2009. The number of application downloads will increase at an annual rate of 44 per cent till 2014. At least 15 per cent of them are estimated to be paid applications. Though majority of the Internet users consume traditional online services such as information search, chatting, social networking and emailing but with the availability of affordable and faster broadband, they are increasingly engaging in rich media applications such as gaming, video, music and VoIP etc. Facebook penetration in the Internet users in the region is amongst the highest in the world.

The $2 trillion MENA market is on the verge of an explosive broadband growth that will lead to a host of new business opportunities in the information, communication and entertainment (ICE) space.

As far as enterprises are concerned, they are spending more and more on the ICT services and integrating them in their day-to-day operations as well as strategic planning. MENA has been growing at almost double the rate compared to its global peers in this segment. In the coming years, connectivity prices will continue to decline and the value will shift away from the operators to software, services and content providers. Winning Strategies for Telcos Telcos need to have a clear positioning on infrastructure, applications and monetisation to win the broadband game. Depending on the unique characteristics of markets within the MENA region, they need to follow an integrated infrastructure approach. Technologies such as FTTH should be rolled-out on a demand-driven basis. They should focus on harmonised investments in wireless broadband such as Wi-Fi, WiMax and LTE. An increased pressure on the governments to support investments to stimulate demand should be created. To enrich the broadband ecosystem, telcos must channelise their energies in integrating or providing horizontal services such as application stores or developer communities engagements. They must not ignore vertical applications partnerships such as e-education, e-health and e-banking etc. Content partnerships must be in place to retain the subscriber base and attract new customers. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


BROADBAND

The government sector in MENA needs to further improve the regulatory environment. To boost the supply side of the broadband, it needs to incentivise investments in new technologies such as LTE.

The telcos that will remain a dumb pipe provider are most likely to lose the broadband battle as they will be edged out sooner or later by smart pipe providers offering integrated services to the subscribers. The applications in the form of softwares, services and content requires lower investments but returns better profit margins compared to huge investments needed in the infrastructure backbone. Different demand characteristics and supply metrics are going to determine the right business model for each of the market within MENA region. Government Role is Crucial The government sector in MENA needs to further improve the regulatory environment. To boost the supply side of the broadband, it needs to incentivise investments in new technologies such as LTE. To take a cue from markets such as Singapore, the government could provide subsidy to the industry players. Another strategy could be to protect the incumbents’ profitability so that they could reinvest it in new technologies and expansion of the network. Some of the states are already taking such measures. Take UAE, for example, which follows this kind of an operator led model. The regulatory bodies must take into account that an additional 10 per cent broadband penetration leads to 1 per cent increase in 76

the GDP growth which translates into thousands of new jobs and development of non-oil industries. The government’s focus should not be limited to the supply side alone. Enough attention needs to be given to the demand side also by promoting development and distribution of content and applications. Various governments are already moving to e-governance by taking most of their services to the digital platform. In Oman, for example, all the residents are compulsorily issued a chip based smart resident card that must only be used to pay for many government services. It could also be used for paying shopping bills in a hypermarket. It also carries all the pertinent information about the card holder. With a high percentage of young population and a comparatively narrower base viz-a-viz most of the developed markets, the MENA region is going to be a hot bed of opportunities for ICT players in the coming years. But it is not going to be easy for the new entrants. The incumbent players are cash rich. Many global giants such as Vodafone are already active in the market. Most of the markets in the region are dominated by state-owned telcos. Political stability in some of the countries could be an issue as well.


ICT IN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Sustained and equitable growth is necessary for making substantial progress in reducing poverty. Consequently, enterprises play a crucial role in this endeavor. They can help reduce poverty in two main ways: through direct income generation, and through diversified and more secure employment opportunities. From a poverty reduction perspective, it is important to focus attention on enterprises that provide for the greatest involvement of the poor— typically, these are small and microenterprises.

Breaking The Barriers TorbjĂśrn Fredriksson of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) talks about how the enterprises in ICT can help in improving the standard of living for the underprivileged.

Subsistence-based enterprises support those pushed into economic activity by the lack of other income-generating opportunities. They form the majority of enterprises in low-income countries, and most are in rural areas making use of natural resource inputs (e.g., farming and fishing). There are also growth oriented enterprises in poor communities. Earnings from such activities are an important source of income, especially for those who have climbed above the poverty line. Poverty has an important informational dimension. Poor people often lack access to information that is vital to their lives and livelihoods, including weather reports, market prices, and income-earning opportunities. Such lack of information adds to the vulnerability of the people concerned. In terms of livelihood strategies, information plays a dual role: informing and strengthening the short-term decision-making capacity of the poor themselves, and informing and strengthening the longer-term decision-making capacity of intermediaries that facilitate, assist, or represent the poor. The ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


ICT IN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT contribution of ICT to poverty reduction through enterprise lies in its power to give poor women and men access to improved information and better communications to help them build assets for better living conditions. The introduction of ICT to the enterprise sector can contribute to productivity growth, innovation, economic transformation, and, ultimately, improved standards of living. In UNCTAD’s Information Economy Report 2010, two ways in which ICT in enterprises can benefit the poor were considered. The first is through use of ICT in enterprises of direct relevance to the poor, notably farmers, fishermen, and other micro-enterprises in lowincome countries. The second occurs when the poor are directly involved in the sector, producing ICT goods and services. ICT use in enterprises Micro-enterprises in low-income countries are rapidly adopting mobile phones as key tools for advancing their commercial activities. Take mountainous Bhutan as an example. In this country, one of the world’s poorest, mobile phone use has transformed the everyday lives of dairy farmers. The phones help them obtain information about market prices and stay in direct contact with customers. The result is increased income and less waste, as farmers can sell their output for higher prices and ship only sufficient milk to meet demand. Mobile phones have also led to reduced travel and waiting times, enabling the farmers to organise their work more efficiently. The government of Bhutan recognises the business potential of the phones and has launched a mobile based information service for the farmers. The Bhutan example is far from isolated. There are an increasing number of similar observations, ranging from grain traders in Niger, who have benefited from lower transaction and information search costs as a result of mobile phone use, to women-led farming cooperatives in Lesotho. In Ghana and India, mobile phones have become critical equipment for fishermen and fishmongers, helping to make markets more efficient and improving the livelihoods of the fishermen. Similarly, for women’s weaving micro-enterprises in Nigeria, mobile phone use reduced transaction costs and saved time and money for the weavers by eliminating travel that previously had been needed to locate buyers and negotiate prices. Many micro-enterprises also gain from new mobile money services. In Afghanistan, for example, within one year from its launch, M-Paisa—a mobile-based system providing micro-finance to small enterprises—had acquired 120,000 registered subscribers and 2,500 microfinance clients. Benefits of mobile-money transfers are 78

particularly relevant in this country because moving cash through the country is risky, expensive and time consuming. It is too soon to assess the impact of mobile micro insurance applications on poverty. However, the potential is considerable. Micro-insurance can contribute in important ways to poverty reduction since farming activities are highly susceptible to weather, price variability and health risks. When not insured against adverse weather conditions, farmers tend to use as few inputs as possible to minimise the risk of losses. This practice inevitably results in lessproductive yields. In addition, it is difficult for uninsured farmers to obtain credit for buying fertilisers and seeds. It is important to explore in greater detail the scope that mobile solutions to micro-insurance have to transform farm activities in low-income countries. ICT is most valued by entrepreneurs when tangible benefits accrue from greater efficiencies—particularly those that relate to supporting two-way information flows with key customers or suppliers. Given that most enterprises in developing countries serve local and regional markets, such efficiencies are gained primarily through a better use of basic business communications. Mobile phones are the most frequently cited business tool used by micro-enterprises for several reasons. First, they are most accessible and relatively inexpensive. Second, they allow for twoway communication. Third, their use does not require the ability to read and write. Finally, they are sufficient to meet the basic needs

Micro-enterprises in lowincome countries are rapidly adopting mobile phones as key tools for advancing their commercial activities. Take mountainous Bhutan as an example. In this country, one of the world’s poorest, mobile phone use has transformed the everyday lives of dairy farmers.


But the spread of mobile phones has also opened new opportunities to serve the needs of rural enterprises through combinations of different technologies. The above can be effective because it has the potential to leverage the benefits of several technologies. One study has identified 63 such initiatives currently underway on the African continent. A specific example of the potential for different technologies to support information gathering for farmers is the Collecting and Exchange of Local Agricultural Content (CELAC) project, which serves seven districts of rural Uganda. It seeks to share crop and animal farming good practices that have worked for farmers. The project makes use of mobile SMS as well as other multi-media communications, including online and hard copy newsletters written in both English and Luganda, the most widely spoken local language. The project has a database of phone numbers of farmers, community development workers, and agricultural extension workers to whom agro-related information is sent every Monday. The use of community radio call-in programmes is also integrated into the service, as is the use of drama on video and DVD to portray the farming practices and their challenges. Besides farmers, CELAC engages former agricultural extension workers as knowledge brokers to help in the collection and dissemination of traditional methods that work, including sharing information with other affiliates (e.g., the Women of Uganda Network) that are able to translate the material into other local languages to help farming micro-enterprises based in other districts. Another example is Warana Unwired in India, which is a scaled initiative to address market access constraints for sugarcane farmers. Initially, sugar mill cooperatives made use of computer databases and an Internet-based system for disseminating information on pricing, payment schedules, and quantity of sugar demanded. Information was accessible to the farmers through village kiosks. However, the portal fell into disuse and has recently been replaced with a new mobile-based system for disseminating information that is less vulnerable to power cuts, more accessible to farmers, and more cost-effective. The “unwired� system generated both financial gains and more intangible livelihood assets. Farmers saw savings in transportation costs (to and from the centers); an increased transparency of information in the supply chain, which contributed to improved trust between farmers and purchasers; and an enhanced ability to use ICT. The re-launched project was based on the reality of existing ICT use patterns: in India, on average only 5 in 100 population use the Internet but there are 44 mobile

subscriptions per 100 population, a common situation for lowincome countries. Involvement of the poor in the production of ICT An aspect that has hitherto received little attention is the role of the poor in the production of ICT goods and services. Nonetheless, ICT can contribute to poverty reduction through various channels. The ICT sector can offer jobs and income-generating opportunities and, in some cases, create entirely new livelihoods. There is growing anecdotal evidence that the mobile revolution, in particular, has opened new opportunities for the poor to create new incomegenerating jobs. The part of the ICT sector with arguably the greatest direct involvement of poor people, which is spreading rapidly in many lowincome countries, is related to ICT micro-enterprises. Throughout the developing world, there is a proliferation of shops and market stalls selling used and new mobile phones; kiosks that offer mobile phone applications and content; and activities such as installation, setup, and various repair services. Selling airtime or mobile-money services on the streets or in shops engages millions of people in low-income countries. There are relatively low barriers to entry for some of the activities conducted in this field, making it possible for people with limited skills to participate. The simplest mobile card selling or vending jobs can typically be conducted by people with few formal skills and capabilities. In Zambia, for example, disabled street beggars were offered the opportunity to work part-time for Gamcel, one of the mobile telecommunications operators. As authorized dealers, rising in economic stature and earning above-average wages, they felt empowered to participate in society. The simple activity of selling mobile subscriptions in this case helped to reduce poverty and improve the living conditions of the people involved. ICT microenterprises in the informal sector often complement enterprises in the formal sector by selling goods and services that are better adapted to low-income consumers. In Ghana, for example, ICT micro-enterprises have played an important role in extending connectivity to remote areas not well covered by the established operators. However, ICT micro-enterprises are exposed to volatility and risk, and returns on investment are often low, forcing entrepreneurs to draw on other sources of income as well. When considering ICT micro-enterprises as a new source of livelihood, the sustainability of different business models should be kept in mind. By the time a particular technology, intervention, or business model has proved successful in one context, its relevance elsewhere may have been overtaken by events. ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12

Source: GITR Report 2010-2011

of the users: to obtain vital information and to communicate along the supply chain. New mobile applications, such as mobile-money and mobile micro-insurance, are added advantages.


SPECIAL FEATURE IMTAC LLC

Setting New Benchmarks

IMTAC has implemented a number of large and complex multidimensional IT projects across all sectors of the Sultanate, providing end to end solutions across various domains. A Muscat-based service provider and initially a HP distributor in Oman, IMTAC LLC today offers a broad spectrum of services, including mobility solutions, integrated security systems and various IT applications solutions and infrastructure. IMTAC Technologies, a regional subsidiary of IMTAC in Dubai, is a source of expertise for the large regional technology projects of the Middle East and the Caspian States. MAJOR PROJECTS IMTAC has implemented a number of large and complex projects across all sectors of the Sultanate’s economy. These projects are mission critical in nature and calls for a high level of Service Level (24 x 7 x 365). The company undertakes large Government projects and compliments their partners (who are industry leaders) with local skills. The company also targets the private sector, such as the banking and the healthcare industries. Most of the projects are time bound and are of national importance. The new headquarters of BankMuscat at Airport Heights is one of the major projects of IMTAC. BankMuscat a large client of IMTAC, inaugurated in December 2010, the new corporate office which is one of the most high-tech building in country. IMTAC has provided complete IT infrastructure for this custom-made office sprawling across 32,000 sq mts and built at an estimated cost of RO 50 million. Whether it is the data centre, network, structured cabling, IP television or telephony, IMTAC was involved in all solutions' design and implementation in collaboration with its partners, HP and Avaya. “IMTAC played a pioneering role in deployment of this solution which is quite an amazing feat to meet. This project has set a benchmark in terms of functionality, security and above all customer goodwill which is exemplary for other organisations, who would now be interested in deploying a similar infrastructure” says Fareed Al Hinai, Vice Chairman, IMTAC. IMTAC has opened a new office in Sohar early this year to cater to the needs of the burgeoning industrial sector in the area. Within a span of one year, IMTAC has been able to become a corporate 80

FAREED AL HINAI, VICE CHAIRMAN, IMTAC technology partner of some of the big names in Sohar Industrial Area, including VALE and the Sohar Industrial Port. BUSINESS SCENARIO IT investment in Oman has been in the upswing over the last three years. However due to the financial crisis, some of the large projects have been postponed but not shelved. This situation has not affected IMTAC majorly, although year-on-year growth has slowed down. NEW AREA OF GROWTH IMTAC is eyeing healthcare industry, both in Oman and beyond. Fareed Al Hinai is optimistic about the new decision makers of the Ministry of Health who stresses the need for service for the citizens. With domain expertise in banking, healthcare and government sectors and technology competence (data centres, networking, database, application) along with world class support services, IMTAC is uniquely positioned to offer comprehensive IT solutions and services to the Sultanate’s growing demands. Contact: 968 24707727 www.imtac.com


SPECIAL FEATURE GULF BUSINESS MACHINES

Raising The Bar

Reputed for quick services and good presentation, GBM is one of the largest IT solution providers in the Middle East.

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ne of the largest IT solution providers in the Middle East region, Gulf Business Machines (GBM) has made its presence felt strongly in Oman for the past two decades. Oman has taken a serious note of the role of IT in its overall development. As ITA facilitated a slew of important initiatives, GBM’s role as a provider of IT solutions became crucial. Founded in 1990, GBM is fulfilling the IT requirements of local, regional, and international organisations, integrating different IT processes with communication in different sectors and key ministries of Oman. A spin-off from IBM, GBM is the sole distributor for IBM products, barring a few, throughout the region. GBM got an impetus in 1999 when the team secured the CISCO portfolio. The company now holds the highest level of recognition in the region from Cisco -- the Gold Partner Status -a partnership that further enhances the value proposition of GBM offerings to its clients, partners and associates. GBM OFFERINGS GBM offers an extensive range of IT infrastructure, customised IT solutions, and services ranging from consulting, resource deployment, integration, to after sales support. The portfolio of services is as follows: A comprehensive set of global systems management that includes the entire life cycle, from assessment, strategy, and design to implementation and operational services. The integrated technology services include the most suitable means of meeting a company’s IT objectives, including network design, facility construction, environmental assessments, etc. Finally, the business recovery services, which aims at testing the enterprise wide disaster recovery plans of a company’s critical applications. The main areas covered are managing risk and avoiding disasters, developing an enterprise-wide recovery strategy and, developing and implementing the recovery plan; data centres with high security components. CIRCLE OF CLIENTS GBM has an enormous customer base. The objective is not only to provide the best solution for industry in general, but specific key sectors such as banking & finance, government, oil & gas, telecommunications, retail and manufacturing also. HUMAN CAPITAL With more than 20 solid strategic partnerships, forged with

OLIVIER MOURIES, GENERAL MANAGER, GBM

internationally recognised IT solution providers, GBM is entrusted with the IT infrastructure needs of many organisations in the region. Smart businesses are now realising that information technology is imperative to their operational efficiency and success. It is worth mentioning that developing local resources is a big accent for GBM and Omanis are given professional training. SUMMING UP Considering GBM’s vast portfolio of business and affiliations, customer feedback plays a crucial role in its upward growth. It does not want to rest on its laurels, such is GBM’s commitment to the market in Oman. With conviction says Olivier Mouries, General Manager, GBM, "Besides a broad range of IT products and services, our objective is not only to provide a strong technological platform on which our customers can build for the future, but share our strong thought leadership in proposing new technologies and adapted solutions to their business. Flawless execution in the delivery and support of these solutions, through our local skills, is also critical.” Contact: 968 24559800 www.gbm4ibm.com

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


SPECIAL FEATURE EXCEED

Partners In Progress

EXCEED may be only two years old in Oman but enjoys approximately 50 per cent share in the Microsoft Licenses space in Oman.

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XCEED IT Services and Training was formed in 2001, in Abu Dhabi. Soon after the company expanded to Dubai and in 2008, established offices in Bahrain and Oman. EXCEED is a Gold Certified Partner with Microsoft, and in 2006, was again recognised by Microsoft as one of its true partners. In Oman, EXCEED is the third company to reach this status and currently, is the largest provider of licensing for enterprise customers; the largest being the Government of Oman. Some of the largest organisations in Oman benefit from EXCEED support e.g. Omantel and ITA, and has tie-ups with a lot more. EXCEED may be only two years old in Oman but has over 50 per cent share in the Microsoft Licenses space in Oman. Apart from licensing, EXCEED provides a lot of Microsoft related consulting services, trainings & solutions' deployment. Beyond Microsoft, EXCEED partners with other technologies that support Microsoft implementation. One of EXCEED’s major plus points is that they get called in by Microsoft Consulting Services to support them on deployment of technology beyond their territory and work on implementations in countries like KSA, Qatar, Jordan, etc. EXCEED’s main investment is in its people. “The company believes that the true strength of an IT company is the people who work in it. It cares about hiring the right people for the company and matching their skills and quality with the market requirement, ” says Fawzi Al -Harrassy, Managing Director, Oman, EXCEED. EXCEED AND OMANISATION The government of Oman respects Intellectual Property Rights and thus every single PC, software and servers are licensed. EXCEED has a three year deal with the government, whereby EXCEED will provide them with different types of training, consultancy services which go beyond the licensing. Out of 30,000 PCs, 18,000 PCs are deployed on the latest Microsoft OS technology -- Windows 7. This is for over 70 government entities. EXCEED undertakes General Training: The company, in coordination with the Information Technology Authority helps the government in training a large number of Omanis to become capable in handling new jobs and technologies. 82

FAWZI HAMED AL HARRASSY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, OMAN, EXCEED

Short-Term Courses: Intensive courses designed for people (fresh graduates and government employees) who can apply the technology immediately in the work place. EXCEED IT Academy: EXCEED, the ITA and Microsoft have together funded a programme called 'Omani Fresh Graduates EXCEED Academy'. Every year, for the next three years, 20 graduates from IT or related IT fields would go through an intense programme for a year to become Microsoft Certified Professionals. Students would go through a six month period of theoretical knowledge mixed with practical knowledge in lab-like conditions and taught to deploy these technologies in real-time. After six months, the students shadow EXCEED teams and then work on actual implementation. CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS “EXCEED believes in complete honesty and transparency with its clients. It can proudly state that EXCEED has a really high ratio of client retention that exceeds 98 per cent,” says Mohammad Sweidan, Branch & Business Development Manager, EXCEED.

Contact: 968 24604222 www.exceedgulf.com


Training Of Trainers Mohammad Sweidan, Branch & Business Development Manager, EXCEED IT Services LLC – Oman, speaks on his company EXCEED IT Services LLC was established from the perspective of providing services in the market where it was needed. There is a gap in the market between the end-users and new technology of Microsoft. Microsoft is growing very fast while companies and organisations cannot keep up with that pace. When Microsoft presents their new product which is of a very high category, the clients are finding an issue with the end-users' experience and their IT Infrastructure Administration and Migration. This is the real challenge in the market. EXCEED stepped in to bridge this gap by providing complete solutions about a decade back. EXCEED IT Services is a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and a Microsoft Authorized Direct Large Account Reseller (DLAR) that was established in 2001. EXCEED has grown from a single department that provides training to a multi-department company specialised in providing enterprises/ organisations with a complete IT lifecycle in Microsoft Solutions, Capacity Building & Development, Enterprise Services Agreement (ESA), to unique market niche of providing Enterprise Governance Best Practices Solutions. For EXCEED, we are focusing on bilingual trainers. In GCC, people mainly speak Arabic and English. So we

MOHAMMED SWEIDAN Branch & Business Development Manager, EXCEED LLC are focusing on hiring qualified staff and mainly Arab bilinguals. That is one of our niche areas. But when it comes to training, you will find communication is a vital factor to the highest success rate of any training; in addition, the goal of any training is the trainees' skills elevation. Speaking the trainee language is one of the key drivers towards that goal. Selecting the right people is crucial for understanding the language and helping in conveying ideas.

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


SPECIAL FEATURE AL MADINA DEVELOPMENT & SUPPLY LLC

Smart Solutions

Al Madina’s core strength is its customisation and system integration of its solutions. Al Madina Development & Supply LLC initiated operations in 1984 and continued to expand through the 80’s and into the new millennium. Al Madina offers complete information technology solutions, system integration, high-level security products and turnkey computer based projects. Moreover, Al Madina also founded Security Printing Press of Oman (SPPO), the security printing press specialises in printing of security documents and secure cards ranging from printing of MICR cheques and different type of ID cards to digital passport. PASSPORT TURNKEY SOLUTIONS Al Madina has a proven technology and successful track record in passport turnkey solutions. These include passport printing, issuing system, quality checking and stock management. Solutions for border control provide latest in fraud detection for forged passports with international standards integrated within the system. The company provides complete systems for issuing secure machine readable passports. Al Madina and SPPO have successfully collaborated on other passport projects in different countries. ID CARDS Al Madina is a pioneer in ID card technology solutions. As a leading ID card technology solutions establishment, Al Madina helped its customers to launch effective ID card programmes across a broad range of industries and applications. Al Madina's ID card solution is a highly secured in-house product which is designed for high level user customisation and also allows integration to the external system for accessing data. The solution includes ID card security features, flexible photo ID software and different attachment options from different external devices. E-GOVERNANCE Al Madina has taken on projects in line with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said's wise vision to establish an eGovernment which allows access to all the government services electronically promoting efficient, secure and reliable sources to the public as well as being environment friendly by using paperless processes. Morerover, Al Madina is always striving to undertake similar projects that serve this vision and benefit the Sultanate as reflected in the company's commitment to His Majesty's vision. SMART FORMS In the early 2000, electronic documents were introduced in the 84

SHEILA H. JAMAL, CEO, AL MADINA GROUP digital arena. Smart forms started providing encryption security and allowed seamless integration with external systems. The solution significantly improves workflow, reduces data entry errors, and provides instant statistical analysis for reports. In order to implement the vision of His Majesty in supporting the national initiative of developing national human capital, the smart forms solution became an effective factor in serving this vision. In cooperation with SANAD programme, Omanis can easily start their own businesses and be self-employed. More than 900 SANAD service centers and typing offices spread throughout Oman rely on the smart forms solution as a main subsitence for their business. Al Madina’s core strength is customisation and system integration of its solutions in Oman. “We respond very fast if there is any requirement for change,” said Sheila H. Jamal, CEO, Al Madina Development & Supply LLC. The group has a very high rate of Omanisation. One of its subsidiaries, has over 90 per cent Omanisation. All are trained in-house. In addition, SANAD shops are also trained in-house. As the business is growing, the group opened a branch in Sohar and is in the process of launching one in Salalah and Shatti Qurum.

Contact: 968 24602771 www.almadinagroup.net


SPECIAL FEATURE BAHWAN IT

Growing From Strength To Strength Bahwan IT owes its success to its competent team which has vast industry experience and specialisations and the company invests on local resources heavily. A pioneer in Oman’s IT arena for more than two decades, Bahwan IT, part of the Suhail Bahwan Group, offers end-to-end IT solutions along with products and services that revolve around hardware, networking & storage, security, data capture and software domain. POWER OF PARTNERSHIP Bahwan IT has entered into strategic alliances with global partners to bring the best of their technologies to Oman. It enjoys the benefits of partnership with leading global players like Microsoft, Oracle, CISCO, Citrix, HP, Satyam, Toshiba and VMWare due to its commitment to business volumes, customer retention, investment in training and certification. Bahwan IT works with these companies in various IT projects in the country. With Microsoft, Bahwan IT is a large account reseller and their gold partner. It is also the largest partner of HP. The customers today are the ministries, large corporates, oil companies, banks and SMEs. PROJECT MANAGEMENT Bahwan IT has earned the goodwill of its customers through timely delivery and implementation of solutions in a professional manner which is made possible by the company’s excellent project management approach which has a well-defined process and procedures to meet the scope of the project, schedule and strong quality initiatives as per customer expectations. Bahwan IT has been involved in prestigious national projects. After successful completion of Majlis Al Shura election projects in 2003 and 2007, it is bidding for 2011 elections now. Whether it is preparing voters’ details, preparing candidates' list, preparing ballot papers, deploying people in various wilayats and remote places, training people in the ministry, Bahwan IT offers end-to-end solutions. Acclaimed to be a very successful project and the best IT deployed sports event in the Asian Games, the Asian Beach game was a feather in the cap for Bahwan IT, which tied up with a Spanish company for the event. The team worked for one and half years, and networked in multiple locations. The 300 people deployed were mostly Omanis. Also, Bahwan IT played a major role in national initiatives, the most exemplary being the recent National PC initiative. Bahwan IT owes its success to its competent team which has vast industry experience and specialisations. They conceptualise, build solutions and offer consultancy service to suit

M.K. JANAKI RAMAN, GENERAL MANAGER, BAHWAN IT

customer requirements. The company invests on local resources heavily. Omani freshers are put through job-specific induction programme and subsequently hands on training. TESTING TIMES One of the challenges that Bahwan IT is currently facing is falling margins. Besides that, staff retention is a major issue in the face of growing competition. But none of these pose as a major obstacle for Bahwan IT. Says M.K. Janaki Raman, General Manager of Bahwan IT, “We have been very successful all these years, growing from strength to strength. We have a large support team, support being our strength. For any solution we offer, we have the skill to service them also. For that we are not dependent on any external source. In the face of competition, we stand out when it comes to service and solutions. Right now our focus lies on Oman. We have plans for venturing into markets beyond the Sultanate.”

Contact: 968 2466 0066 www.bahwanit.com

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


SPECIAL FEATURE BAHWAN CYBERTEK

Setting New Benchmarks

Bahwan Cybertek provides innovative solutions and leadership in the development of the Sultanate into a progressive nation. S.Durgaprasad, Director and CEO, Bahwan Cybertek highlights some of the ventures. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN THOUGHT LEADERSHIP IN OMAN? As an organisation, we have been creative, progressive and have been willing to take risks to establish our vision of being a leader in providing innovative products and solutions, and establish Oman as a progressive nation in the ICT sector. Through our offerings, we have brought about innovations and improvements in the working of several organisations across the region. One of our current initiatives, such as bringing world class education to the region through our partnership with IIMB is one step in this direction. Our vision to develop entrepreneurial skills of Omani youths and to generate self-employment has resulted in the SANAD citizen centers throughout Oman. HOW IS CUECENT ENABLING BUSINESS HOUSES TO GROW IN THE EVOLVING MARKET IN THE SULTANATE? Cuecent is the result of a lot of R&D and the result is a highly efficient and advanced suite of BPMS based products. BPMS inherently provides several major advantages to the organisations. Upfront, Cuecent brings about a strong collaboration between business and IT. This allows business users to collaborate and communicate with one another during the process design and refinement phases resulting in smarter decision making and accelerated process improvement. This has a direct impact on the ability of business houses to respond to the evolving market. Cuecent also aids the management in measuring performance and gain complete process visibility and accelerated process improvements.

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S. DURGAPRASAD, DIRECTOR AND CEO, BAHWAN CYBERTEK GROUP GOVERNMENT OF OMAN? The Sanad Service Centres is turning out to be a well-known brand in the Sultanate. Public sector enterprises and corporate houses are currently being serviced through these centres with availability of high speed Internet.

HOW, IN YOUR OPINION, OUTSOURCING WILL BRING ABOUT A CHANGE IN THE WAY COMPANIES RESPOND TO MARKET CONDITIONS? Companies have to be agile to adapt their business processes and alter their offerings to address the dynamics of the market. In this scenario, outsourcing non-core functions to specialists, leaving the organisations to focus on their core functions, help in delivering value to their customers. Another big role that outsourcing plays in times of economic uncertainty is delivering flexibility and cost advantages while maintaining the service levels, if not better quality at a much lower cost.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RECENT PROJECTS BEYOND OMAN, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO ELECTRONIC PAYMENT SOLUTION. Starting with Oman, Dubai in the GCC to Egypt in the Middle East, BCT has delivered solutions in 20 countries globally. Our work for Dubai eGovernment’s payment gateway is built on Cuecent platform with over 200 services being delivered through it with collections in excess of AED2.5 billion collected last year through this engine. Similarly in eFinance in Egypt where 7.5 million pensioners are being paid through the Cuecent e-pay engine. The Ministry of Finance’s bill settlement for the corporate is also done through this payment gateway. We are delivering a similar solution at Dubai Municipality. In addition, there are five banks in India that are using our offerings for inward remittance.

HOW ARE YOU ENABLING YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS TO NETWORK WITH MINISTRIES AND CORPORATE SECTOR, KEEPING IN LINE WITH THE SANAD PROGRAMME OF THE

Contact: 968 24567586 www.bahwancybertek.com


SPECIAL FEATURE OMANIA E-COMMERCE

New business intelligence approach Omania e commerce has undergone a major restructuring exercise in recent times and will roll out many new services in next few months Omania E-Commerce has undergone a major restructuring exercise in recent times and will roll out many new services in next few months. Omania E-Commerce (OEC), a 100% Omani company, is an Omantel joint venture created with a vision to become the leading ICT solutions provider in Oman, and a major contributor to Oman’s drive towards a digital society. It is OEC’s objective to provide clients with value-added innovative, scalable and secure solutions that optimize the client’s efficiencies, benefits and competitive edge. The bottom line is, however, customer satisfaction. OEC has customers from government, enterprise and public sectors across the region. With a close and exclusive strategic alliance with Tech Forte, OEC delivers technology solutions in UAE, Qatar and Bahrain as well, along with Oman. In its endeavor to provide best-of-breed solution, OEC focuses through four business units (BUs): y

Business to Business (B2B) includes Tejari (the leading regional online procurement portal) and all other e-procurement solutions, including Spend Management.

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The Business Software Solutions (BSS) team with their extensive expertise and experience in application software across a wide array of technologies, business areas and industries help customers build critical business solutions. This division provides solutions to customers on the technology provided by leading vendors like Oracle and Microsoft.The focus areas are e-Governance, Identity based Citizen Services & Banking.

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Information & Communication Technology (ICT) division designs and delivers a range of IT infrastructure solutions that address significant problems around customers’ IT, Security and Communication infrastructure. Together with global majors like Aegis (an Essar Group company) as partners, OEC is geared to offer turnkey ICT solutions in telecom and security to clients in Oman. IT Security solutions also include Security Governance, Risk, Compliance, Framework & Audit.

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OEC’s Smart Building Solutions (SBS) division focuses on Electronic Low Voltage (ELV) Systems. It provides complete integrated turnkey ELV solutions with quality products and services to meet the varied requirements of property developers, consultants, contractors and individual clients. Security services include fire alarms, access control, CCTV, BMS and sophisticated home automation.

FUTURE SCOPE OEC has undergone a major restructuring exercise in recent times and will roll out many new services in next few months. The first one is Integrated Technology Governance Risk and Compliance (ITGRC), crucial for banks, small or large, and for ministries – practically everybody who is part of a current generation of digital economy. Similarly OEC is providing business intelligence (BI) solutions to Government, Banks and Enterprise customers for easy decision making across the organization. With an exclusive & strategic alliance with Tech Forte, OEC serves customers in UAE, Qatar & Bahrain with technically trained manpower based at Oman and UAE, as strategic technology base of the company. Whether it is the e-governance initiative, implementation of digital citizen services, or the new telecom opportunities that arise, OEC has lots to offer, more so with its decades of experience in the region with major technology vendors. However, Durbar K. Roy, Director, Omania E-Commerce LLC, says, “We are not trying to look at every opportunity and sell everywhere. Our fundamental is that we focus on two or three verticals and serve around 20 customers. We don’t want to spread ourselves thin.” The company’s approach is very professional when it comes to Service levels & SLAs - with enhanced efficiency and quality of service, domain expertise and market knowledge - as key differentiators. OEC TEAM OEC prides on an experienced, young and energetic team, whose drive & passion is to take ICT solutions in Oman to the next level. The company has established strategic partnerships with various leading technology and solution providers from the region and beyond. The key is to bring best-of-breed global technology solutions with the lowest-cost-of-ownership and deliver them with proper localization and regional flavour and support. Contact: +968 2457 1999 Email: info@oectech.com, Website: www.oectech.com

ICT SULTANATE OF OMAN 2011-12


SPECIAL FEATURE BAHWAN PROJECTS & TELECOMS LLC

Security First

Bahwan Projects & Telecoms remains connected with customers and provides them with tailor made solutions based on their feedback Bahwan Projects & Telecoms LLC (BPT) is primarily involved in the promotion of infrastructure and industrial projects and work in close association with global majors. This apart, the company executes turnkey projects in the field of telecommunications, broadcasting, mechanical and electrical engineering, power, desalination, chemical process equipment for oil and gas as well as security and survelliance systems. HORIZONTAL EXPANSION Over the last 30 years, BPT has designed and executed security systems for oil & gas industry as a part of integrated telecom packages. With this expertise and a proven track record, BPT has ventured out to encompass a wide range of other clients. For the Security System business in oil & gas domain, besides PDO, BPT has now also added OXY and BP as its customers. To set examples, Bahwan group’s own pharmacies, showrooms and other establishments spread all over Oman are serviced by BPT provided Security Systems. The company’s portfolio of business partnerships in this field contains many reputed names in CCTV security systems like Pelco (USA), Samsung (Korea) and Hikvision (China) to name a few; while the Access Control devices come from Honeywell, TDSI (UK) and Sagem (France). Intruder Detection system is sourced from SouthWest Microwave (UK) and Remsdaq (UK). For structured cabling, network infrastructure and data centers, our partners are well known names, R & M from Switzerland, Siemon from USA and so on. Their products form part of the infrastructure for an Integrated Telecommunication and Security Systems. CUSTOMERS’ DELIGHT BPT enjoys strong ties with its principals and vendors and its approach to business is customer-centric. The BPT team connects with their customers, understand their needs, and provide solutions accordingly. The core competence of BPT is to provide superior and futuristic design. The eventual system so built is scalable, flexible, and user-friendly and on top of that is backed by BPT’s excellent support service. “Our core competence lies in designing the best fit solution to our customer. Product selection does play a vital role in designing the system but what makes the design feasible and 88

AMITESH VIKRAM GENERAL MANAGER, BAHWAN PROJECTS & TELECOMS LLC practical is the optimisation of design which ensures the optimal use of every component of the system. We firmly believe that this approach enables us to deliver the true value for money invested by our customers,” says Amardeep Dattatray Shinde, Projects Manager, Bahwan Projects & Telecoms LLC. Design, Supply and Support being an important factor, BPT received ROP approval in 2010 awarding the status of “Certified Security Installer”. “With the changing time and ever evolving technology, we have built in a process whereby, we carry out correct identification of the appropriate technology for a particular requirement from a wide spectrum of alternative solutions. This is where the value addition of a good team comes in. That is what BPT is aiming at and that is the reason we are talking about customer value addition, and their “delight’’. It is not just any other system for the sake of it,” says Amitesh Vikram, General Manager, Bahwan Projects & Telecoms LLC.

Contact: 968 2479 3750 www.suhailbahwangrop.com

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