Apr. 21, 2015


Khalifa Al Barwani

Oman

Khalifa Al Barwani

CEO, NCSI

"According to our information, 2015 has already been a major challenge."

BIO

Khalifa Al Barwani holds a PhD in Population Studies from the University of Liverpool and is the CEO of the National Center for Statistics and Information.

What methodology does NCSI use in Oman?

NCSI was established in 2012 with a board-approved vision to enhance knowledge and build national standards for information gathering in Oman. Our policy makers combined statistics and information into one unit, which are often separate centers, because our task is not only to supply data and statistics, but also to ensure that these are readily transformed into knowledge and information. Statistics are just a part of the process. Our methodology is to first have a network of up to 22 centers. We follow best international practice and standards. Oman is a part of many teams in the world, including the UN Statistics Division (UNSD), which oversees statistics worldwide.

How does Oman's statistics center compare to the rest of the GCC?

We have created our own statistics center in Oman, and follow the same standards as the GCC, that is to say, international standards. We are running the same program as the GCC's, and work in tandem. We believe that statistics need to meet these exacting standards to avoid gaps in information delivered to policy makers.

“According to our information, 2015 has already been a major challenge."

How is NCSI using smart applications to provide social and economic indicators, and what is the importance of the census in Oman?

One of our policies concerns the public right to information, and from this view we open channels for people to gain access to it. One of those channels is our website, and we are now improving our portal, both in Arabic and English. We have also created three mobile applications. NCSI Oman provides social economic indicators; NCSI GEO is more detailed and geographic, while Tour Oman is more tourism oriented. This is more of a service that we provide than pure information. We also maintain a presence in social media. We plan to conduct an e-census in 2020 to replace the traditional version, as innovation is essential.

How is NCSI able to reach a wider audience in Oman and what media are being utilized?

We have moved into many channels because each has its own audience. Most young people actively use social media, and our people respond directly to them. At least twice a week in Oman you can find information in most Arabic and English newspapers, and we provide televised updates. Our new portal reaches many young people, and we have also signed a MoU with Qaboos University to leverage its research, while also training its students. Indeed, we have been signing numerous MoUs, nationally and internationally, to encourage the fruitful exchange of experience. The UN has made a major call for big data, and Oman is leading a mobile task team.

To what extent do you coordinate with other Omani government agencies and the private sector?

NCSI, by royal decree, coordinates with all other government agencies. The data flows from them to us, and we return it for specific use. NCSI is responsible for all economic and social information. Dissemination of information is helping to improve the level of transparency in the government. People have a right to access information and measure the progress of our country. We want to ensure effective communication and act as a link between the government and the private sector. Indeed, one of our board members is from the private sector.

What has been the effect of the drop in oil prices?

According to our information, 2015 has already been a major challenge. Our economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas prices. We assist in decision-making, but we are not actually making the decisions; rather, our information assists decision-makers to better appraise alternative scenarios.

What trends are occurring this year, and what are your expectations for the year ahead?

Last year's GDP to September saw growth of around 5%, but it is still too early to forecast what might change. In March Oman, along with the Netherlands and Italy, was one of three countries selected to share its vision on big data. This was our latest statistic commission, and one that confirms Oman's significant international role. We are working to establish Oman as a national center to provide all data and information, and are creating a smart government with a national data warehouse. Information is power, and we can see where the opportunities lie.

© The Business Year - April 2015

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