WEL-KOM TO OMAN

Oman 2014 | ICT & MEDIA | FOCUS: KNOWLEDGE OASIS MUSCAT

The Oman Vision 2020 economic program envisages the creation of a sustainable knowledge-based economy. A key contributor to this scheme is the Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM).

Established in 2003, the world-class techno-park Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) supports information-geared enterprises ranging from local SMEs to global giants whose medium is innovation. The park promotes itself as “part of a virtuous cycle in which new knowledge is unfolded and applied in real business." Its eco-friendly facilities are built on a 20,000-sqm site located close to Muscat International Airport, the Rusayl Industrial Estate, and Sultan Qaboos University.

DOING BUSINESS

KOM houses key global players from the ICT sector, serves as an educational springboard for the Sultanate's future technical workforce through specialized colleges, and incubates innovative local businesses, encouraging technology transfer. The 120 resident companies, with a combined workforce of 2,000, include Huawei, HCR, Microsoft, Oracle, HP, and Ericsson. Business enterprises are attracted not least of all by the prospect of 100% foreign ownership and no personal income tax for their employees. Other benefits of entering the technologically advanced environs include competitively priced internet connections and offices providing plug-and-play facilities. Important as well is the tenant's right to register at the Tender Board and participate in government bids. Meanwhile, networked meetings foster collaboration between tenants creating a climate of participation in the broader ICT universe. Tenants are also able to build their own facilities on land leased for 25 years, and moreover, leases are extendable for a further 25 years. One particularly important KOM resident is Oman's Information Technology Authority (ITA), the entity tasked with overseeing the Sultanate's comprehensive e-Oman project, the lynchpin of the knowledge-based economy. A key administrative component of this scheme is e-governance, which aims to render all government departments accessible to citizens online. ITA also serves as a source of technical information for the government and business community. Summing up the essential nature of KOM to TBY, Director General Mohammed Hamed Al Maskari said that, “The whole concept is called 'plug, play, work, and entertain in the same place.' We are building a sort of technopolis."

SPREADING THE WORD

KOM's remit is to promote Oman's information economy from college textbook to business plan. The Park is home to the Middle East College and the Waljat Colleges of Applied Sciences and has a student body of around 5,000. As a platform for the exchange of information and ideas, KOM's quarterly Digital Nation seminars are a popular fixture where industry professionals, investors, and students discuss the state of play in Oman's digital economy. Meanwhile, KOM's presence in the international arena is ensured by participation in such organizations as the International Association of Science Parks based in Málaga, Spain. In 2013 Oman has a strong representation at GITEX Technology Week, the Middle East's leading ICT exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Chief among its exhibits is the eOman project showcased by both the ITA and KOM, in addition to various government bodies and private sector representatives of Oman's information technology community field. A friend to viable start-up ventures in pursuit of total support, KOM provides a package known as The Knowledge Mine (TKM). This is a commercial incubation program launched in 2004 whereby tenants at the park benefit from heavily subsidized offices and utilities, and a range of business support programs. This includes the mentoring entrepreneurs and, of equal importance, the opening of doors to business and government. TKM accommodates 15 companies at one time, in a three-year commitment. In 2012 the scheme was renamed the National Business Center to reflect a much wider scope, particularly in developing the SME business segment.