LINKING UP

Oman 2015 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: IT PENETRATION

Oman has bold plans to link up much of the capital by fiber optics by 2020, with the trend toward internet usage certainly on the up.

During an interview with TBY, Said Almandari revealed that, according to Oman Broadband Company's plans for broadband and IT development, almost 90% of Muscat will be linked to the national fiber optic network by 2020, up from the 25% forecast by the end of this year, with 30% of other urban regions to be connected. The expansion of the network and the consolidation of high-speed broadband access will further increase the IT literacy among Oman's population.

According to research conducted by the Information Technology Authority (ITA), in 2013, on a basis of 11,000 randomly selected Omani households, more than 90% own at least one mobile or smartphone, while more than 80% own at least one computer, implying that 80% of the interviewed households in Oman have internet access. According to this data, the use of computers starts at a very early age, and it rises significantly after the age of 15, especially in urban areas. However, half of jobseekers in the 15-19 age group, compared to one-third of employed individuals, revealed they do not use computers due to a lack of skills. The high price of IT equipment is considered by about 40% of the jobseekers as a barrier. On internet speed and price, more than two out of three internet users admitted that the speed is too slow and that the price was too high. Despite high internet penetration levels, 42% of households have no internet access due to lack of coverage, 32% find it too expensive, while 25% lack the required skills or have no need. Twitter was used by one-quarter of the interviewees, while 22% use forums and 7% use blogs, compared to 51% using Facebook and 59% using YouTube.

A lot has to be done to increase the appeal of e-commerce-related services as well, as 85% of those interviewed indicated they have never bought or ordered anything via e-buy platforms. Computers are largely used in the upper levels of education, as well as by employees working in the public sector, with percentages reaching 90%. The use of computers is highest among students, at 92%. According to a survey conducted in 2012 by ITA, 18% of all the majors being undertaken by students at all institutes were related to ICT. On the total number of students, 19% were enrolled in ICT majors; 97% Omanis and 3% non-Omanis, at a 40-60 male-female ratio. Of all the higher education institutions, 62% offered ICT major courses, of which 41% were government institutes and 59% private. The total number of personal computers in higher education sector was 32,721, of which 99% were connected to the internet in both government and private colleges. Moreover, fixed broadband is the main type of internet connection with a coverage of 85% of all the colleges. Of this total, 48% of government colleges and 52% of private colleges used fixed-broadband lines. Of all the institutes, 71% have a digital library (government 46%, private 54%), 81% have intranet (government 45%, private 55%), 38% have extranet (government 55%, private 45%), 77% boast a website (government 35%, private 65%), while 88% have Wi-Fi (government 45%, private 55%).