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Oman 2016 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi, CEO of the Information Technology Authority (ITA), on the responsibilities of the organization, eGovernment initiatives, and the long-term outlook for the sector.

Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi received a Doctorate of Science in Information Systems and Communications from Robert Morris University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an MSc in Information Systems Technology from George Washington University in Washington DC, and a BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. As CEO of ITA, since its inception in 2006, he has been leading the implementation of the Digital Oman Strategy. Throughout his 20-year career, he has held a number of different technical diplomatic and leadership roles in the Sultanate of Oman. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1987 and successfully led the IT initiatives in the ministry. He was awarded the IT Man of the Year 2011 award by the Pan Arab Web Awards Academy.

How would you assess the role that ITA has played, especially over the past year?

Our government network is being enhanced currently by working closely with Oman's Broadband Company (OBC) and other providers to connect all government agencies to optic fiber. We signed the first phase of the high-speed government network with OBC to implement and operate the current active network. The first phase of this implementation will cover 63 HQs for all government organizations in Muscat, replacing the current lower speeds of Oman Government Network. The new network will connect the mentioned HQs with the previous 1GB connectivity and will connect them to the ITA National Data Center (NDC) with a 10 GB backbone. This new service will enable government organizations to enhance the service quality and achieve better customer satisfaction for their provided services.

Part of this year's plan was complementing some of the latest trends in technology, such as the Government Cloud. We are also focusing on how to effectively use big data to help government agencies reach their audiences, as well as increasing the efficiency of the eTransformation projects. Another major focus is on SMEs in order to bring new technology and development to Oman. Hence, we need to make sure that knowledge transfer is carried out successfully, as 10% of any business contract by big international companies is to be allocated to SMEs.

Looking at eGovernment, what are some of the major successes that ITA can showcase?

The eGovernment transformation plan is focusing on integration between government entities. We have 10 core organizations that have been already integrated as part of the InvestEasy system, including municipalities, the Ministry of Manpower, the Chamber of Commerce, and other government entities. Oman has been awarded internationally over the past six years, as we have been using these systems effectively. For example, with the Ministry of Education, the educational portal can be used for many purposes. It will be available as a mobile app to enhance services, which is part of an approach that differentiates us. As it is an integrated approach, we invest only once in this type of system.

How does ITA educate SMEs and communicate the opportunities that are available in the sector?

We have an intelligent young population in Oman and all they need is to have the opportunity. We built a Virtual Reality Center and we are pushing young people toward these new technologies. Young people realize that whenever they get along with our support, they become a valuable asset, even for major companies which are always hunting for new talent. SMEs understand that if they deliver high quality products and services, then their business will develop and grow, and if not, then their business will suffer. We give SMEs a maximum of three years to graduate and move into the market.

What are your expectations for 2015? What is your long-term outlook for ITA and the sector?

Things are moving in the right direction. We are responsible for the eOman strategy, but the broadband strategy is also complementing our work. For example, Omantel has announced 4.5G and that means we will have a higher network speed on both mobile and fiber. Oman Broadband Company has united with Ooredoo and Omantel, as they do not need to reinvest in infrastructure. As a government agency, we are already investing in undergoing sewerage system, the water system, and the roads by putting in fiber at the same time. A mandate by the end of 2015 will evaluate them and put in a transparent report as to who has achieved their goals and who has not. In January 2016, we should be able to announce more eGovernment services.

Could you pinpoint two important themes for the ICT sector in 2016?

The process of eTransformation is an important milestone that we are focusing on. In industrial and capacity development, SMEs are another focus. We will launch a mobile Applications Development Center of Excellence soon which will teach young people to develop and create companies that are specialized in mobility in all the services for the public and private sector.