TBY talks to Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi, CEO of the Information Technology Authority (ITA), on penetrating the government sector with e-services, building the Sultanate's fiber-optic network, and the national e-tendering system.

Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi
Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi is the CEO of the ITA. Throughout his 18-year career in the IT field, he has held different technical and managerial roles in the Sultanate of Oman. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in March 1987 and led the IT initiatives at the ministry. He also has diplomatic experience, joining the Sultanate's Diplomatic Corp as the First Secretary at the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington, DC from 1998 to 2003. He received a doctorate in Information Systems and Communications from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

How does the new Tam service help streamline government efficiency and promote e-government solutions in Oman?

PKI services (the Electronic Certification Services, branded as Tam) is a solid solution we believe is essential for government electronic services and can make life easier for all citizens. It allows a single sign-on to all of the government services with data integrity, data confidentiality, strong authentication, and non-repudiation. With PKI, all parties are protected by law (electronic transaction Law 69/2008). The two most important services are online authentication and electronic signature, whereby the data is encrypted while transmitted over the internet. We have collaborated on this project with our partners, Royal Oman Police (ROP), Omantel, and Ooredoo to ensure that we have PKI services available in the National ID Cards and PKI enabled SIM cards; therefore, citizens can log in to the government services and sign electronically through the mobile phones as well without the physical presence in the service providers' premises. Citizens will be able to log into all government agency services that are integrated to PKI using their ID cards and mobile phones, which means they can enter all different government portals without having any usernames and passwords. Tam service is in line with the e-transaction law; therefore, when you have your digital identity, it is your responsibility to keep it safe to prevent any unauthorized use.

ITA signed a fiber-optic contract with Oman Broadband Company to connect government offices. What value will this provide to the government network?

This agreement is essential to connect the current 63 government entities hosted by Oman Government Network (OGN) providing high-speed connectivity and linked to the National Data Center at ITA in addition to another backup data center. We deliver government services and people place a premium on speed. They do not want slow responses, and this new network will provide us with high speeds, more than 1,000 times faster than the current government network. Second, we have the cloud as our central initiative, and we are pushing all government systems to use the cloud network because it saves money and also provides the right structure and security. There are many things that the cloud can provide, but without a high-speed network, it is not possible. Many government agencies are pushing to deliver their services electronically and we seek to provide the speed for the government networks that will keep users satisfied and happy to use the service again. The government network is the first phase, and we are now moving on to the next phase, which is to connect the towns of Oman to this fiber network as well. The fiber-optic service enables government organizations to enhance the service quality and hence better customer satisfaction for its provided services. It enables government organizations to integrate by exchanging data to facilitate a true end-to-end service delivery for their customers.

How would you assess the unique national e-tendering system that Oman has, and how can companies benefit from using this platform?

This project helps with transparency in terms of how we can help the government make the right investment decisions with regard to projects, how we can give the private sector confidence in the project when they bid with us, and how anyone outside of the country can bid and have confidence in Oman. Right now, this system is only available to government-owned companies. In the future, this could become a service available to any enterprise. We now have around 18-20 government departments in the system, and we are pushing for all government agencies to be on-board by the end of the year before we decide to make it available to the private sector. Tendering is one of the strategic national projects that we deliver as part of ITA's responsibilities. This system allows for greater transparency and trust in the government tendering process and allows companies to monitor tenders online.