STAT OF LIFE

Oman 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Dr. Khalifa Abdullah Al-Barwani, CEO of National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), on the growing demand for in-depth information, technical innovations, and using data in all areas of life.

HE Dr. Khalifa Abdullah Al-Barwani
BIOGRAPHY
HE Dr. Khalifa Abdullah Al-Barwani has a PhD in population studies from the University of Liverpool. He is the CEO of the NCSI.

What types of statistics are more sought after or requested by businesses here in Oman?

We divide the statistics into three parts. There are social or population statistics, economic statistics, and environmental statistics. The interesting ones for people in general are the social and demographic stats. For the private sector, the more attractive information is about the economic statistics: GDP, foreign trade information, tourism information, and data mining. This is also interesting to the policymakers. For the public, the more interesting statistics are about the population, such as nationality, age, distribution, and others, such as labor. According to our portal and website, we are trying to track where people have more access to the data, which data is sought after more, in addition to asking for people's feedback on our publications. We will provide more in-depth information where there is more demand.

What new technical innovations is NCSI implementing to make the access to information a transparent and easy process?

We started to focus more on how to use administrative data in the statistics. We believe there is a huge amount of information being used daily, not as statistics, but as a service that can be transferred into statistical information. We tried to give this a great deal of attention, and one of our projects for 2020 is to move from a traditional way of collecting data in the census to a smart census. We will use the administration and try to link these together. We believe the technology can improve our work and we have started to talk to our stakeholders and partners.

How can Oman move toward the development of smart, sustainable cities with the interaction between data centers, the population, and businesses?

There is a must to move to big data. The good news is that Oman is leading a UN task team for mobile big data with Eurostat. We are starting with how we can use data from mobiles to enhance the knowledge of people and businesses. We are trying to focus it on three areas. One is for tourism, and we can get information about who came to Oman, where they are going, and interesting areas for them to visit. We can also see where Omanis are going. For city planning, they can find out where more crowds are, where we should build more roads, and where services need to be provided. For example, for emergency services, it is important to know how many people are in an area. We can use the mobile information to get all this data, which will help business people. The other area is like a census. Through mobile data, we can know how many people are living in an area without having to go and count them. This is a project in which we are leading worldwide. Most countries are now moving to big data. Technology is an opportunity to improve our work and provide knowledge.

What is your outlook for the next 12 months?

There are many visions we would like to implement. This includes an addressing system for Oman and a smart census, and we have already started using technology as dashboards. People realize the importance of information. Our information will help clients make decisions and one of our paths is to give the media this information so that twice weekly they are coming with news about it. We do not need to communicate the news ourselves, as everyone has it. I have noticed there has been a great change in the culture of Oman, as people now refuse to make decisions without evidence and seek numbers. Nationally and internationally, people trust what we publish. We invest a great deal in statistics, and we want to be sure that every department and area uses this knowledge in their plans and in their lives.