BIG DATA

Oman 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Khalifa Abdullah Al-Barwani, CEO of the National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI), on the many benefits of its information apps, the growing focus on logistics, and supporting the public and private sectors with valuable data.

 Khalifa Abdullah Al-Barwani
BIOGRAPHY
Khalifa Abdullah Al-Barwani has been CEO of NCSI since 2013 and is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Executive Committee of the General Authority for Manpower Register, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and several other boards and committees in Oman. He holds a PhD in population studies from the University of Liverpool in the UK.

What technological advances has NCSI introduced into its service portfolio?

We have apps for Android and Apple that dispense tourist information about Oman. Users can find hotels, ATMs, hospitals, petrol stations, and other important locations. The bank app, called Banki, provides information about banks in Oman. It details which banks provide which services to the public. The petrol app provides information on opening hours, locations, and other relevant data. This new use of data is interesting, and statistical organizations should use the information they possess to benefit the general public. They should move beyond acquiring information and knowledge and provide a service to the public. This industry requires a new approach, and ours cannot be found anywhere else. This information will also help many economic sectors such as logistics, tourism, and others. We will work with them to improve data that might be useful for them. We are now focused on the Oman map, a service that will be linked with addresses. We will also evaluate how entities can use big data to provide better services.

Who are the partners that allow you to provide such extensive app services?

We receive information, for example for petrol stations, from the company that provides the petrol service. It feeds us with information. If it creates a new service, it informs us. When we launched the app, we did it together. With Banki we built relationships with the banks; we usually sign MoUs with the stakeholders and partners. It is a win-win situation for both partners.

Why has NCSI taken a special interest in logistics?

The future vision of the country highlights the importance of logistics, because we can no longer depend solely on oil. It is necessary to create KPIs, determine where we need to start, and then move toward implementation. It comprises all services related to logistics, such as transport and storage, both direct and indirect. We took examples from countries like Singapore and the Netherlands. We wanted to understand how those countries evolved to have the logistics sector play an important role in GDP. We signed an MOU with the statistical entity in the Netherlands. We sent some staff to the Netherlands for a month of training. Logistics can be directly or indirectly related to many sectors, such as education, construction, transport, and more.

What role do data and statistics have in improving Oman's ease of doing business?

We are not only responsible for statistics; we are in charge of managing the national special data infrastructure (NSDI). We also created an office for the National Competitive committee. We want Oman to be a leader in many sectors. With these lists, like the Doing Business list, we evaluate in which sectors we can be leaders. Although the list does not evaluate data and is more related to procedures and regulations, it is still important to realize if there are certain regulations that do not allow the country to be competitive, and what aspects should be resolved by the government.

What is your long-term vision for NCSI?

We must lead the private sector and government forward by showing them how they can solve their problems and enhance their knowledge. We can also provide them with information on where they should focus their efforts. Information is power. The world nowadays revolves around information. We are starting to build information dashboards for the public. There are also special dashboards for policymakers that are designed as infographics to be easy to understand because people have little time to read. We send out comprehensive knowledge on various sectors that can be relevant for people's work, and a special report in their sector.