SAFER AND NEVER SORRY

Oman 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, CEO of Information Technology Authority (ITA), on facilitating the investment experience in Oman, taking a coordinated approach to cybersecurity, and giving young people the right exposure.

Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi has held a number of technical, diplomatic, and leadership roles in the Sultanate of Oman over his 20-year career. In addition to his CEO responsibilities, he is a current member of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and was a Member of the Board of Omantel and Oman Mobile for four years. He is a Member of the Executive Committee of Oman University, Science Technology City, and a Board Member of the Public Authority of Manpower Register. Al Ruzaiqi holds a PhD in information systems and communications from Robert Morris University of Pittsburgh, a master's degree in information systems rechnology from George Washington University, and a bachelor of science degree in computer science and mathematics from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.

How is ITA moving forward with ICT to further develop Oman?

ITA is the government's right arm and offers advice on how ICT can make a difference. Working on our 2030 strategy, we are trying to determine how ICT can become a better enabler for diversification as well as contributor to the economy in terms of creation. Our role is embedded within other sectors, and ICT's contribution to GDP comes from tourism, logistics, manufacturing, and more. We work with our colleagues from other sectors to ensure that their jobs become easier and more efficient as we proceed. The government is establishing logistic hubs and focusing on smart logistics. Oman has the entire physical infrastructure with ports, roads, and more. Part of our role is to start right from day one because otherwise companies will have to reinvest.

What is the importance of forming partnerships and inviting international companies to come to Oman?

Today, investors have many options. What we give them will impact their decision on whether to come to Oman, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere to set up their business. The government has a role to ensure that the service it provides to people and businesses is efficient. Our role is not to deliver the actual e-transformation, as this is the role of all government agencies; however, we need to make sure they are aligned and that we have the right standards and policies. The Invest Easy project is one of our key milestones in making sure to facilitate the investment experience in Oman. Another thing we are taking into consideration is a PPP in a revenue-sharing type of model. This is more sustainable for the government and private sector and is what we want to push our private sector to establish. We have long-term partnerships with Microsoft and other large companies such as Oracle; however, we also seek new and small companies that can make a significant difference. We have companies from Singapore, Lithuania, Estonia, and Croatia that are actually moving with us here.

What is the initiative behind cybersecurity and defense, and how can you bring more companies on board?

We have taken cybersecurity very seriously since day one. That is why we created the right structure that enables us to also ensure companies focus on security as they go. When we design things, we design them with security in mind. We have a strong division here that gives the government and even us a hard time moving forward without putting in place the right security measures. According to the ICT cybersecurity index, Oman is one of the countries with the right infrastructure. We are hosting the ITU Cyber Security Center, which is the regional center for 22 Arab countries. It selected Oman for a reason.

How does ITA ensure that the ICT sector creates jobs for younger generations?

We are working with universities first to ensure that graduates are immediately ready for the market. We are providing many facilities and developing programs between universities and companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, and Cisco. The issue today is the gap between university graduates and the market requirements. We seek to ensure that graduates are ready; although we have many IT graduates looking for jobs, market indicators show that there is a shortage of IT skills. Today, hundreds of thousands of skills are required, and these change every day; therefore, one of our efforts is working with universities as advisors to ensure their curricula are up to date. We work with them through the private sector or incubation labs in universities and have an important incubation program initiative, which was established almost three years ago. We encourage young people to establish their own companies and start working, and give them the opportunity of exposure through government agencies, the private sector, and international visitors to make sure they can market themselves in the right way.