UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DATA

Oman 2020 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

Oman's first e-census will ensure that its government and private sectors are able to create good economic policies and strategies.

Omar Al Ismaili
BIOGRAPHY

Omar Al Ismaili holds a higher diploma in corporate leadership from Oxford University and a bachelor's degree in electricity and electronic engineering from Sultan Qaboos University, along with many other certificates in project management and communication technology. Al Ismaili has more than 18 years of experience conducting and managing projects in government and private sectors inside and outside Oman. Since July 2017, he has worked as the General Director of E-Census 2020, where he leads a team from the government and private sectors to build an integrated system of national registers to achieve the objectives of the first register-based census in the Sultanate.

What are the unique aspects of E-Census 2020 and why does it help Oman's economy in aligning with the Vision 2040 goals?
In the same way oil used to fuel the Industrial Revolution, data today powers the current digital revolution, providing critical information for decision makers in all countries. In this regard, statistical data plays a crucial role in planning and guiding Oman's five-year plan, which is why the E-Census is an essential initiative for Oman's economy. The E-Census seeks to build a data bank integrated electronically to over 20 different government and private organizations for decision makers to get access to accurate reporting about population, housing, and establishments, and statistical indicators. It will be the first of its kind in using national data registers, eliminating the need for traditional field surveys previously done to conduct the census. As such, any kind of demographic and economic change based on specific indicators will be immediately reflected in the system. The scope of this effort is massive, with millions of records being sent from multiple organizations. This allows us to access an unprecedented amount of data that we then need to align with the different strategies the country is embarking on, such as Vision 2040.

What stage of the implementation are you at and what strategies do you adopt to ensure companies and individuals comply with this project?
Most E-Census tasks will be accomplished by the end of 2Q2020; by the end of 2020, the project will be 100% complete. To achieve this goal, both organizations and individuals play a vital role as we need them to update their data. We encourage both Omanis and expatriates to update their current addresses with the Royal Oman Police by adding their electricity account number as proof of residence. To ensure all stakeholders are aligned, we started this project with certain principles, including engagement and transparency. Building such a platform will positively impact and help the government in making decisions. As stated by the royal decree 55/2019, it is everyone's responsibility to provide census working teams with accurate information to execute their tasks.

How do you think the public and private sector relationship will evolve in the segment of data?
The end goal is having perfect synergies between the public and private sectors, as keeping data from the government might lead decision makers to make inadequate choices. Since data management is a large, lucrative field, regulations will be crucial in determining the rules of engagement between different stakeholders. In this regard, the National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI) is currently developing a national data strategy in coordination with the different related agencies. The strategy aims to establish a sustainable environment where data can be managed and used as an asset through a set of initiatives across different themes in alignment with existing laws, policies, challenges, and national goals.

How do you currently ensure the data E-Census receives remains safe?
Protecting the data E-Census 2020 collects is our highest priority. We are committed to upholding the privacy, confidentiality, and security of personal information, as we are following legislation, laws, and best practices to protect the data.

What are some potential benefits that could be acquired from the correct usage of data in the Omani economy?
Given the crucial role that data today plays in fueling the world's economic activities, data accuracy, analysis, and interpretation are three essential elements that favor the correct usage of data in the ultimate goal of supporting the broader Omani economy and its stakeholders. Indeed, accurate data, properly analyzed and interpreted, would first benefit the public sector in its policymaking and regulations. Secondly, it would have an extremely positive impact on investors, who would be able to base their investment strategies on precise and rich information. Thirdly, the correct usage of accurate data will help the Omani SME segment invest in the data field and build applications that serve different sectors.