With a strong digital capability and infrastructure, Oman is seeking to place itself as a hub for the use of information and communications technology in the Middle East region.

Last month, Muscat, the capital of Oman, was named the Arab digital capital for 2022 during a virtual meeting of the Council of Arab Ministers of Communications and Information Technology.

Said Hamoud al-Maawali, Omani Minister of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, said the selection reflects Arab confidence in the digital and legal capabilities of Oman.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Rashid al-Alawi of the Omani Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, said the Gulf state is considered a “central station for world data.”

“Oman enjoys a solid digital infrastructure and hosts 20 international submarine cables, 18 of which are licensed to provide various telecommunication services in 3G, 4G, and 5G categories,” he said.

“Oman also hosts the Arab Regional Cyber Security Center (ARCC),” the minister added.

Established in 2012, the ARCC aims to create a safer and cooperative cybersecurity environment in the Arab region and strengthen the role of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies in the region.

Al-Alawi said Oman ranked 21st in the Global Cybersecurity Index, 48th in the Network Readiness Index, and 50th in the e-Government Development Index in 2020.

The Gulf state also shares third place with Australia and Malaysia, behind the US, Canada, among countries best prepared for cyberattacks, according to the Global Cybersecurity Index.

Oman also has a strong legislative infrastructure that contributes to the global effort for safe, secure, and equitable internet.

According to al-Alawi, Oman has several laws that help policy-makers and legislators in their fight against cybercrime.

In addition to uncovering and tackling 332 cybersecurity incidents in 2019, Oman thwarted over 14 billion malicious attempts against its government networks, according to Oman Daily Observer newspaper.

Smart transformation

Al-Alawi said Oman seeks to provide business environments with modern technologies to assist the digitization of businesses and support smart government transformation programs.

“Our plan also consists of industrialization and localization of modern technologies, building a digital society, and rehabilitation of the infrastructure of information and communication technology to keep up with the rapid technological changes,” he said.

Oman has planned to launch its maiden space satellite tentatively in 2024, but its selection as the Arab digital capital for 2022 might accelerate the process that is being carried out by the country’s National Space Strategy.

The year 2022 is “likely to witness the launch of Oman’s first national satellite” as the country is “keen to improve its communications infrastructure” and develop the required capabilities to serve the immediate to long-term telecommunications needs of the public and private sectors, al-Alawi said.

In addition to attracting investment into the sector, al-Alawi said, the country’s space strategy aims to enhance its input in international cooperation in the field of space.

Al-Alawi said Oman’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology is also participating in projects to improve the digital skills of Arab youth and encourage investment in the digital economy.

He noted that the ministry has introduced many business incubators such as “SAS for Entrepreneurship Center”, which encourages entrepreneurship and development of ICT companies in Oman in collaboration with private and public sectors. It has supported over 70 companies so far.

In 2016, the Gulf country set up the Oman Technology Fund to spark innovation in Oman and the Middle East region.

The $200 million project aims to “make Oman the preferred destination” for the emerging tech companies in the region, and an attractive and stimulating destination for venture capital programs, al-Alawi said.

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