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Sun 5 May 2002 04:00 AM

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Oman begins work on e-Sultanate strategy

Oman appoints Gartner Group to build comprehensive e-strategy by the end of the year

I|~||~||~|Oman’s governmental IT Taskforce has begun work on the Sultanate’s e-strategy. The taskforce, which consists of 12 members and is chaired by the head of the Ministry of Finance, recently signed up Gartner Group to help it build an IT strategy for the country. The analyst house will also help to put together an implementation timetable, pick project teams and identify quick wins that can be acted on immediately.“Our task is to move towards e-Oman, which consists of e-government, e-commerce, e-learning and other e-services,” says Mohamed Issa Al Zadjali, director of information systems department, Diwan of Royal Court, Sultanate of Oman. “We are gathering data and meeting both technology providers and other involved parties. By August we should have the whole e-Oman strategy in place,” he explains.The taskforce is assessing best practices that have been deployed in a number of e-government projects elsewhere, both in the region and further a field. Also, a number of vendors have been invited to share their experiences, so the Sultanate can avoid “the obstacles of deploying e-government services,” says Al Zadjali.The IT Taskforce plans to work alongside some of the already ongoing IT initiatives within Oman. For example, earlier in the year the Royal Oman Police (ROP) embarked on a long term IT project to deploy a national registration scheme. A core element of the project is the construction of a centralised population registry, which can then be leveraged for a number of other e-government services. “The ROP and the national registration system is the necklace of the whole e-government project,” says Al Zadjali. “We need the data of people — whether they are an Omani or just residing in Oman — to do e-commerce or e-government. ROP is the centre of attention of e-government,” he adds.The taskforce is also working alongside some of the smaller ministerial and department initiatives that have started over recent months. “We cannot tell people to wait for our guidance,” comments Al Zadjali.However, the IT Taskforce is still aware that it faces serious integration, change management — among government employees and the general population — and business process reengineering hurdles in the coming months. A core element of the strategy document will be a set of standards for system integration and data interchange. In order to break down many of the existing information islands within government, the implementation body will have to take on a “godfather role,” says Al Zadjali. The leadership role, although still vaguely defined, will mean reining in system development and adhering to a common set of standards. The IT Taskforce has already hosted several workshops and seminars with different ministries to communicate the importance of standards.“We cannot stop ministries deploying systems, but if there is going to be a major system deployed they can discuss it with us… to make sure that we are all inline,” comments Al Zadjali.Any systems deployment within government is going to include an element of business process reengineering. Implementing systems without fundamentally changing the way an organisation works defeats the object of the project, says Al Zadjali. “E-government needs business process reengineering, where we can find the best way, remove the stupid rules & regulations and put the whole process on the Internet,” he adds.Change management is also near the top of the agenda for the IT Taskforce. With sweeping change pending, there is bound to be resistance from both public sector employees and in some cases the citizens themselves. Although the rising Internet penetration within the Sultanate has gone some way to increasing awareness to the potential of e-services, there is still a long way to go. “Part of the IT Taskforce is a group for training and the promotion of IT in Oman. They are creating a strategy for the training of Oman,” adds Al Zadjali.||**||

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