Maqbool Al Wahaibi, CEO, Oman Data Park (ODP)


Economic View

20 Aug 2021
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On the importance of cloud technology in a rapidly expanding digital landscape

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the development of cloud technologies and services?

MAQBOOL AL WAHAIBI: The pandemic has led to an acceleration of the digitalisation plans of governments and businesses across the world, including in Oman. In the push to leverage IT innovation, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model has emerged as the preferred solution of many organisations. Its popularity is to a large extent based on the flexibility it offers by removing the need to commit to large capital investment and maintenance costs, since organisations can access remote IT architecture that is assembled and managed by the cloud solutions provider.

Since 2012, and in line with global trends favouring the SaaS approach, ODP offers fee-based service packages enabling clients to access advanced digital functionalities in a variety of developer-defined environments, including Microsoft Azure and Virtual Oracle Compute, as well as open source. In this way, ODP supports Oman’s economic development by enabling the digitalisation of businesses and services for clients ranging from government bodies and large corporations, to small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups. 

Which segments could benefit the most from cloud solutions?

AL WAHAIBI: While cloud architecture can enable the cost-efficient use of a wide range of cross-industry applications – such as those used for procurement, enterprise resource planning and office productivity – much is to be gained from the development of specialised cloud applications. The maturing of cloud technologies broadens the space to cater to the specific needs of certain sectors, like financial services, energy, education, health care and government services. 

The advancement of artificial intelligence, as well as processing and graphic capabilities, will allow cloud-enabled clients to perform technically complex processes such as seismic analysis and simulation in the hydrocarbons industry; remote graphic processing for gamification in the video game industry; electronic know-your-customer checks; and big data analysis. 

What are main factors shaping the future of the cloud industry?
AL WAHAIBI: Globally, it is expected that the cloud market will continue to expand, as the cost efficiency of cloud technologies makes them attractive for multiple sectors across both developed and developing markets. 

However, a country's digital infrastructure shapes the scope and depth of its cloud services. For example, while many cloud services only require 4G connectivity, the merging of cloud computing and the internet of things is expected to be a driver of growth if telecoms companies manage to provide large-scale 5G connectivity in a financially sustainable way, which remains a challenge in Oman and elsewhere.

Regulations, such as those pertaining to data sovereignty in the GCC, also set limits on users and providers. For instance, ODP is penetrating markets such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait through stack colocation services that are fully compliant with established data sovereignty regulations in those markets. This way, data is stored within the jurisdictional borders of the country, but the owners of that data can still benefit from expert services sourced from overseas.
Looking ahead, Oman and other countries will need to address the relative scarcity of cloud experts in the region. To contribute to broader national goals, partnerships with international giants like Microsoft must be deepened in order to integrate knowledge transfer and training more clearly. In Oman’s case, although ODP heavily invests in training new employees, more could be achieved if large multinationals and their partners are incentivised to upskill local talent.

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