What advice does one of Oman’s leading tech entrepreneurs and voices in media have for those looking to grow the nation’s IT industry? Y’s Nishad Padiyarath sits down with Knowledge Oman’s Chairman of the Board of Directors Tariq Hilal al Barwani to find out.
An award-winning IT expert, a motivational presenter, a public speaker, and radio jockey? It sounds like a lot of hats for one person to wear – but that’s Tariq Hilal al Barwani. He’s Oman’s top technological expert and, by far, the best in his field. From creating Knowledge Oman, the largest community platform empowering the country’s young entrepreneurs, Tariq has come a long way. “But I still have miles to go,” he says in an interview with Y.
As a technologist, Tariq has won several awards including the Global Knowledge Management Leadership Award at the World HRD Congress in 2018. Today, he’s part of the Microsoft Reconnect program supporting Microsoft on community-related initiatives. We sat down with Tariq to learn more about the direction Oman’s technological growth
Y: You’re an established IT expert in the country. How is Oman’s digital strategy progressing?
TAB: In 2008, while addressing the Council of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said stressed the need to develop the technological and practical skills of citizens in Oman and provide them with the right resources. Since then, a lot has changed in terms of awareness, applications, and transformations.
In the early days, when I used to display and speak about computers and devices, people used to be curious. Today, a child aged 10 knows more than what we do about technology. We used to go to schools carrying bags, but these days children go to school with tablets. What does that mean? Sooner or later, we’ll see these children stop going to schools and instead opt for E-education. I used to drive all the way to Seeb to pay my traffic fines, but today I can sit at home and pay these bills. From the banking sector to education, technology has transformed efficiently in the last few years in Oman.
Y: When take stock of GCC countries, Oman’s IT sector is still in a phase of growth – and we’re not finding many Omanis in this industry either. What inspired you to be a trailblazer in this field?
TAB: I have to credit my father who used to work in a bank in the early 90s where IT was one of the key departments and he was its Operations Manager. Even back then, he felt that technology would be the key to the future. But what inspired me were these technological creations. During those days my thoughts were – ‘How I can create something special?’ From computers, you can create programs that can help people and that’s when I created virus-cleaners. So, the love of creating new things is what inspired me to get into IT.
Y: You founded Knowledge Oman (KO) in 2008 and it’s gone on to become the biggest knowledge-sharing platform in the country. Where’s it headed next?
TAB: The call of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to transform Oman into a knowledge-based society is what created KO. This platform has both Omanis and expats collaborating who share their valuable knowledge related to technology. In the last ten years, KO has helped people to create, share, and promote knowledge through online-based and community-driven initiatives. Knowledge Oman also reaches out to empower social entrepreneurs, facilitate nation-wide knowledge transfers, and promote private-public partnerships in the country that serve society’s progress.
Y: Where do you see Oman’s IT industry in the next five years?
TAB: It’s changing every day. From the way we think, to the way we behave, technology is growing faster. Look at where it’s brought us – from artificial intelligence to Blockchain, the world of IT has come a long way and it’s only getting stronger.
Y: On the one hand as we talk about technological advancements, on the other there are also those who misuse technology for illicit gain. What measures can be taken against this?
TAB: If you’re talking about cyber-security, Oman has emerged first in the Arab world, and fourth in the world, for cyber-security. From a legal perspective, Oman has issued laws to combat the misuse of technology. People should be made aware that technology should be used for the betterment of society and not otherwise.
Want to know more about Tariq Hilal al Barwani and the work of Knowledge Oman? Visit www.knowledgeoman.com.