Sunday, 20 December 2009

Jason Mraz's I'm Yours

Alright, you all going to love me for sharing this. You all know the wonderful song called I'm Yours from Jason Mraz right? I mean this song:



OK, here is another version of the same song. The funny kid's version of I'm Yours:



Saturday, 19 December 2009

TRA Slaps OMR 100,000 Fine on Nawras

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has fined Omani-Qatari Telecommunications Company (Nawras) 100,000 rials over a complaint by Injaz International Telecom Company.

Injaz in its complaint claimed Nawras had refused to conclude an agreement to provide resale service in accordance with the terms of the licence and the regulations of the executive bylaw of the Telecommunications Regulatory Act, despite the legal procedures followed by the Injaz to conclude the agreement.

The TRA, after reviewing the facts, decided to impose the fine to be paid within one week from the decision.

The TRA said that Nawras has received the penalty for violating Articles No.93, 94, 98 and 99 of the executive bylaw of the Telecommunications Regulatory Law.

The authority has also decided to give Nawras 15 working days to conclude the resale agreement with Injaz under a plan presented to the TRA.

In its complaint to the TRA, Injaz asked it to call on Nawras to observe and stick with the licence issued to it and to sign an agreement in accordance with the requirements of the licence relating to the regulatory framework in force.

Injaz has also asked the TRA to address Nawras to apply solutions for the smart network which hosts Injaz to be able to launch its services.

Injaz had also urged the TRA to impose financial penalties on Nawras as it violated the terms of the licence and to also help get compensation on delaying to enter the market.

With regard to the Injaz request for compensation, TRA has decided to give Injaz the freedom to go to court if it considers it appropriate. While in connection with Injaz request to the TRA to take a precautionary measure by holding the two agreements between Mazoon and Samatel, the authority does not believe that such action will serve public interest.

On its part, Nawras represented by Ross Cormack, chief executive, said the decision came suddenly, while Nawras still looking at the basis in which the TRA took the decision. Nawras has already worked hard to finalise the agreements with resellers, and Mazoon has already launched its services, while Samatel is scheduled to launch services during the first quarter of next year.

“The company has its own priorities, but our attention is always going to focus on customer service,” he said.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Eid Mubarak All

Sorry I've been busy with work lately, but just wanted to thank all readers for their private emails and messages.

Eid Mubarak to all and enjoy the prolonged holidays :). Thanks to Eid and National Day holidays getting combined, Oman will be back to work from Saturday, 5th December onwards.

I might post something while relaxing in a beach resort next week!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

eGovernment Portal Launched


After at least a year's delay, Oman's eGovernment Services Portal finally launched yesterday, 7th November 2009. The portal can be accessed on:

www.oman.om

I believe this portal is a very useful tool for all its target groups:

1. The Businesses
2. Citizens & Residents
3. The Visitors


I won't go into the details until I get the chance to browse through the website thoroughly, but I'd like to point out that at the end, this portal is just a platform for other government agencies to host their services.

Naturally, if government agencies fail to re-engineer their processes so that they are are completely automated, it will be very difficult for them to provide effective e-services. As a result, the eGovernment Portal's success would also be limited.

The portal is well architected and provides systematic mechanisms for other agencies to provide their services through the portal. It is clear from the portal that there are discrepancies between government agencies in terms of their IT capality. Some government agencies already provide decent e-services, while others simply have no presence on the portal or on their own websites.

One might question whether the whole nation is ready for such a platform? Whether Residents, visitors or businesses are ready? In fact, one might even question whether the IT industry in Oman is ready? Let us not forget, this portal was built, after all, by vendors from Singapore. Nonetheless, money have been spent on many petty things in the past. This, hopefully, will bring opportunities!

There is no harm is starting with semi-automated services like the Ministry of Housing did, but unless the complete process is automated, the service is bound to collapse on itself.

More on this later on. Subscribe to my feeds for updates!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

9/9/09 - Metro Dubai Launched


Four years of planning, design and construction have resulted in the launch of the most advance metro systems in the world and the first in Middle East. The launch of the metro today, on 9th September 2009 - the date promised by Sheikh Muhammad Al Maktoum for launch of this project, should solve the traffic problems in Dubai and make the lives of so many commuters easy.

About Metro Dubai
Dubai Metro has 43 stops that serve both the local and tourist populations, stopping at both popular destinations for work and sight-seeing. With all of the stops available, the metro plans on transporting about 1.2 million passengers daily.




Metro Dubai, as we expect from Dubai projects, has many unique features and firsts in the world. The project was initially budgeted for AED 16 Billion but later went on to cost Dubai around AED 35 Billion. This was mostly due to the enhancements in design and additional requirements, especially that related to safety and hi-tech features.

In addition to the sleek design, comfortable stations and trains, one of the underground stations in Metro Dubai is the largest underworld station in the world!

The Visionary Man
I've always respected Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Rule of Dubai, for his vision and fearless attitude. Dubai has been hit hardly during 2008 and 2009, but projects such as this prove that Dubai is here to stay.

I was last there during April 2009 for a 1-day business meeting, but before that I traveled during January 2009 for a week long business event; metro was under construction then. Some pictures I took:



Congratulations to all those who worked on this prestigious project and to all Emiratis!

Monday, 17 August 2009

A Must Watch Documentary

Many of us were young during 1980s and 1990s. Many simply didn't care. It doesn't matter whether you're an Arab, a Muslim, a Christian or a Westerner. The videos below from a BBC documentary called Power of Nightmares narrates and describes the events that have shaped our world today.

Words like Terrorism, Extremism, Taliban, Al Qaeda and Evil Republicans did not land from space on one fine day. Many people today, not only in the West but even in Muslim worlds confuse Freedom Fighters with Terrorists.

The following videos will not only give you a historic perspective to the realities around us today, it will also explain the creation of extremist groups around the world and their relations with the extremists in US:









I really wish this makes us think before believing things we read in newspapers and watch on TV. More importantly, I hope it clarifies how certain groups had/have hijacked the religion for their own agenda! How extremists on both sides have attempted to ruin the name of Islam, thanks god however, they have failed miserably.

Feedbacks appreciated!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Kim Peek: The Real Rain Man

All of us are unique in a way, sometimes productive for humanity, sometimes productive for our community and sometimes productive for our families or ourselves.

However, I believe that only people who truly understand themselves honestly and be what they are, they will be enlisted in one of the categories above. In other words, people who are not original and who pretend for different shallow reasons, will perish!

Most of us have watched the movie Rain Man. I am sure we all have met unorthodox people, also known as mentally challenged people, but who would have thought that that character was influenced by a real living man with a unique brain!

The man is known as Kim Peek:








All of us can learn something from special people like Kim Peek or his father Fran Peek. What have you learned?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Men's Brain vs. Women's Brain

A very funny yet highly accurate performance by Mark Gungor:



Enjoy :D

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Omani Internet Forums - Part 3

Here we go, the third and final part of the blog series on Omani Internet Forums. Today, I discuss and analyze Knowledge Oman Forum. I had some other forums in mind, like OmanServ (recently shut down), Omani Crib and others, but I felt Knowledge Oman deserves a shot for being active in the local media. As mentioned, this is brief but done objectively:

FIRST, READ PART 1 and PART 2.



AVERAGE SCORE: 3.4 OUT OF 5

Knowledge Oman Forum: As mentioned earlier, internet forums could be general or specific. This is an internet forum with emphasis on science and technology related news and articles. This forum has been running for over a year and it has two vBulletin deployments, one in Arabic and one in English. The Arabic version is still relatively inactive, so I only consider the English version here.

Diversity & Reach: Most members are from Oman with interest in technology. About 50% of the visitors of this forum come from Oman and about 15% from Egypt. For limited diversity but active publicity, this forum gets 3 out of 5.

Sections & ActivityMany technology related categories exist, but without rules and regulations. Only the Local News, International News and KnowledgeOman News sections are active. Some non technical sections also exist, but with little activity. As per Compete, this forum had about 580 unique visitors in March 2009, last among all major English language forums in Oman. The average number of members online during peak hours is about 4, which is very low. This is combining the members on the English and Arabic language forums (deployments). In other words, the two deployments of vBulletin in two languages combined, Knowledge Oman still has less activity than EnglishSabla or OmanForum. Due to this limited activity, this forum gets 3 out of 5.



Members: This forum has about 1,500 members, of which less than 45 are active. Most members are of the same age group and similar interests. Attracting new members has been done well, but keeping them has been an issue. For the limited number of active members, KnowledgeOman gets 3 out of 5.

Technology: This forum uses the latest version of vBulletin software just as EnglishSabla. However, the look, feel and theme are standard, more or less like OmanForum. Nevertheless, this forum has purchased the mobile phone access feature for about $100. For the latest version of vBulletin with mobile phone support, this forum gets 4 out of 5.

Unique Features: KnowledgeOman does a good job gathering latest technology news from different news sites and posting them in one location. Moreover, it has creatively renamed the titles of moderators and members to President, Sales Manager, Media Manager, and so on. This brings a sense of reality to this internet forum. For this, it gets 4 out of 5.

This is it for the discussion and analysis of the three Omani Internet Forums. Next, I conclude this series of blog posts with some advantages and final notes.

Advantages for Individuals and Businesses

Internet forums can offer various benefits to businesses and individuals, provided they are active and have a large number of members. Small and medium businesses can directly or indirectly advertise or communicate with potential consumers on such forums. Recently, a new mobile services company in Oman signed up in EnglishSabla and discussed different issues with members and even answered their questions. This was so interactive that many times immediate changes and improvements were made to the company website.

Individuals can get expert advice and information about Oman. Students could conduct surveys for their research and school work. Expatriates, new in Oman, can make friends and adapt to the country and its people. Among the forums discussed, OmanForum and EnglishSabla are recommended for commercial utilization due to the large number of active members from Oman.

Final Note

Non technical people often confuse internet forums with technologies like portals, gateways or e-platform. This is simply wrong and it is important to understand that the purposes, underlying technologies and scope of all these models are different. Internet forums can be easily setup without technical expertise, just like blogs, using commercial or free software, but the other technologies are much more complex.

I hope this series added some value and provided clarifications. I would discuss other such applications in the future, web portals being next, most probably.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Omani Internet Forums - Part 2

Sorry all, I was very busy with work work and personal work for over a week now! Thanks for your comments here, emails and messages about new posts. So here we go, part 2 of my series of articles on Omani Internet Forums.

FIRST, READ PART 1


In this part, I will introduce and analyze one more very famous internet forum called Oman Forum. Again, I will do this briefly but very objectively using all my knowledge and many years of experience in the IT industry and in academic research:


AVERAGE SCORE: 4.2 OUT OF 5

OmanForum.com: This is perhaps the first dedicated English language Omani internet forum and has been running successfully for about 9 years. It is particularly famous in Oman and is among the 1000 most visited websites from inside Oman.

Diversity & Reach: Moderators and members are mostly Omani citizens and residents. More than 50% of visitors are from Oman and about 20% from India. In this criterion, it gets 4 out of 5.

Sections & Activity: A wide range of well structured categories are available. Rules and regulations are not as vivid as in EnglishSabla, but the structure of sections is quite similar. The sections are quite active and additional commercial sections exist. As per Compete Analytics, OmanForum had about 700 unique visitors in March 2009, second best among all English language forums in Oman. The average number of members online during peak hours is about 50, highest compared to the rest. For variety of topics and good activity, it gets 5 out of 5.


Members: This forum has over 3,000 members, of which over 450 are active. The members are diverse in terms of age and qualification, but not in terms of country of access. About 100 members have more than 1,000 posts and new members continuously join! For this, OmanForum gets 4 out of 5.

Technology: vBulletin is used, but not the latest version. The look and feel of this forum is ordinary, but a creative “Arcade” games section exists that provides good entertainment. It also has a built-in chat room. For this, it gets 4 out of 5.

Unique Features: OmanForum is particularly famous among the citizens and residents of Oman. It has an active classified ads section for buying and selling real estate, finding jobs and so on. For these key differentiators, it gets 4 out of 5.

In my next post, I will introduce and discuss one more forum mentioned by blogger Nadia and conclude this series of posts.

To be continued..

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Omani Internet Forums - Part 1


There are tens of active internet forums in Oman today, thousands more in the Arab world and hundreds of thousands around the world. Most of these forums use the same vBulletin technology, the most successful forum application that can be purchased fairly cheaply.

Obviously, all internet forums are global in that they are accessible over the global network, i.e. internet, but I describe them as Omani or otherwise based on the origin of members and the orientation of topics discussed. Here, I will only briefly compare and analyze some of the Omani forums that are in English language (to go with the theme of my blog and because honestly, there are too many Arabic language forums to analyze).

I will do this briefly but very objectively using all my knowledge and many years of experience in the IT industry and in academic research:



AVERAGE SCORE: 4.4 OUT OF 5

EnglishSabla.com: This forum has been running successfully for about 8 years. Initially, it was the English version of a famous Arabic language Omani forum. In April 2002, the website started functioning independently. This forum is well regulated and very diverse.

Diversity & Reach: Moderators and members originate from different countries from around the world. This forum has good international presence as about 30% of its visitors come from United States. For this, it gets 5 out of 5.

Sections & Activity: A wide range of well structured and moderated categories are available. Rules and regulations provide guidelines for all discussions and all sections are highly active. In January 2009, this forum crossed the 4 million visitors in a month for the first time, earlier, and more recently, it crossed the 5 million visitors mark! As per Compete, EnglishSabla had about 4,000 unique visitors in March 2009, the best among all English language forums in Oman. The average number of members online during peak hours is about 28. For variety, control and activity, it gets 5 out of 5.


Members: This forum has over 6,000 members, of which over 700 are active. The members are truly diverse in terms of age, profession, religion and country. Above 200 members have more than 1,000 posts and new members continuously join from around the world. For this, EnglishSabla gets 5 out of 5.

Technology: Latest version of vBulletin software is used and supplemented with highly creative and unique graphics. The look and feel of this forum is without doubt the best. In this criterion, it gets 4 out of 5.

Unique Features: EnglishSabla has a unique theme, highly active sections, variety in topics, diverse members, comprehensive rules and guidelines, and good ambience. For these key differentiators it gets 3 out of 5.

This blog post will be done in parts. In my next post, I will introduce and discuss one of the most active English language forums in Oman.

To be continued..

Friday, 1 May 2009

RCA Project Wins The WSA


The Recruitment Solution through SMS Applications from the Royal Court Affairs (RCA) has won the prestigious World Summit Award (WSA) in the e-government category this year.


Oman has won the coveted award among over 700 projects from 168 countries across the globe in the World Summit Award 2009. This innovative solution has also won the best e-content in the Arab region in the e-government category at the Bahrain International eGovernment Forum 2009 under the WSA program.

This novel solution uses mobile technology and an integrated system between two the RCA and the Ministry of Manpower to enable Omani citizens to apply for job advertisements by sending an SMS and get the first response within seconds.

HE.Sultan Mohammed Al Namani, Secretary General, Royal Court Affairs expressed his delight by stating that, 'The Royal Court Affairs winning the World Summit Award in the e-government category is in line with His majesty's vision for excellence in using technology to deliver public service. This award is also a big recognition for the hard work put in by our team of staff in cooperation with the Ministry of Manpower. We express our sincere thanks to ministry of manpower and the staff of RCA, and we look forward to many more such international honours for their efforts.'


The new system has reduced the process cycle time to 5-10seconds and brought down the cost of processing to only 10Baiza through automated sorting of applications. In addition the solution also helps the Ministry of Manpower to maintain information accuracy and promote transparency in the recruitment process ensuring equal opportunity for all.

Nasser Al Badri, Head of Recruitment and Omanisation Office at the Royal Court Affairs, described the award winning solution as follows, 'The solution is to perform first short listing operation of the job applicant by integrating the RCA application program, the Ministry of Manpower (MoMP) registration system and Mobile Phone technology. Applicants can apply for RCA vacancies by sending an SMS with the MoMP registration code and their preferred Job Code. A mediator system will fetch the applicant details from the MoMP and the job requirements from office of recruitment in RCA. Next, it matches the codes between the registrant and the job and if successful, then the candidate is shortlisted.'

'The system will also check any further requirements like Area, Driving License, Qualification, Specialisation, Experience, occupational experience, Training requirements of the candidates with details of the applied candidate. If the candidate does not satisfy any of the above conditions then the candidate's application will be rejected and an SMS will be sent to the candidate with valid reason as to why the candidate is rejected,' Al Badri said.

'Once the candidate satisfies all the requirement of the applied job then the candidate is validated and a registration number is generated. A message will be sent with this registration number along with a congratulatory message. Through this project Omani citizens have been greatly benefitted because now they can seek jobs that befit their qualifications and can edit their applications and reapply with the same registered details from anywhere through an SMS without having to travel to ministry office,' he added.


E-Government & Institutions, e-Health & Environment, e-Learning & Education, e-Entertainment & Games, e-Culture & Heritage, e-Science & Technology, e-Business & Commerce and e-Inclusion & Participation are the 8 official categories for nominations.

The Sultanate of Oman has made yet another mark in the international arena by winning in this year's World Summit Award and the earlier honour came from the Higher Education Admission System winning a similar award in the e-content category in theWSA2008. It is evident that the progress made by Oman in offering effective e-government solution through a strategic vision has been recognised at global level.


Source AMEINFO

A proud day for Oman and congratulations to all the men and women who worked in this project. Also, a great encouragement for us all working in the ICT industry in Oman.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Success of Mobile Technologies in Oman


Technology and STING

Desktop computers first entered my life back in 1997-1998 when I was still a teenager. Within months, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) became an integral part of my life. I have been studying about and working in this field for more than 10 years now. This created opportunities for everybody in Oman. Not just businesses, but also normal computer users who started manipulating the ignorant media and public for fame and god knows what. In fact, this still happens.

Why Mobiles Spread Faster?

Desktop computers and internet connections entered the homes in Oman slowly, whereas mobile telephony started to spread like forest fire. This brings me to the topic of my post, I always wondered why is it that the mobile phones did so much better than computers in Oman and perhaps the region?


Omani ICT Stats

According to the latest data available, the internet penetration rate is about 2.7 per hundred inhabitants. And the vast majority of users, about 70%, connect using dial up! One must ask why is this? After all, literacy rate and economic conditions in Oman are very good. Unlike the internet and computer usage, mobile phones penetration rate is close to, if not above, 100%. I am sure at least a handful of your relatives and friends come to mind who carry like 3-5 mobile phones and can be contacted on more than one number.

Reasons

Recently, while writing a whitepaper, I got the chance to investigate this phenomenon. I will share some of my findings here, without getting too scientific or going in too much details:

  1. Quantitative Factors
    • Costs: It is cheaper to buy and maintain mobile phones.
    • Infrastructure: Mobile network coverage is well above 90% whereas broadband internet is only available in limited areas.
    • Service Providers (Competition): Standard of mobile telephony services enhanced after the second operator entered the market in 2005.
  2. Qualitative Factors
    • Content: Arabic is the preferred language here relevant content is scarce.
    • Usability: Using a desktop/laptop is more difficult for the non technical people, i.e. no Microsoft Windows virus and blue screen problems with mobile phones.
    • Relevance: User specific functionalities are readily available in an user friendly way in mobile phones, i.e. make a call, send a message, take a picture, et cetera. Same is not true for desktop/laptop computers and internet users.
The Future

Of course, looking at how things are going in Oman and considering the technological advancements, specifically the convergence of services and devices, it seems that number of people online, i.e. using the internet, would rapidly increase in Oman in the near future.

For this to happen though, the government (TRA and ITA) would have to continue playing an active role along with the businesses in Oman; they must take advantage of technological advancements and provide creative solutions to the unique hurdles in that exist in Oman.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

New Mobile Service Providers in Oman

Last year about 6 businesses were awarded Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licenses by TRA Oman. We can debate about having so many mobile telephony service providers in Oman, a country with about 3 million people, but I think we just better wait and see how this goes.

There are rumors around already about a couple of these virtual operators having second thoughts, but again, they are just rumors.

Among these operators, FRiENDi Mobile and Renna Mobile (Majan Telecom) have already started marketing and are expected to start full operations anytime. On the contrary, Injaz Telecom and Mazoon Mobile are yet to make their presence felt.



Looking at their websites, it seems Mazoon will target young Omanis. This is not a bad idea, specially since about 50% of Omanis are students. FRiENDi Mobile seems to target the labor class and expats in Oman. This is clear from their multilingual website, but the question is, how many of these expats would be interested in a website available in their local language. In fact, how many of them know what a website is and know how to access it? Can't say much about Injaz or Renna, but I'm sure they either have something up their sleeves, or working towards it! Let's wait and see.

New businesses are always good, but I really hope a good number of jobs are created for Omanis, otherwise its business as usual. Among these new operators, I reckon FRiENDi and Mazoon (whenever it starts) would do good.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

John Stewart Roasts CNBC


They say don't believe everything you read, in today's world, don't believe anything you read, hear or watch. At least, not before questioning and analyzing it to the best of your ability. We are lazy beings, we tend to just simply believe information we’re exposed to. It might be difficult, but observing everything analytically expands our knowledge and understanding, and isn’t that worthwhile?

Had business people and investors in America, around the world for that matter, not blindly followed rumors and news channels, I am sure we would have been in a much better situation economically.

The economical disaster in US has spread across the world, having an economical butterfly effect!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

First Blog Post

I've tried this before, but this time it seems I am here to stay. I found out what can I blog about, and that is the Truth. I believe in questioning everything until its proved to be the truth.

The question is, can you handle the truth?