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.

2 comments:

  1. One great article, Sting.

    I can see better future for smart phones based on all what you've discussed. More affordable and perhaps and it serves the same purpose of both mobile phones and computers..

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually they are not smart phones. They are somewhere between tablet PCs and smart phones.

    ReplyDelete