The Ministry of Technology and Communications (MTC), Gulf Business Machines (GBM) and The Research Council (TRC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement  the Artificial Intelligence projects within the Smart City Platform, which will be a consortium for AI solutions and knowledge sharing in Oman. These projects  are part of a new center for 4IR technologies, which will be launched in the upcoming months by MTC and a number of strategic partners.

The projects  have  been tailored to facilitate research and development in the Sultanate, and will be widely   used by TRC.

 On this occasion, Hassan Fida Al Lawati, D,G, Digital Society Development at MTC said “AI technologies and solutions, which are an integral part of the 4IR technologies, require a stimulating environment for innovation and testing in order to build the capacities and develop the required skills; therefore, we are keen to partner with GBM as a technology partner and TRC Smart City Platform as a research hub to implement the AI projects thus serve the national move towards achieving the goals of  e.oman Strategy.”

“Through our partnership with GBM and TRC Smart City Platform, we seek to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the 4th IR in developing various sectors and economy,” he further added.

“We are proud to be the government’s partner of choice for the AI projects, and are excited to implement our AI offerings to enhance the public and private sector in the Sultanate”, said Eddy Abboud, General Manager of GBM Oman. “At GBM, we are continually working towards increasing AI awareness and capabilities among the government and other stakeholders. This partnership has been made possible thanks to the recently announced Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework, and we hope this will inspire other technology companies to join forces and work towards implementing smarter technologies.”

The  AI projects  will act as a catalyst to advance AI understanding throughout the Sultanate and increase awareness among public and private sector stakeholders and those interested in the technology. GBM will extend partnerships to players in the industry to help run workshops and trainings and develop practical AI cases for government units. This will also support government officials when making important decisions through intra-organizational data sources.

“Earlier this year the Ministry of Health announced AI will be used for diagnosing breast cancer in its early stages. This has put Oman in a strong position, using advanced technology for the public good and working towards the growth of a smart city. We hope the AI projects will help provide a practical AI testbed for inter/intra government solutions, educate the employees on the latest AI solutions and most importantly promote AI as both a pivotal economic enabler and driver for smart cities projects around the Sultanate. We are confident this partnership will strengthen Oman’s role as an important regional player in the fourth industrial revolution,” Abboud commented.

Dr. Hafidh Al Shihhi, Director of Smart City Platform at TRC, said, “The Smart City Platform aims to coordinate and bring together the main stakeholders that can contribute to the AI knowledge dissemination.”

According to Dr. Hafidh, the platform coordinated with Gulf Business Machines to acquire and use some of its tools to be offered for free to the public organizations staff. Employees from respective organizations will be able to tap on these opportunities by getting trained on the latest AI technologies by experts from GBM.

“Our mandate as the Smart City Platform falls within three main pillars, including awareness and capacity building, as well as research and innovation. During the training period on the AI, registered staff will be required to innovate new solutions based upon the tools they learn,” he added.

“The third pillar focuses on stakeholder engagement where the Smart City Platform is bringing together the stakeholders, industry partners, and the government facilitator, which is the Ministry of Technology and Communications,” Dr. Hafidh said.

The projects will be operational annually through a phased approach. It will commence with a nation-wide awareness and promotion campaign in an aim to advocate AI knowledge and incite  public interest. Promotional AI knowledge-sharing workshops and seminars will be carried out by GBM experts to showcase trending AI news, solutions and tools. These workshops will be administered and supervised by MTC and supported by the Smart City Platform, and will target the general public including government staff, startups and SMEs.

The Smart City platform in consultation with MTC will also analyze, define and prioritize potential cases where the technologies can be implemented. Stakeholders of the selected use cases will be notified, briefed and invited to participate. These stakeholders will also be invited to attend training sessions on IBM BI/Watson, which will be carried out by GBM experts and administered by MTC. MTC and the Smart City Platform will continually coordinate and supervise the development of the planned use cases by the trained government staff within an agreed timeframe, with GBM providing mentorship and technical support when needed.

The AI projects  can be a step forward in creating a national AI-ready environment to facilitate innovations in the government sector. The projects  will be a key tool in the development of smart solutions across cities and sectors in Oman, and the digitization of inter/intra-government Business Intelligence solutions.