According to Ibtisam Al Faruji, KOM's Head of Marketing: "The 10 June seminar has attracted a superb line-up of IT and telco experts, these include: Dr. Mohammed Al Wohaibi, Omantel, Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi, Information Technology Authority; Karim Rahemtulla, Infocomm Group (pictured), Tarek Khorshid, Omania e-Commerce; Dr. Irfan Ahmad, Yahoo!; Dr. Roger Hage, Ericsson; Graham Porter, Cisco; Peter Honore, Nawras; and Dr. Sherif Aziz, Middle East College of Information Technology.
Access to goods, services and information, to say nothing of employment and ways of communicating, is increasingly dependent on your ability to access and use information technology and the Internet. But how are people expected to learn about, and access such technology? Many assume that it is only a matter of time until everyone in Oman will have access to the Internet from their home.
However, there are reasons for doubting whether such a scenario is plausible in the short-term. Universal infrastructure provision looks unlikely in rural areas. Meanwhile the cost of computers, modems and links to the Internet service provider remains a substantial investment for many people. The effective use of technology also requires appropriate skills, know-how and information services in addition to access itself.
In this context fears have been expressed about the creation of a group of information poor: that section of the population excluded from the information society. Such social exclusion is not simply a consequence of lack of funds. It may also be due to a lack of training and other support networks to learn about the potential of technology and the Internet and to provide a context in which people feel comfortable using it. It can also come about from an absence of services and content tailored to the needs of particular groups or to the ways in which they want to access information.
"The Digital Nation seminar will also be looking at the importance of high speed Internet to Oman's business community", said Al Faruji, "small businesses are the backbone of our economy. A large proportion of these businesses employ less than 10 people. Indeed, access to high-speed Internet is essential for both businesses and communities of the future. It's all about how change is going to happen. Just as the lack of a decent road hindered the development of villages and businesses in the past, so all communities will have a more limited future and won't flourish without broadband."
"We need to extend broadband faster as it benefits both businesses and communities," says Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM's Director General. "Broadband isn't just about being able to download from a Website faster - a dependable, always on, fast Internet connection will have an enormous impact on Oman's prosperity and quality of life. These are just some of the issues the panel will be tackling on the night of the 10th," says Al Maskari.
The Digital Nation Seminar and Dinner are free of charge, to attend e-mail your name and contact co-ordinates to: Ibtisam@kom.om
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