"The Internet has brought an explosion of creative ideas which are still being developed. Today, the Internet carries much of the information created by man and that's increasing all the time with libraries around the world digitising their content and putting it online so that you're able to read Ibn Majid's poem Hawiya in your living room - even print off a copy. That's exciting and it's up to organizations such as KOM to spread that excitement and encourage people to log on and use the Internet," says Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM's Director General.
"I fully expect the Internet to become ever more personalised", suggests Karim Rahemtulla, CEO, Infocomm and a Digital Nation panelist. "It's all going to be about how you want to see it, what you need from it and what you can contribute to it. For example, development of an intelligent speech interface will mean you'll be able to search for information on a particular topic, analyse it, collate it and present bullets from the top ten most relevant sources. That kind of power is undoubtedly going to change how Oman-based citizens live, work, study and play."
From a business perspective, and according to KOM's Director General, the Internet has triggered a quantum leap in productivity and new possibilities. Today, Oman-based companies have unparalleled access to information. A few years ago you stood out from the crowd if you were on the Internet. Now you're out in the cold if you're not.
"The Internet is changing lives," says KOM's Ibtisam Al Faruji. Indeed, it's radically transforming the way citizens and government communicate with each other and the newly-created ITA is leading the way on this front. "In the not too distant future, the Internet will be the main medium through which we live our lives. As long as connectivity options increase and get faster, we'll see the convergence of the web and audio visual media, to such an extent that the Internet will look more like TV than anything else."
But there are challenges with regard getting Oman-based citizens and firms interested in and using the Internet. "We're still lacking sufficient local content," remarks Al Maskari. However, research clearly demonstrates that the best way to get people learning about the Internet is to get them using it, and the best way to motivate them is to get them using it for something they're interested in. "Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the Internet isn't just about youngsters and techies, we can get older folk interested in the Internet by showing them how to use it to research their family's history, build a family tree and find old pictures of their town or village. At the other end of the age continuum, we can encourage teenagers to use the web using social sites such as isuf.co.om; www.youtube.com; www.myspace.com and Google's www.orkut.com. Parents can be encouraged to help their children with homework assignments by surfing the Internet for relevant information. It's amazing how motivated people become when they realize what the Internet offers them."
The Digital Nation seminar series (www.kom.om/ev.html) is free of charge and open to all. To register, e-mail your name and contacts to: Ibtisam@kom.om
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