Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Education & Manufacturing Partnership

PEIE launched its second season of Oman Manufacturing Group (OMG) seminars on Monday night at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel.

The topic under discussion was Education, Training and Manufacturing: Going Global and the panellists included: Abdullah Al Jufaili, Intilaaqah Enterprise Fund; Abeer Abdullah, Knowledge Horizon; Professor Andrew Self, Serco; Steve Bakalis, Ministry of Higher Education; Talal Al Rahbi, Information Technology Authority; and Dr. Evanglous Asendras, Sultan Qaboos University. The 90 minute panel discussion was moderated by Infocomm’s Managing Director, Karim Rahemtulla. Over 180 people from manufacturing, business, education and government attended the seminar.

Nurturing talent, creativity and building stronger dialogue between manufacturing and higher education were the key themes of the evening. “If we aren’t designing the right degree courses, if manufacturing isn’t in dialogue with colleges and universities then how are we to produce the skilled knowledge workers required to take Oman’s manufacturing sector forward?” asks OMG Co-ordinator and PEIE Marketing Officer, Mulkie Al Hashmi. The objective behind the OMG series is to bring the relevant stakeholders together and discuss issues of concern to Oman’s manufacturing sector. According to Al Hashmi: “Monday night’s session was very well received and we were delighted with the feedback.”

On developing and attracting talent to the manufacturing sector, Rahemtulla says: “The most important national and corporate resource over the next 20 years will be talent. Smart, sophisticated businesspeople who are technologically literate, globally astute and operationally agile. And even as the demand for talent goes up, the supply of it will be going down. So, if we’re to compete globally, we’ve got to get our heads round this issue and look seriously at how we train, educate, attact and retain the right human capital. The OMG seminar addressed these issues squarely. I’m confident that as a result of Monday night’s discussion we’lll see a revitalized education and manufacturing relationship emerge.”

It was evident from the panel discussion and the questions raised by attendees that innovation is critical to the future success of manufacturing and wealth creation in Oman. This is a hard economic fact. Government, the private sector and education, need to work together to create the best possible conditions for innovation in manufacturing, to put innovation at the centre of corporate strategies and to convey to young people the excitement and challenges of the advances taking place today in manufacturing, entrepreneurship, science and technology. “Manufacturing is an exciting sector and we’ve got to get that message out to Oman’s youth – encourage them to study, maths, science and engineering and create industry role models. In particular, we’ve got to get this message across to young women,” says Knowledge Horizon’s Abeer Abdullah.

“We need to see government, manufacturing, higher education, schools and support providers coming together on a more regular basis. Such meetings would play an important role in creating a network and co-ordinated structure that could improve the viability, growth and competitiveness of the sultanate’s manufacturing community. PEIE’s OMG seminar program plays an important role in this regard,” suggests Abeer.

The importance of partnerships was highlighted by Professor Andrew Self, former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Kingston University, London and advisor to Oman’s Minister of Higher Education, HE Dr. Rawiya Al Busaidi on the Colleges of Applied Science: “We need to encourage, for example, partnerships between manufacturers, using clusters and networks to pool their strengths and share best practice. Between manufacturers and universities and colleges to exploit research and provide the skilled people manufacturing needs. Between government and manufacturing to create the best possible conditions for innovation and provide the co-ordinated support manufacturers need to be innovative.” He added: “We also need to promote strategies that focus on innovation in products, people and processes. If this can be accomplished then we’ll raise productivity and higher level skills development within the economy.”
Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Oman Manufacturing Group: New Season Begins

Monday night (28 January) sees the first Oman Manufacturing Group seminar of the 2008 season and the topic is: Education, Training & Manufacturing: Going Global. On the panel is Abeer Abdullah (pictured), Head of Professional Qualifications, Knowledge Horizon, a Muscat-based training provider. We took five minutes from Abeer’s busy schedule and this is what she had to say on the topic.

Why should manufacturers work with education?
An industry is only as good, or as bad, as the people who work in it. More people with better skills who understand the manufacturing sector will mean a stronger industry – one that’s more competitive and able to compete in the global economy. There are more subtle reasons though. The manufacturing sector is a complicated creature, stretching out from research and development, marketing, sales, logistics, product design, packaging, finance and international trade – it’s a fiercely competitive commercial sector. Traditionally, manufacturing hasn't had a particularly strong dialogue with education. There has been, and there remains, quite a large gap between what people learn in school, college and university about manufacturing and what they then hope to go and do in the industry. Unless manufacturers help education to understand it better as a place for young people to work in, and also take time itself to understand education better, then we're not going to give young people the relevant skills to enable them to work and fulfil their professional ambitions in the sector.

You often here management say: 'What if we train our staff and they leave?' What are your thoughts on this?
For me, the simple answer is what if you don't train them and they stay? Manufacturers, indeed, most businesses, fear investing in employees in case they leave, and take the benefit of that investment with them. Surely a far larger threat comes from growing a manufacturing workforce which doesn’t learn, develop or deliver the quality required to ensure the future prosperity of Oman’s manufacturing base? How are our manufacturers expected to go global without the properly trained personnel?

Indeed, Oman's manufacturing sector is at significant turnin point. Rapidly growing economies around the world are generating considerably more qualified manufacturing specialists than we are – for example, chemical and mechanical engineers. We need to be encouraging younger people to study maths, engineering and science at university. The numbers of those studying these subjects are low and that’s something we need to remedy. I firmly believe we have an obligation to improve the training and education landscape for Omani manufacturing and address the issue before it's too late.

Do manufacturers know enough about the domestic training market – what’s available?
I doubt it. We need to address the 'hit and miss' skills landscape manufacturers have to navigate. There are some excellent examples of professional training programmes out there today — and there are manufacturers that are implementing world-class skills, and training providers are delivering outstanding content through quality assessors/trainers. But they are islands of excellence. There’s a lot of good and a lot of bad out there and separating the two can be daunting for the uninitiated.

I also feel there’s a lack of clear communication about the wider business benefits that better skills and learning can provide. The result is that manufacturers are keen to implement training but often only plan for a short-term change rather than using skills strategically to improve the long-term future of their business.Finally, and probably most importantly, we must ensure training products and services are driven by manufacturers. Too many existing training products and services have not been developed with industry's needs in mind. This makes it even more difficult for manufacturers to find courses and services that fit their needs. The problem isn’t that manufacturers don't want to improve through education, but they are simply confused by what confronts them when they look for high quality training.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

In collaboration with PEIE, Intilaaqah Enterprise Fund (IEF) has agreed to sponsor PEIE’s Big Ideas Tent (9/10 February in Sohar), the Oman Manufacturing Group Seminar Program (OMG) and PEIE’s annual Smart Manufacturing Conference (12/13 May).

IEF is a revolving fund dedicated to providing business development support and finance to small and medium-sized enterprises. The US$10 million fund was established by Shell in 2007 and is managed by GroFin Oman.

Intilaaqah’s Director and IEF Marketing focal point, Abdullah Al Jufaili, will participate at all three PEIE initiatives and present at the OMG seminar: “Education, Training & Manufacturing: Going Global” scheduled for 7:45pm, 28 January at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel.

The first OMG seminar of 2008 will explore themes of education and training and their relationship to globalisation. According to Al Jufaili “If Oman’s manufacturing sector wants to compete globally then we need to upgrade employee skills and knowledge. We need to understand how Oman’s higher education and training sector can equip the manufacturing sector with the right human capital, skills and know how.”

Abeer Al Abduwani, Manager, GroFin said: “We’re delighted that IEF is supporting PEIE initiatives. Indeed, this will give leverage to the fund and provide an opportunity for our fund managers to develop stronger ties with manufacturers and meet the sector’s needs.”

Al Jufaili adds: “Our presence at this year’s OMG Seminar Program will ensure that the IEF is positioned to help drive forward training, innovation and entrepreneurship in the marketplace. In particular, the 28 January OMG panel on education and manufacturing will address a highly topical and relevant subject and I think many people in business as well as in government circles will want to hear these issues discussed. We’re very excited about our participation.”

Hilal Al Ahsani, PEIE’s CEO comments: “IEF’s sponsorship of OMG, the Big Ideas Tent and Smart Manufacturing Conference adds substantial value to these important manufacturing initiatives, and the participation of Abdullah will be a huge draw card and offers great value to attendees."

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Attracting Talent

We hear a lot about the New Economy as if it only applies to IT or is still some way in the future; that it's something only young techies in smart offices are involved in. If that’s what you think then you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact it's here and it's now and it affects us all.

Today’s modern economy is fast moving, dynamic, ever-changing and global. To be successful, companies, countries and cities must master the art of innovation, constantly developing and adopting the best products, techniques and practices and attracting the right kind of human capital. Indeed, successful cities will be those that can adapt to the demands of rapid change, that are flexible, creative and diverse and manage change rather than being drowned by it.

Benchmarking Cities
The World Knowledge Competitiveness Index benchmarks the world's high performing cities in terms of their performance on four crucial variables - knowledge capital, human capital, regional economic outputs and knowledge sustainability and it makes for sober reading. The recent Index is dominated by US cities. The top 21 world knowledge competitive cities are all in North America. In fact, the first European city to feature in the ranking is Stockholm at 22nd and there’s no Gulf city listed in the top 125.

The world's burgeoning cities are a critical fact of the twenty-first century - and represent one of the greatest challenges of the future. By the year 2050 cities with populations over three million will more than double from 70 today to over 150. When knowledge is perhaps the most important factor in today’s economy, there’s a growing interest in the concept of the knowledge city. But it isn’t just large cities that have cornered the market in attracting talented people. For example, in the US a number of smaller cities have some of the highest concentrations of creative people in the nation notably college towns such as Austin, Texas, East Lansing, Michigan and Madison, Wisconsin. But where does Muscat stand on attracting talent and establishing itself as a knowledge city?

We’ve a Tech Park
Clean, unpretentious and safer than most cities, Muscat is home to KOM the Rusayl-based Technology Park. Tenants on the Park are exempt from corporate taxes, have access to Class A office accommodation and superb telco infrastucture. Its tenants live in modern, comfortable and affordable housing, their kids attend great schools and healthcare here is second to none. The Park’s firms are positioned to tap into a growing, youthful Middle East market, and a young, educated, increasinly tech-savvy, multilingual indigenous workforce. All of this should bode well. Among others, Hewlett Packard; Microsoft; Qatar Airways; Oracle; Huwaie; ITA; Infocomm; and NCR are taking advantage of what KOM offers. But if we want to attract creative talent to Oman – multinationals and entrepreneurs that drive innovation and create employment – KOM won’t achieve this on its own. The point is, Oman doesn't have just one competitor - either the UAE or Saudi Arabia or Qatar. That's not how the global economy works. We’re competing against a collection of countries simultaneously, and the cumulative effect of a UAE plus a Saudi Arabia plus a Qatar plus a Thailand plus an India is something to worry about. So what should we be thinking?

The concept of attracting talent and multinationals to Oman is an important issue. Indeed, in the battle for global talent we're moving from a company-centric economy to a people-driven one. Simply put, people are turning to their community rather than to their company to define themselves and location is taking presedence over the corporation. For example, when smart individuals and firms visit KOM, they don't just consider the Class A office accommodation, the tax benefits and infrastructure on offer. Increasingly, they check out what’s available and happening in Muscat – the recreation and sports facilities, the standard and availability of accommodation, schools, healthcare facilities, flight connections, cinemas, night life, musuems, shopping centres, art galleries and restaurants. They’re looking for audial and visual cues which signal whether Muscat is a place where they and their employees can live, work and play.

It is also apparent from talking to people that location is as important as salary and career opportunity. Again, recent studies suggest that folk who make a job-based decision to re-locate but neglect lifestyle factors such as recreational and cultural amenities move again shortly thereafter.

A High Amenity City
In order to help Oman attract talent and multinationals, what we should be looking to develop is Muscat as a high-amenity place where you can get anything you need instantaneously. If you're pulling an all-nighter, you can get a Thai take away at 2am. When your dry cleaning piles up, there's a place in CityCentre that will take care of it in 30 minutes. If you need to blow off steam, there's a skatepark to ride or a wadi to bash! In brief, a place that has all these amenities is efficient. You save time when you live there. Many of these amenties are on offer in Muscat – but are we (collectively) getting this message across to international firms and entrepreneurs? Perhaps not.

Obviously, cities differ considerably in their ability to attract and retain human capital and the companies these folk manage, this is why talent hasn't spread evenly across the economic landscape and helps explain the emergence of business and technology clusters. From experience, it’s more than apparent that people look for the same things in a city that they look for in a company: energy, amenities and a sense of fun. In Oman, folk want to be able to go camping, cycling and picnicing on beaches. Now, when you question potential residents whether they camp, cycle or picnic on beaches, generally the answer is “no”. But they want such activities to be available, because they like the idea of being able to do them if they want to.

Low Entry Barriers
Economists have long spoken of the importance of industries having low entry barriers, so that new firms can easily enter and keep the industry vital. Similarly, it's important for a city to have low entry barriers for people - that is, to be a place where newcomers are accepted quickly into various social and economic arrangements. All things being equal, if Oman adopts this approach, we’re likely to attract greater numbers of talented and creative people - the type of people who power innovation, entrepreneurship and create employment. Cities that thrive in today's world tend to be plug-and-play communities where anyone can fit in quickly. On its own, building a first class Technology Park won’t attract greater talent and more international firms, we need to work harder on offering more lifestyle options and greater cultural diversity.

Talent Magnet
Talented people seek an environment open to differences. Many highly creative people, regardless of ethnic background, grew up feeling like outsiders, different in some way from most of their schoolmates. When they’re sizing up a new company, city or country, acceptance of diversity is a neon sign that reads "non-standard people welcome here." Put simply, and as mentioned earlier, crusaders of the New Economy increasingly take their professional identities from where they live, rather than from where they work. In the past you'd meet a guy on a plane, ask him what he does, and he'd tell you that he's writes code at Oracle. Today, it's, “I design educational game software and live in Madison.” The most important national and corporate resource over the next 20 years will be talent. Smart, sophisticated businesspeople who are technologically literate, globally astute and operationally agile. And even as the demand for talent goes up, the supply of it will be going down. We’ve great ideas, we’ve got money - we just don't have enough talented people to pursue those ideas. We’re talent-constrained. So, if we’re to compete, we’ve got to get our heads round this issue and look seriously at how we retain and attact the right human capital.

So, if Muscat wants to attract and retain creative talent what are the questions we should be asking? Here’s a starting point:

o What will attract young bright creative minds to Muscat?
o How do we inspire the Omani community (nationals and expatriates) as a whole to take ownership in making Muscat a more creative city?
o What other cities should we model our efforts on and why?
o What are some of the key success factors to making Muscat a creative city?
o Conversely, what are some of the barriers?
o Identify positive creative initiatives currently underway that we can build on.
o Is the creative community in Muscat a cohesive one or does it function in silos?
o Where are the opportunities for increased collaboration/cohesion?
o What’s the role of economic development in building a creative city?
o What are some current opportunities to do this?
o What steps can Muscat take to become an internationally recognized medium-sized creative city?
o What can the private sector do to improve the quality of life indicators of Muscat?

Research clearly indicates that talent is attracted to three types of New Economy hot spots. First, there's the traditional, high-tech industrial complex such as California’s Silicon Valley. Then there's the "latte town" - high-energy places with easily accessible outdoor amenities, such as Boulder, Colorado. Finally, there are new urban technology centres cropping up, such as Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington. Indeed, Muscat’s fate cannot depend, quite obviously, on the performance of one Technology Park or one Free Zone or one Port. Its prosperity will depend on the productivity of all its economic sectors and in its ability to collectively create a diverse environment - and one that doesn’t compromise local culture - that is attractive to both talented entrepreneurs and multinationals.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Manufacturers Need Educating

Recent figures indicate that Oman’s manufacturing sector is on the rise and for many companies export order books are full. “The figures are highly encouraging. Clearly, we’re witnessing a fundamental shift in our economy and it’s being driven by globalisation, knowledge, technology and innovation and it’s quickly changing the nature of manufacturing and the type of workforce and skills we need in the sector,” says Hilal Al Ahsani, CEO, PEIE. “Today’s manufacturing sector is knowledge, skills, innovation and enterprise driven and if we’re to keep export order books full we need to ensure that manufacturers stay focused on these key issues.”

Al Ahsani suggests that one way of fostering innovation and enterprise in manufacturing is to strengthen the sector’s ties with higher education. In early 2007, PEIE introduced the Oman Manufacturing Group (OMG), a quarterly networking seminar program that brought together a core of enthusiastic and energetic individuals from manufacturing and academia, committed to developing and sustaining a strong future for Omani manufacturing.

One issue which gives Al Ahsani cause for concern is that manufacturing has historically demonstrated a serious weakness in what he describes as networking capacity. “Bluntly,” says Al Ahsani “not enough people within the sector are talking, interacting and trading with each other. This is why we see OMG as such an important initiative and that’s why we’ve designed a further four OMG seminars for 2008,” says the PEIE CEO.

As well as building networking capacity, Al Ahsani believes there’s a real need to address issues such as productivity, entrepreneurship, innovation and the development and exploitation of new technologies. In fact, central to achieving this, is the continued development and enhancement of long-term collaboration between manufacturing and education and Al Ahsani fully expects the OMG program to a go a long way in helping develop this relationship.

“Manufacturing is a significant economic, social and cultural phenomenon in Oman,” argues Al Ahsani. “We’ve a rich mix of export-facing tenants manufacturing fibre optic cables, batteries, confectionary through to textiles, a relatively mature stock of enterprises in terms of business age, and a high level of business confidence.” Whilst many manufacturers may not see the need for supplementary business support from academia, those that have sought it have generally been highly satisfied with what they have received and how it has helped them take their operations forward.

The first OMG seminar of the year will be held Monday 28 January at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel and is entitled Education, Training & Manufacturing: Going Global. Leading the panel of speakers will be Professor Andrew Self OBE, (pictured) former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Kingston University. OMG seminars are free of charge and open to all. Further information on the 2008 program can be viewed at: http://www.peie.om/
Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

PEIE's Calendar of Events

It’s going to be a busy year! Here’s the 2008 calendar of events for PEIE and KOM. Please mark these dates in your diary.

Oman Manufacturing Group (OMG) Seminar Series
1. Education, Training & Manufacturing: Going Global: 28 January
2. Green Manufacturing: 9 June
3. The Art of Manufacturing: 29 September
4. Manufacturing Strategies for Tomorrow: 1 December

Digital Nation Seminar Series
1. Oman’s Digital Challenge: Closing the Gap: 11 March
2. Second Life: Get One: 26 May
3: Locally Generated Content: Anything Out There? 15 September
4. Blogging Around Town: 10 November

OMG & Digital Nation Booking
All OMG and Digital Nation seminars are free of charge and held at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel. Seminars start at 7:45pm. However, we need you to confirm your attendance so we know to expect you. Places are strictly limited to 150 so please book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. To book your place please contact Mulkie Al Hashmi on (+968) 24 15 51 35 or e-mail info@peie.om stating your name(s) and organization.

1. eGames Conference: 31 March/1 April (held at Knowledge Oasis Muscat)
2. Smart Manufacturing Conference: 12/13 May (held at Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel)

PEIE’s Carbon Footprint
In an attempt to lessen our carbon footprint PEIE has endeavoured to channel all forms of communication via the internet. As such you will find all necessary information on the aforementioned PEIE and KOM initiatives on http://www.peie.om/ and http://www.kom.om/
Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Saturday, January 12, 2008

PEIE Pitches Big Ideas Tent in Sohar

The Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) has announced that in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry it is to organize a ‘Big Ideas Tent’ exhibition and seminar program 9th and 10th February 2008 on Sohar Industrial Estate. The two-day program is being held to celebrate Oman’s Industry Day.

The Big Ideas Tent seminar and exhibition will be held under the patronage of HE Maqbool bin Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Chairman, PEIE. According to Nasser Al Rahbi, PEIE’s Media & Communications Co-ordinator (pictured): “The purpose of the Big Ideas Tent is to stimulate new thinking in areas of importance to manufacturing and to help PEIE identify areas in which it should be seeking to develop new services or support.” The seminars will be moderated by eminent figures in the field and bring together a panel of expert thinkers and practitioners for a full and frank discussion. The seminars and exhibition are free of charge and open to all though participants are required to register in advance.

“There's always plenty to talk about in manufacturing,” says Al Rahbi “so to focus seminar discussion we’re inviting delegates to submit questions in advance via e-mail (info@peie.om) these can be short or long, plain or nuanced, serious, heartfelt, flippant or funny. The seminar chair will also open up each question to the audience, so that everyone is free to join the debate and to challenge or develop points made by the various panels. The event is intended to be lively and highly interactive.”

Some of the issues that Al Rahbi expects to be covered at the Big Ideas Tent seminar include: Who’s financing manufacturing and on what terms? What areas within manufacturing are crucial to Oman’s competitiveness and why? How does manufacturing serve to power the Oman's knowledge economy? Is it the best engine for this and how does it compare with alternative means of progress and innovation? What is needed to maximize the potential of manufacturing in relation to the knowledge economy? How do we ensure that it is sustainable and principled with regard to globalization? Is it important to have a visually literate manufacturing sector?

Panelists for the five seminar panels include representatives from: Reem Batteries; Ministry of Commerce & Industry; Jotun; Amouage; GroFin Oman; Hussam Technology; Teclution; Knowledge Horizon; Total Alignment; Infocomm; Microsoft; Ericsson; Oracle; Cisco; Oman Cables; and Sohar Aluminium.

The breadth of experience and range of products and services that will be demonstrated at the Big Ideas Tent exhibition will offer solutions to many of the issues facing today’s manufacturers. The event has been designed specifically to provide both exhibitors and visitors with extensive opportunities to network with others in the industry, while also keeping abreast of the latest developments in the field. “We hope manufacturers and those that serve the sector will be able to attend, network, socialize and share ideas,” said Al Rahbi.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Thursday, January 10, 2008

KOM's eGames Conference 2008

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) will host its annual eGames Conference 31 March - 1 April 2008 in Muscat Hall on KOM. The current agenda - and there will be further additions over the next few days -currently looks like this:

Day 1

9:00am – 9:45am Opening Speech
The Future of the Digital Environment

Professor Lizbeth Goodman, SMARTlab, Digital Media Centre, University of East London

Session 1: 9:45am – 10:45am
Gaming & Entrepreneurs: A Case Study
Kevin Corti, PIXELearning

PIXELearning’s Business Game was developed specifically as a teaching aid for UK schools that, from 2005, were required to deliver 5 days of enterprise education to 15 and 16 year olds every year. The majority of teachers who had to deliver this part of the school curriculum had no business experience and were struggling to meet the demands placed upon them.

The Enterprise Game is aimed primarily at the business support/start-up/enterprise agency community and designed to foster the development of general business awareness amongst owner managers and staff. Many small companies are established by people with specific industry skills but who often lack broad business acumen.

The Enterprise Game is based on the same underlying simulation code as The Business Game but has been tweaked to be more challenging for adult learners and includes more detail in, for example, finance and marketing. How can Oman’s schools and colleges benefit from serious gaming technology. How do we take serious games to prepare young Omanis for the business world. Indeed, can serious games help foster a new generation of Omani entrepreneurs?

Networking Break: 10:45am – 11:00am

Session 2: 11:00am – 12:30pm
Gaming for Culture

Mike Gogan, Blitz Games
Professor Lizbeth Goodman, SMARTlab, Digital Media Centre, University of East London

Mike Gogan is one of the world’s leading creators of virtual reality and 3D multimedia content in the Cultural Heritage sector. He has delivered inspiring virtual reality and multimedia interactive products to some of the most iconic heritage sites in the UK and beyond. Indeed, he and his team at Blitz Games are leading the way in exploring the application of serious games technology in the heritage and culture space.

Professor Lizbeth Goodman will focus on the cultural and heritage research projects that are currently being carried out at SMARTlab and their applications to promoting heritage and culture, tourism and creating locally generated web content. What added value can serious games offer Oman’s dynamic set of tangible and intangible cultural assets?

Session 3: 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Promoting Leisure & Tourism through Second Life

David Wortley, Serious Games Institute, Coventry University

Tourism Ireland has launched a marketing campaign in Second Life; the first time a real world tourist board has used the Internet-based virtual world to market a real holiday destination. Since its establishment in 2003, Second Life has grown significantly and now has nearly 11 million registered users or "residents", 1.6 million of whom use it regularly.

Dublin in Second Life is a well established destination for live music and DJs – in fact, it occasionally makes the top 10 list of the most popular places to visit in the virtual world. Tourism Ireland's decision was influenced by the fact that 60% of Second Life's users are from Ireland's four biggest tourist markets - Great Britain, the US, Germany and France, and half those are more than 30 - a key demographic for tourism to Ireland.

Experts predict that the web will be three-dimensional in a decade's time and virtual worlds such as Second Life give us some idea of what the web may look like in the future. Second Life is one of the biggest virtual worlds in existence and many major brands, including Coca-Cola, Vodafone, IBM, Toyota, Sony and Adidas already have a presence there. Within the tourism industry, Starwood Hotels have used Second Life to pilot the design of a new series of hotels and Thomas Cook offers customers virtual package tours. What can Second Life offer Oman and its rapidly expanding tourism sector? Should we be spending a larger slice of the country’s marketing budget online?

Lunch: 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Session 4: 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Serious Gaming, Mobiles & the Consumer
Moderator: David Wortley, Serious Games Institute, Coventry University
Panel: TBA, Gartner; TBA, Nawras; Dr. Andreas Liffgarden, Ericsson & Karim Rahemtulla, Infocomm

Consumers are increasingly using technology to customize the shopping process to their specific needs. In this regard, retailers must understand how consumers are interacting with their brands as this will have a substantial impact on how retail operations will evolve in the future. It is estimated that by 2010, 20 per cent of global Tier 1 retailers will have a marketing presence in online games and virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds are expanding rapidly. To date, Second Life has nearly 11 million registered ‘residents’ who spend in excess of US$1million every 24 hours buying property, items or experiences in-world. Similarly, research suggests that the popularity of online gaming will continue to expand. Indeed, virtual worlds are emerging as places where consumers can shop and retailers need to be ready to respond to this growing demand.

On the mobile front, it is estimated that by 2012, the number of consumers using mobile phones to shop will increase at an average of more than 25 per cent per year. Mobile commerce has been viewed as an emerging new sales channel for retailers for some time now but retail revenue through mobile phones is currently very low, much less than 1 per cent of total sales. However, as mobile phones evolve in form and function, the impact of the mobile phone on retail sales is set to increase.

Through 2010, consumers will use the phone as part of their shopping activities to search, browse, find locations and check stock. Eventually, consumers will use mobile phones to purchase merchandise. So what role will serious games and mobiles play in the marketing and retailing space?

eGames Dinner : 8:00pm - Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel

Day 2

10:00am – 2:30pm: Secondlife.com Workshop

Led by David Wortley, Serious Games Institute, Coventry University (Further details on the Workshop to be posted in the next few days)

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

PEIE's Big Ideas Tent in Sohar

This is a note to let you know that PEIE is organizing a ‘Big Ideas Tent’ exhibition and seminar program 9th and 10th February 2008 on Sohar Industrial Estate. The event is being held to commemorate Oman’s Industry Day and we hope you will be able to come along and network, socialize and debate some of the burning issues facing Oman’s manufacturing sector.

The event format for Saturday 9 February is as follows:

8:00am 9:30am Registration
9:30am 9:45am Opening Remarks – PEIE
9:45am 10:00am Opening Remarks – Port of Sohar
10:00am 10:30am Investment Opportunities on Port of Sohar
10:30am 10:50am Al Batinah Development Agency
10:50am 11:50am Open Discussion
11:50am 12:15pm Unveiling http://www.originoman.om/
12:15pm 12:45pm Inauguration of Exhibition
12:45pm 1:45pm Lunch
1:45pm Tour of Port of Sohar
3:00pm End of Day 1

There's always plenty to talk about in manufacturing, so to focus the discussion for Day 2 (Sunday 10 February) we are inviting delegates to submit questions which can be short or long, plain or nuanced, serious, heartfelt, flippant or funny. The chair will also open up each question to the audience, so that everyone is free to join the debate and to challenge or develop points made by the panel.

Here are just a few of the burning issues that we might tackle in the Big Ideas Tent on Day 2: Who’s financing manufacturing and on what terms? What does technology really offer manufacturers? How important is life-long learning to the manufacturing sector? Do manufacturers regard new talent as a renewable source of cheap labour? Manufacturing & Education: How de we turn up the volume? Is it important to have a visually literate manufacturing sector? There's much more to debate, so please get involved and submit your questions to Hamida Al Balushi on: Hamida.albalushi@peie.om by Saturday 26 January.

The panelists for Day 2 will include representatives from: Reem Batteries; Ministry of Commerce & Industry; Jotun; Omantel; GroFin Oman; Hussam Technology; Teclution; PEIE; Knowledge Horizon; Total Alignment; Infocomm; Microsoft; Nawras; OCIPED; Ericsson; Oracle; Cisco; Oman Cables; ITA; and Sohar Aluminium and many more...

Session One: 10:00am - 11:45am: Technology & Manufacturing: Where’s it Heading?
It is apparent that manufacturers are failing to invest sufficiently in technology, causing them to lose productivity and market share. A wider integration of ICT by manufacturers throughout Oman would significantly contribute to improve effectiveness and productivity and could potentially revolutionise and maximise processes and firms in a number of key sectors. Indeed, research clearly links ICT with productivity. What role has government, education and the telco providers to play in spreading the value of ICT across the sultanate? Is enough being done to help manufacturers understand the value and importance of ICT? Indeed, are manufacturers helping themselves in this regard?

Session Two: 10:45am - 11:30am: Marketing, Design & Packaging: What’s it Worth?
Manufacturers are having to become more innovative in response to more sophisticated consumer expectations as customers demand, not just lower prices but higher quality and better designed products. Indeed, innovation is a vital ingredient for improved competitiveness and productivity within Oman’s manufacturing sector.

On an environmental note, Oman-based manufacturers need to be more innovative vis-à-vis environmental regulations and sustainable manufacturing. Today, these are not just moral issues for manufacturers, but also, potentially, rich and dynamic features which differentiate them commercially from competitors and provide new market opportunities. Domestic and international consumers are increasingly demanding more than a product - many look more closely at the manufacturer and what it stands for, for example, overcoming the 'throw away' culture, re-configuring and re-designing products to be more environmentally friendly. It is in this regard that innovative marketing, design and packaging play an important role in how the manufacturer and its product(s) are perceived and received in the marketplace.

Session Three: 11:30am - 12:15pm: Education & Training: Turning up the Volume
Manufacturers under-invest in training. However, whilst a very large proportion of small manufacturers provide no training at all, those that do train undertake as much proportionally as larger firms. Most of those who do no training at all are generally absorbed with surviving from day-to-day and are therefore difficult to engage.

Skills needs include customer care, ICT, product assembly, marketing, design, strategy, management and team working. Although precise requirements vary from sector to sector, they are significant for their broadly generic, cross sectoral characteristics.

Skills and education issues of specific concern to Oman-based manufacturers include:

1). Changing the mindset of employers towards management and workforce development, in effect, stimulating a culture change.
2). Tailoring training programs that meet the needs of employers, particularly smaller manufacturers.
3). Promoting the importance of training within the manufacturing environment to offer smaller firms a more flexible solution to workforce development.
4). Promoting the role of Oman’s Higher Education in providing training and R&D support to manufacturers.
5). Enabling young people to make informed decisions about a career in manufacturing by speaking to real people working within the sector.
6). Adopting a long-term training and capacity building strategy for manufacturers

Session Four: 1:15pm - 2:15pm: Exports: The Highs & Lows of Going Global
International trade is an important economic activity for Oman, generating wealth, encouraging innovation, productivity and creating employment. However, despite recognizing the opportunities afforded by international trade it is reasonable to believe that there are a significant number of Oman-based manufacturers that are failing to achieve their full international trading potential. The main reasons for this include:

1). Insufficient export knowledge, market-entry advice and information.
2). Lack of understanding of the available international trade services, market opportunities and the processes involved.
3). Lack of skilled staff, particularly those with management, technical and marketing skills, to develop international markets.
4). Limited access to appropriate finance.
5). Language and cultural barriers.
6). Confusion over how to deal with international paperwork.
7). Belief that there are enough opportunities to trade in the domestic market.

For those manufacturers already buying and selling internationally, the biggest challenge facing them is finding the right partners and markets to do business with. Other challenges include: transactions, distributors and logistics/freight.

Session Five: 2:30pm - 3:15pm: Accessing Money: Who’s Got it & on What Terms?
Finance is readily available. The problem is that manufacturers (mainly small manufacturers) do not come forward with adequate proposals. Indeed, business plans submitted to banks (commercial and development) are often vague in nature. Further work is required on educating manufacturers on the process of applying and securing finance. On the other side, traditional banking practices are not adequate to spur and sustain new companies because the risk management of green field projects cannot be done through commercial lending practices. Who is out there with the cash and what are their terms and conditions?

Each panelist will give a short account of their views on the subject before we launch into a series of questions, responses and general discussion. Throughout Day 2 there will be plenty of time to continue the debate, mingle and network over food and refreshments.

PEIE’s Big Idea Tent event is free of charge and should you wish to attend please send your name and e-mail contacts to info@peie.om

Should your company wish to exhibit at the Big Ideas Tent event please call Mulkie Al Hashmi on: 24 15 51 35 or e-mail: Mulkie@kom.om

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