Saturday, March 22, 2008

ITA Joins Forces with KOM for eGames

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and the Information Technology Authority (ITA) in conjunction with Nawras, Huawei, UMS, Infocomm, Ericsson, Coventry University and the UK’s Advantage West Midlands Regional Development Agency have come together to organize Oman’s annual Serious Games conference scheduled to be held on KOM 31 March – 1 April 2008.

“To be working alongside ITA and partnering with top class organizations like Nawras, Huawei, UMS, Infocomm, Coventry University, Ericsson and Advantage West Midlands is a real privilege and it’s partnerships like this that takes the eGames Conference to a higher level,” comments KOM’s Director General, Mohammed Al Maskari. ITA’s Tufool Al Dhahab endorses this view and says: “Public-private sector alliances like this one will certainly help all parties take ICT awareness in the sultanate to a broader audience. This is something that we at ITA are very excited about.”

Held under the patronage of Maqbool bin Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce & Industry this year’s eGames conference will consider the applications of serious gaming to tourism, heritage, culture, education and health.

According to Al Maskari: “Leading experts from Europe and the US in a range of digital media and communications technologies will be showcasing the use of advanced and innovative technologies to enrich Oman’s culture, heritage, tourism and education experience and make it globally accessible to the widest audience. If you’re involved in any of these sectors then eGames is a must attend event and what’s more, it’s free of charge.”

Where does Al Maskari see serious games taking off? “One very important market sector is in public education and professional training. The information society is changing the nature of the way Omani society works, and I think the way that we’ve educated kids in the past is no longer particularly relevant for the future. If you look at the world that kids are coming into now with console games, smart mobile phones, blogs, P2P Internet networks and digital media, their lives are completely saturated by gaming technologies, and it is such an integral part of their daily life.”

Al Maskari adds: “We need to look at the generation of youngsters that’s coming through. We need to look at the needs of Omani society and the way we learn and look at it in terms of a lifelong learning process, rather than training for skills. This, I believe, will influence the way we use serious games technologies.”

Today, there’s a greater emphasis on learning by discovery rather than learning by being told something. Learners are exploring and discovering. Al Maskari believes that technologies like GIS, Google Earth, and Microsoft Virtual Earth are going to be influential in the way that Oman-based students learn in the future. “I think what’s happening is that the balance of the way we learn is shifting away from the hierarchical model of absorbing knowledge into much more of a collaborative discovery-based type of peer‑to‑peer learning. Indeed, serious games technology has applications for training surgeons, entrepreneurs, nurses, oil rig engineers through to military personnel. There are no learning limits to serious gaming.”

From a university point of view, Al Maskari argues that those universities who are able to meet the expectations and aspirations of Generation Y will be the universities that will succeed in the future, certainly, in attracting students to be part of it and also being able to deliver on the expectations of both the students and Omani society as well.

Further information on the eGames Conference can be viewed at:

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