Friday, May 29, 2009

Origin Oman Showcases Local Fare

Think about the last meal you ate. Where did it come from? Chances are it traveled further to get to your plate than you have over the last few months. “Just take a look at the labels next time you go shopping, asparagus from Thailand, chicken from Brazil, milk from Saudi Arabia, bananas from the Philippines, lamb from New Zealand, the list goes on,” says Origin Oman’s Hamida Al Balushi and organizer of the recent 150 Kilometre Meal held at Knowledge Oasis Muscat.

Al Balushi argues that food production, distribution and consumption patterns have undergone a major transformation over the past 50 years. Just between 1968 and 2008, world food production increased by over 90%. “Today, we’ve identical products being shipped backwards and forwards with heavy environmental costs. Moreover, changes in our food systems have been a contributing factor in climate change,” suggests the Origin Oman Marketing Co-ordinator.

But It is not just business that is responsible for increased food production and distribution, consumers also play a major role in pushing up food kiometres. Research estimates that the average adult travels over 300 kilometres each year by car to shop for food. In fact, over a 12 month period studies show that even a small family of four emits 4.2 tonnes of CO2 from their house, 4.4 tonnes from their car and 8 tonnes from the production, processing, packaging and distribution of the food they eat.

But according to Al Balushi: “Consumers can make a difference by simply investigating where their food has come from and buying food that has been produced locally. In fact, Origin Oman’s 150 Kilometre Meal clearly illustrated that great tasting food is being produced right on our doorstep and we should be encouraging people to buy it.”

There are lots of places where you can source locally produced food – ranging from fruit and vegetable markets through to the large supermarket chains. Supermarkets are becoming increasingly aware of the demand for local produce. The Origin Oman campaign works closely with many of the large stores who have a policy of sourcing local produce wherever possible. “For instance, Carrefour, Lulu, Khimji Mart and Al Fair all heavily promote local produce and feature Origin Oman prominently in their stores,” smiles Al Balushi.

“Our research,” continues Al Balushi, “revealed that the interest in local food is not confined to the well-heeled, affluent and emerging young middle classes. Origin Oman found that more than 49 per cent of consumers would buy local food if it were more readily available and easy to find. This is fantastic news for Oman’s food and drink sector.”

“Organizing a high profile event like the 150 Kilometre Meal brings us into contact with a variety of people and organizations,” says Ibtisam Al Faruji, Origin Oman’s Marketing Director, adding: “Given the initiative’s’ success, we’re keen to forge closer ties with Oman’s catering sector, particularly hotels and restaurants who recognize the value of promoting local food on their menus. Indeed, we encourage hotels and restaurants to promote their local sourcing by publishing the names of local suppliers on their menus and websites.”

Oman Botanic Garden’s Dareen Matwani and 150 Kilometre Meal diner believes: “Choosing local food is a great way for consumers to increase the circulation of their Rials. By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in our community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, tasty and abundant food.”

As local food becomes an increasingly popular concept there are signs that many producers, including farmers looking to add value to their produce for perhaps the first time, believe that creating a ‘local’ product is enough to guarantee a profitable future. Sadly, this is not so and all those working in this sector must ensure that anything ‘local’ also has quality, proper provenance, traceability and, above all, good taste. “Labeling a vegetable ‘’Omani’ and selling it through a local outlet won’t ensure that it commands a premium, unless it’s produced to the correct specifications and has quality attached. A poor specimen won’t encourage repeat sales and will tarnish the special image of local food,” warns Al Faruji.


What are the Benefits of Buying Local Food?

More nutritious and better-quality food. It is easier to monitor quality and freshness of supplies by buying direct from farmers and producers. Fewer vitamins are lost the less time food is in transit and the quicker it reaches the plate. Chefs can see how animals are reared, produce is grown and items like cheese are made if they are produced near by.

Increases a sense of seasonality. If a chef buys ingredients that are grown locally, then it is going to be seasonal and, therefore, bought when the items are at their cheapest and in peak condition.

Good traceability. It is easier to monitor production and welfare standards with food that is produced just down the road. It's more difficult to carry out checks with farmers and suppliers across the other side of the world.

It's cheaper. The shorter the distance food travels, the lower the costs in aviation fuel and diesel.

Green. Transporting food long distances uses enormous quantities of fuel, which adds to pollution and global warming. Purchasing local foods is generally more sustainable than buying from countries where rainforests are being felled to plant crops.

Economically friendly. Supporting the local economy is advantageous to all parties.

Interesting, tasty products. Locally produced foods are more likely to be made by artisans who put a greater emphasis on producing food with flavour than large manufacturers, who are generally driven by profit.

Great marketing opportunity. Chefs and caterers can promote local sourcing on their menus. Tasty local items like hamour, lettuce, lobster and tomatoes are enticing to customers.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Sunday, May 24, 2009

KOM Showcases Omani Talent at COMEX

Five Knowledge Oasis Muscat-based companies are vying to hit the ground running in 2009 as they pitch their innovative concepts to top executives and investors at COMEX – Oman’s annual ICT exhibition.

From concepts designed to help reduce the spread of CDC H1N1 Swine Flu, to building state-of-the-art WiFi networks through to virtual worlds, serious gaming, and GIS and GPS technologies, the five companies will be “pitching technology with market disrupting potential to local and international companies attending the five-day exhibition,” remarks Mohammed Al Maskari (pictured), Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM).

“The standard of the five young Omani entrepreneurs is incredibly high and we’re very proud to be able to put these companies in front of top-tier executives and investors. I’m sure that any visitor coming along to the KOM pavilion will be impressed at our extremely vibrant and dynamic tenants,” smiles Al Maskari.

“It’s important that we spread the word about tech excellence in Oman,” comments the KOM Director General. “I can say that the talent we’ll have on show at COMEX is second to none. But we must bring together knowledge silos and develop joined-up strategies to promote the Sultanate’s ICT commercial potential. In this regard, events like COMEX play an important role,” points out Al Maskari.

Since its opening in 2003 KOM has adopted an innovative approach and a gateway policy to ensure that the Park becomes successful by attracting start-ups, early stage businesses and multinationals whose core activity is in the knowledge-based economy, science, technology, environmental, ICT and other such related activities to locate at the Park.

“In order to attract entrepreneurial initiatives with good growth potential, we developed a policy of offering flexible tenancy agreements and attractive rents for pioneering knowledge-based businesses. This allowed new initiatives that would not have previously had the means to get started with the opportunity to grow. Moreover, we assist these businesses to expand into a bigger space with equally flexible arrangements. In the process, KOM provides fledgling businesses with access to free business support to help commercialize their ideas,” remarks Al Maskari.

Alongside the business support it offers KOM nurtures innovation and enterprise in budding entrepreneurs of all ages by playing an integral role with its partners in initiatives such as The TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition.

The TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition searches the Sultanate for the brightest entrepreneurs. A RO6,000 cash prize plus an impressive business support package, including 12 months free space at TKM, KOM’s business incubator program, is offered to the winner. “Muscat Geosystems, one of the winner’s of the competition will be exhibiting at COMEX,” remarks Mohammed Al Hinai, TKM Manager. Adding: “Initiatives such as The TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition really demonstrate how KOM is encouraging and supporting enterprise in the community, going further than just creating employment opportunities.”

Since KOM opened its doors it has created an inspiring environment in which enterprise, business growth, job opportunities, education and skills initiatives are born, nurtured and allowed to flourish - turning what was barren land into a source of both employment and inspiration.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eat Local

Savour a slice of locally grown tomato and you instantly know it doesn't get any better than that. It may be harder to notice the differences between some other locally grown and shipped-in produce - carrots, onions and potatoes - but members of the Origin Oman Team, a government-run campaign dedicated to the economic, environmental and nutritional benefits of buying local say their campaign to "Think Local" goes way beyond taste.

Zuhair Al Zadjali along with Origin Oman colleagues Hamida Al Balushi, Nasser Al Rahbi and Bader Al Zadjali are co-ordinating the 26 May 150 Kilometre Meal project and he observes: “100 years ago nearly all the food we ate came from within 30 kilometres of our homes. Nowadays, we feast on the meat of the African Buffalo, or eat cheese made from the milk of the Tibetan Yak, but all this fine dining is having a huge environmental cost.”

The idea of living off locally-sourced food has fallen out of fashion only in the last few decades. But Al Zadjali says: “We’ve living in an age of any time, any place, anywhere food – this might work for telecoms but when it comes to food it’s an unsustainable way to live.”

Zuhair admits that choosing to eat from such a rigidly-defined area is a leap into the unknown for many city-dwelling Oman-based families but firmly believes that initiatives like the 150 Kilometre Meal can make a difference, as what we choose to eat is one of the few areas where we can independently reduce our carbon footprint.

People attending the 150 Kilometre Meal at Knowledge Oasis Muscat on 26 May will do so for very different reasons. Some will leave the event wanting to source 100% of their food locally while others will be saying: ‘OK, I've understood the concept. I can now cook an Oman-produced meal.’ “We're not trying to prescribe, we’re just pointing out that local produce is available and we encourage people to take advantage of it,” says Al Zadjali.

Research suggests that food grown in the community is generally picked within 24 to 48 hours of it appearing in the supermarket - it is crisp, sweet and loaded with flavour. Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to very large factory-style farms. Local farmers don't have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn't use it even if they could. “If you’re worried about eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred as nature intended,” observes Al Zadjali.

“We have to wake up to how important the carbon footprint of food is,” says Alya Al Hosni (pictured) of the Oman Brand Management Unit and confirmed diner at the May 26th event: "Individuals have real power when they act collectively. The food and beverage sector is a very competitive market, so it means that consumer choices, even at the margins, can make a difference to communities right across Oman.”

Alya believes there are a lot of win-wins out there for the 150 Kilometre Meal project: “Buying local creates jobs, develops the local supply chain, reduces our carbon footprint and creates a stronger local community spirit. By supporting local farmers today, we can help ensure that there will be farms in our community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing and abundant food, that’s got to be good for the local community,” smiles Alya.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Friday, May 15, 2009


Listen up folk - investment isn't Oman’s scarcest resource - imagination is. What Oman’s future really depends on is innovation. Indeed, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of innovation. It drives productivity. Helps businesses improve the way products and services are made and delivered. Moreover, it reduces costs by increasing efficiency. In fact, research indicates that innovating companies sustain a higher performance and grow faster than non-innovators. However, it appears that not all Oman-based businesses are taking advantage of these competitive strengths.

Research suggests that one of the measures of innovative performance is the number of businesses that introduce new or improved products, processes or services. In this regard, Oman would appear to be lagging behind. The challenge is to improve on our performance. To be blunt, many of our businesses don’t see innovation as being relevant to them – this is probably due to the fact that they don’t understand how rapidly the world is changing. In fact, globalisation and the major advances taking place in science and technology make innovation essential to most businesses, irrespective of whether you’re operating in Nice, Northampton or Nizwa.

What Don’t You Understand?
The fact that many of our businesses don’t see innovation as relevant may also be due to the perception that innovation is just about science and technology. That’s just plain wrong. Innovation’s about anything that enables a business to improve the products and services it offers. Exploiting new technology may be one way of doing this. But it’s equally likely to come from adopting a new business process, using new management techniques or increasing the skills of your workforce. For example, one of the most potent sources of innovation is design. Design can play a catalytic role in the development process, bringing together all aspects of a business from research, through production, sales and marketing. Let’s be clear, innovation has to be for everyone, it’s just as relevant to service industries as it is to the more technology-driven parts of Oman’s economy.

As most of you would expect, it was Peter Drucker who put innovation centre stage. A lot has been written about technological innovation, but Drucker had something else in mind - a new orientation to the concept of innovation and learning:

"Every organization - not just businesses - needs one core competence: innovation. And every organization needs a way to record and appraise its innovative performance." Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb: 1995).

On the media front, it was probably Fortune magazine that called it first in the business press:

"Innovation is the spark that makes good companies great. It's not just invention, but a style of corporate behaviour comfortable with new ideas and risk...Companies that know how to innovate don't necessarily throw money into R&D. Instead, they cultivate a new style of corporate behaviour that's comfortable with new ideas, change, risk and even failure." (March: 1997).

Simply put, and according to Mark Hobbs, GM, Shaleem Petroleum: “innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas. These ideas may be new, or simply new to your sector, industry or company. It’s a process that creates wealth from knowledge, reflecting the importance of the value of what you know.” I’d expand on Hobbs’ excellent definition to include: Innovation involves the creation of new designs, concepts and ways of doing things and their exploitation and subsequent diffusion through the rest of the economy and society. As such, defining "innovation" with precision is difficult. It can either be wide and embrace all aspects of business or it can be seen as something elitist, practiced by techies in smart offices up at Knowledge Oasis Muscat.

Its Many Interpretations
What folk need to understand is that innovation is interpreted and perceived differently, for example:

o To the business community – it means sustained or improved growth delivering higher profits for its owners and investors.

o To Bader Average – it means new and more interesting work, better skills, higher pay and importantly having a good working environment.

o To Joe Consumer – it means higher quality and better value goods, more efficient services (both public and private).

o For Oman – it’s the key to higher productivity, greater prosperity, higher standards of living and ultimately a more vibrant and flourishing domestic economy.

A survey carried out by Accenture and the Talent Foundation (Innovation - A Way of Being) showed that 61 percent of business executives believe that innovation has increased in importance since 2001. Moreover, it features in the top 10 issues list for 96 percent of all companies. Another telling statistic from the Accenture-Talent Foundation survey is that companies only commercialize 20 percent of their good ideas – now, this just isn’t good enough.

National Innovation Review (NIR)
Innovation is critical to the future success of business and wealth creation in Oman. This is a hard economic fact. Government, the private sector and education, need, therefore, to work together to create the best possible conditions for innovation in business and industry, to put innovation at the centre of corporate strategies and to covey to young people the excitement and challenges of the advances taking place today in science and technology.

We need to see government, industry, business, finance, tourism, higher education, schools and support providers come together. Such a gathering 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 business community.

Partnerships must be encouraged, for example:

o Between businesses, using clusters and networks to pool their strengths and share best practice.

o Between businesses and universities to exploit research and provide the skilled people businesses need.

o Between government and the private sector to create the best possible conditions for innovation and provide the co-ordinated support businesses need to be able to innovate.

We need to promote strategies that focus on innovation in products, people and processes. If this could be accomplished, we’d raise productivity and higher level skills development within the economy. This in turn would lead to greater focus on:

o Business research and development – stimulating business R&D and increasing the pace of R&D commercialisation.

o Demand for higher level skills – in particular employees, who would see business innovation providing new and more interesting work, better skills and higher pay.

o Patents and Licensing – the number of patent registrations and licensing agreements is seen as a critical measure of commercialisation from the knowledge-base to industry.

Perhaps to achieve all of the above, we need to carry out a National Innovation Review – a review that would be clear and specific about where the government should invest public funds to build the infrastructure and provide the support that businesses really require. The review would help us gain an understanding of Oman’s current position and where its ambitions lie in terms of innovation. The review would examine Oman’s existing education, technology, industry, business, finance and tourism infrastructure and also consider how future investment could strengthen our ability to exploit new and emerging areas. The five cornerstones of an NIR would include:

1. Exploiting capabilities - Oman has a growing network of tertiary institutes and research centres at Sultan Qaboos University. We need to bring this innovative thinking into the workplace.

2. Collaborating to compete – we need to bring businesses together to exploit mutually advantageous innovative thinking.

3. Investing in innovation inputs - investing in the training, education and inspiration of Oman’s population.

4. Enhancing innovation culture and spreading best practice.

5. Providing business with an increasing array of 'innovation tools' e.g. finance, skills and market intelligence.

In brief, the principal aim of an NIR would be to improve living standards by promoting innovation and strengthening the economic base of the Sultanate.

Solid Background
Oman has a strong history of being down-to-earth and pragmatic. A country that sees an opportunity and grasps it. In this regard, it’s vital that we build on our many strengths, like the diversity of the people that live and work here. Over the past few years, much has been achieved on the innovation front, for example, the numerous e-Government projects rolled out by ITA – in areas such as health, education, trade (Ministry of Commerce & Industry’s One-Stop-Shop) and social affairs. PEIE’s work in establishing Knowledge Oasis Muscat, the country’s first Technology Park and base for over 65 hi-tech firms. It’s also home to a business incubator program that’s supported by Trowers & Hamlins, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Intilaaqah. In brief, there are some excellent innovative ideas being taken forward.

On a more practical-level, you’re probably wondering what you can do in your own business environment that’ll contibute to a more innovative Oman? Here’s some actionable advice:

1. Focus on making your customers' lives better. If they can't see that your innovation is going to make their education experiences better, their car hire experiences better, or their supermarket shop better, you may as well throw in the towel.

2. Encourage the dreamers, and have planners who can take the dream and put together a plan and then have executors who can make that plan a reality. Moreover, get these folk to interact and work closely together.

3. Some of the best idea people are most satisfied by seeing their ideas get out there. The really valuable ones are those who have been around the block a few times. Whatever you do, don't lose those people.

4. When you get up tomorrow morning, the first thing you should ask youself is: "Why do I believe what I believe?" Constantly examine your own assumptions.

5. We need to create a tangible new venture process inside organizations. Ideas need a home. They need a place to go. They need people to review them.

6. Do what you love to do and surround yourself with people who also love to do that thing and who are full of talent. If you do that, you’ll build a great business, you can build a big business, or you can build a small business. But be passionate about it and you’ll be innovative as a result.

The Way Forward
We need business to succeed. It’s innovative businesses that will create our national wealth - wealth for our citizens, our families and our communities. Indeed, in this global economy, Oman-based businesses must wake up to the fact that they will find it increasingly difficult to sell poorly designed, packaged and marketed products and services that just don’t cut it with increasingly-sophisticated and informed customers. Success will depend on their ability to compete by producing products and services that customers want on the basis of higher levels of knowledge and skills, new processes and ways of working. This is the route to better jobs and a more prosperous Oman.

Why is it then that many Omani firms aren’t innovative? If innovation is to succeed, lack of creativity is generally not the issue. It’s all about providing the environment, people support processes and organizational climate that stimulates and supports idea conversion. Only once we have this in place will Omani firms achieve higher innovation quotients.

Side Bars
“At KOM, innovation’s our lifeblood. To keep moving forward we need new ideas. One of the challenges that a lot of companies face is creating a culture that sustains innovation. We put aside time for free-thinking, where colleagues sit down together and talk about what we do and how we do it. That process includes everybody from customer care, maintenance, finance, marketing and communications to administration. Let people think; let people dream.” Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General KOM

“You hear managers saying: ‘give me ideas.’ Then they’ll say: ‘But I only want ideas that work.’ If we’re serious about innovation, then we need to be prepared to get things wrong. Since the only way you ever learn is by making mistakes, you have to let that happen in your organization and not punish it.” Raza Ashraf, CEO, Total Alignment.

“I know it sounds off the wall, but tension plays a role in the innovative process. I think for most people, productive days come when our backs are to the wall - that's when creativity really kicks in. If we combine tension with an environment that truly encourages us to take risks, we'll see some great ideas emerge.” Karim Rahmhtulla, CEO, Infocomm Group.

“An ecosystem of innovation has to be created in the organization, and that requires two key players: the idea person, and the internal backer. The internal backers are people who may never have an idea, but they provide the functional excellence that takes an idea, moves it on and up, and creates innovation out of it.” Mark Hobbs, GM, Shaleem Petroleum.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Monday, May 11, 2009

Origin Oman Cooks 150 Kilometre Meal

The demand for local food is on the increase. According to Origin Oman market research 68% of consumers want to buy local and 49% want to buy more local produce than they do at the moment.

“Given this demand, more local produce is going to show up on local supermarket shelves and that’s great news for farmers and consumers,” says Origin Oman’s Bader Al Zadjali.

According to Al Zadjali: “Local produce like, pomegranate, sea salt and goat sausage start out as exotic or niche offerings and then move into the mainstream based on consumer demand for variety, premium products and healthy foods.”

Organizer of Origin Oman’s 150 Kilometre Meal scheduled to be held at Knowledge Oasis Muscat on May 26, Al Zadjali and his colleagues have been studying the evolution of food popularity. "Stage one is something we see in fine dining or ethnic food," he says, adding that stage two is specialty-food-oriented retail and media channels, like the gourmet magazines we pick up in local supermarkets. Stage three finds the item in mainstream local restaurants and retail stores targeting recreational cooks and food lovers. Stage four finds such products getting general market coverage in family and women's magazines. Finally, by stage five the product would be showing up in supermarkets or on fast-food menus either as a stand-alone product, flavouring or functional food.

The key reasons driving the demand for local produce seem to be that consumers want to know more about how their food has been produced. They also care about food safety, traceability, provenance and animal welfare. “Oman-based shoppers also want freshness and to have a sense of food tasting like it should or used to do. In fact, if people made the effort even 20 per cent to eat local, it would have a huge impact on the environment, the local economy and their communities,” says Al Zadjali.

“With a season-less global marketplace at our command, it’s become easy to buy South American asparagus to go with this evening’s chicken roast” says Sami Al Asmi of the Oman Brand Management Unit. “But eating local isn't just about health,” adds Al Asmi: “The more time you spend eating really good food, your taste buds acclimatize. I recently had the greatest fillet of hamour at a local fish restaurant. It was unbelievably delicious. And it hadn’t sat on the back of a truck for three weeks, frozen.”

Al Zadjali agrees: “I always like to use the honey analogy when I talk about the taste of local food,” he says. “The bees visit the local flora. We smell the air and our senses and our taste buds are attuned, so when we buy local honey, it tastes better because we’re smelling and tasting something familiar. It's also good for allergies for the same reason.”

Al Zadjali and his Origin Oman colleagues are upbeat about the 150 Kilometre Meal initiative and the importance of sourcing produce locally. “We ran the same event last year and were overwhelmed by the response, it really captured the public’s imagination and helped us getting people to think local. It really focused their attention. I’m sure this year’s event will have the same result.”

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Monday, May 04, 2009

KOM's Brave New Media Talking Points

We thought you might be interested in a peek preview of some the issues that will raised at tonight's (4 May) Digital Nation Seminar:

1. Old Media is all about “push” while New Media is all about “pull”.

When you talk about the future of media we should be using words like ‘push’ and ‘pull’. The established broadcast and print media is a 'push' medium. In simple terms, that means a select group of producers decide what content is to be created, create it and then print it or push it down a pipe to an audience. The Internet on the other hand is a 'pull' medium. Nothing comes to you unless you choose it. You're in charge.”

2. The assumption of the old broadcast and print media model was that audiences were passive and uncreative but with the spread of Broadband Internet that is changing.

Take blogging for example, - the practice of keeping an online diary. What the blogging phenomenon suggests is that the traffic in ideas and cultural products isn't a one-way street. People have always been articulate and well-informed, but until now few have broken into print or broadcast. Blogging and the Internet has changed all that and given people the platform they needed.

3. Keeping secrets is another interesting media change.

If one of your products doesn’t work properly then it’s going to pop up on a blog somewhere. Today’s, consumers are better informed and have the tools at their finger tips to search for information on companies and their products. That kind of coverage doesn’t generally appear in your daily paper or on the local news, does it?

4. The other explosion has been in the use of digital photography.

For example, sites like allow people to upload their pictures and display them on the web. The most fascinating aspect of it is that users can attach tags to their pictures and these tags can be used to search the entire database. I looked for photographs tagged with ‘Oman’ and came up with 95,402 images. Ten years ago, those images would’ve ended up in a photo album – today, they’re on the Internet and viewed by millions. This is a perfect example of new media and it has tremendous reach.

We’re witnessing a remarkable change – the creation of news is being driven bottom-up rather than top-down and it’s the power and reach of the Internet that’s doing that.

5. What’s the difference between New and Traditional Media?

I see a couple of differences between New Media (that collection of network-based, computer chip-enabled electronic communication tools) and traditional media (radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, etc.).

The first is that communication is no longer one way. Sure, we had letters to the editor and in North America you could have your own public access television show, but for the average media consumer, there was no real chance of being heard before New Media. That’s definitely new for most of us.

Secondly, the time compression is phenomenal. For example, magazine editors would spend a month doing the work it takes to put out the publication and then wait two weeks for printing and shipping before anyone could even read their work. Today, you post it online and you get an immediate reaction. Being able to be heard quickly by people who are communicating with you is what sets New Media apart from traditional print and broadcast media.

6. What’s New Media got over traditional print and broadcst media? I think truly crucial is the combination of:

(a) universal access to simple publishing tools (meaming anyone can ‘publish’ content – blogs, flickr, facebook, YouTube, etc); and

(b) powerful social bookmarking and aggregation services - meaning anyone can be be heard if they publish something of interest and value.

7. Where are the New Media trends?

The answer lies within the Internet and people’s desire for fresh entertainment! Networking and video-sharing websites are the biggest thing happening within the web. These internet phenomenons have bet set-up to target consumer groups such as students and other young adults. Networking website like Myspace and Facebook have caught people’s attention day after day. From custom options to user programmed applications, these profile sites are where the audiance gather and share interesting entertainment, the latest trends and other media.

8. Let’s put things in perspective, shall we?

The Digital Dividend Organisation notes that there are more telephones in New York City than in all of rural Asia, and as much as 80% of the world's population has never made a phone call. The net connects over 100 million computers, but that represents less than 2% of the world's population.' (Caslon Analytics) From these statistics, it is clear that most of the world is being left behind, while 2% of the population slowly gains complete technological power.

9. What is the role of New Media in advancing social goals and economic development in developing countries?

Examples in developing countries include the use of cell phones by Kenyan farmers to market crops, the Internet as a job-finding tool for slum dwellers in India, educational radio soap operas for tribal communities in Afghanistan and social networking support for goods distribution in rural China.

10. What could we be doing in Oman to leverage the power and reach of New Media?

Come along to the Grand Hyatt Hotel at 7:30pm on Monday 4 May and let's us know what you think!

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE