Within the Initiatives of the Digital Oman Strategy 52 000 Beneficiaries of the National PC Initiative so far
17 January 2012
The Digital Society Development Division at the Information Technology Authority (ITA) continues to implement the second phase of the National PC Initiative (NPC), which was launched last October. In this phase, laptops are distributed to beneficiary families of social insurance, teachers who are graduates of the Government IT Training & Certification program and higher education students in their first academic year. This phase also includes the provision of a new internet offer by Omantel, as a contribution by the private sector to make the Initiative a success and encourage the targeted segments to benefit therefrom. So far, the Governorates of Muscat, Musandam, Al Sharqiyah and Dhofar have been covered by the Initiative.
Number of Beneficiaries
"Over 52,000 laptops have been distributed to the categories targeted by the Initiative to date, and more than 36,000 persons have benefited from the internet offer. As for the training provided to social insurance families, the members of more than 5,500 families were trained."
"Telecommunication companies in Oman are contributing to the NPC Initiative, out of their belief in its role in encouraging the different categories of society to possess PCs and avail themselves of all services provided by modern technologies in order to facilitate people's lives and create a knowledge-based society." Aiming to serve the Initiative's goals, Omantel has introduced new offers for the Initiative's beneficiaries with effect from 1 October 2011. This included an offer for the social insurance category (e.g. beneficiary families and higher education students) where recipients may select the 3.5G package, which comprises a free SIM card, free activation of the service, and a free 3.5G modem, in addition to exemption from monthly subscription fees for the first 12 months, with 1 GB of free usage. Or, they may select the ADSL package which provides free activation of the fixed line, ADSL service connection, and a free wireless modem, in addition to exemption from monthly subscription fees for the first 12 months, with 1 GB of free usage. The second internet package includes an offer for the category of teachers and higher education students. The beneficiary may select the 3.5G package in order to receive a free SIM card, free activation of the service and a free 3.5G modem. As per the usage, beneficiaries of this offer (the category of teachers and higher education students) must be subject to the prevailing charges of Hayyak and Mada mobile broadband packages (3.5G) provided by Omantel. The last option in this category is the ADSL package, where the beneficiary will be provided with free activation of the fixed line, ADSL service connection, a free wireless modem, in addition to being exempted from the monthly subscription fees for the first 3 months and paying charges of 3.500 Rials for the following 9 months, as well as 1 GB of free usage.
Points of Distribution
"ITA is currently cooperating with the directorates and departments of the Ministry of Social Development, and the offices of their Excellencies the Walis to distribute laptops to social insurance families in order to make it easier for them to benefit from the Initiative. There are 35 points of distribution for this category spreading across the Oman governorates. As for the category of higher education students covered by social insurance, laptops will be delivered to them in more than 30 faculties and universities approved by the Unified Admission Center. In addition, it has been agreed with Bahwan IT Company, the laptops supplier for the category of beneficiary families of the social insurance, to open its branches in Muscat, Sohar and Salalah, as additional and permanent points of distribution. As far as the teachers and higher education students in their academic first year are concerned, all they have to do is to go to the points of sale of the companies authorized by the ITA in order to choose their PCs. There are 6 authorized companies offering various laptop models and brands, namely: Bahwan IT (HP, Apple, Acer and Toshiba), Bahwan Cybertek (Asus and Samsung), Information Line Company (Acer), Al Khalili United Enterprises (Fujitsu), Overseas Business Machines (Lenovo) and Galaxy Information Technology Company (Dell). When choosing these companies we took into consideration that each one of them shall possess no less than 12 branches across the various governorates of the Sultanate and in certain areas specifically determined by the ITA."
Prices of PCs
"The companies authorized by the ITA supply 9 different brands including 37 PC brands with various specifications and screen sizes. Many people know that the prices of PCs depend not only on their types, but also on the peripherals and applications supplied therewith. We, at the Digital Society Development Division, strive to ensure the availability of the most advanced and useful applications so as to keep pace with state-of-the-art technologies in this field. Regarding prices, we confirm that the rates fixed as per the agreement signed with the suppliers of PCs to all categories are affordable and take into account market price changes. In addition, periodic meetings are held with the suppliers' representatives to review and compare prices with those prevailing in local markets, as well as to revise the same, so as to best suit the interest of the citizen benefiting from the Initiative", Al Lawati added.
"To ensure that the prices offered by the companies are commensurate with market prices, the Digital Society Development Division at ITA has a special team assigned for monitoring and comparing the market prices with those offered by the companies. For this purpose, the team randomly visits or sends persons, unknown to such companies, to visit the points of sale in order to check the prices. If a large discrepancy between prices is found at the point-of-sale of a certain company, the latter will be instructed to revise its prices according to those prevailing in the market; otherwise, the brand will be excluded from the list of authorized brands. Moreover, the authorized companies seek to avoid being subject to such type of procedures to safeguard its reputation and position in the local market."
Answering the inquiry that some of civil servants holding IC³ Certificates raised about their entitlement to obtain free PCs, Mr. Hassan Al Lawati stated: "The NPC Initiative was launched to target certain and specific categories including Omani teachers who passed the IC³ Course provided as part of the Government IT Training & Certification (GITTC) program only. It aims to encourage them to use the PCs granted to them in classroom teaching and to make use of modern educational technologies and software in facilitating their duties of educating and teaching students who represent a considerable percentage of the population, as well as encouraging them to join and benefit from the GITTC. This would, in turn, contribute to achieving the desired integration between initiatives and government projects."
Level of Satisfaction
In order to determine the level of satisfaction of the targeted categories with the NPC Initiative, Mr. Al Lawati clarified: "We outsourced and assigned a specialist to select a random sample of 450 persons of those who have benefited from the Initiative and to measure the level of their satisfaction. The survey was conducted through raising a number of questions relating to the prices of PCs, as well as their peripherals and applications supplied therewith. More than 91% of the total number of the beneficiaries expressed their satisfaction with the Initiative."
"As part of the efforts exerted by the ITA for achieving the desired level of success as per the e.oman Strategy with all its different national initiatives, the ITA is pleased to receive any inquiries and suggestions that would serve the interests of our beloved country, through contacting our call center at (80077777). The ITA's website (www.ita.gov.om/npc) also contains a lot of information and answers that we hope to be useful for its visitors," Al Lawati concluded.
It is noteworthy that the NPC Initiative was launched in response to the royal directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said - may God protect him, to grant a laptop to each of the social insurance beneficiary families who have one or more enrolled students and to also provide higher education students in these families laptops for free. The Royal Grant also includes bearing a portion of the costs of laptops provided to higher education students in their academic first year in the Sultanate and teachers who passed the GITTC course, so as to enable them to possess a PC and enhance their participation in building Oman's digital society. The Royal Grant provides a bundle package of features including a PC with a set of accessories that vary from one category to another, in order to be financially commensurate with the potentials of local communities. These packages were designed to provide an opportunity for the different segments of Oman society to use the basic computer system.