Interview with Ali Al Lawati, General Manager – Oman, Cisco Middle East
Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background.
I have more than 20 years of experience in the Omani ICT market having held various roles within the sector, including CEO and Consultant and Head of Projects, in addition to having served on the Board of Directors for a commercial data center entity. Prior to joining Cisco, I was the CEO of Nasma Telecommunications and the Head of IT and Telecommunications projects at Petroleum Development Oman. This diverse background spans various ecosystems related to the positions I have held with across varied organizations, including multinational vendors, system integrators and Cisco customers.
In my current role I am able to build on this this experience to help deliver business outcomes to Cisco customers by combining our talented people with the right digital technology and services propositions. In terms of my educational background, I hold a double master’s degree – one for communications systems and signal processing from Bristol University in the UK and the second in business administration (MBA) from Strathclyde University, also in the UK. I had earlier received a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.
You’ve recently been appointed as GM. What is your vision for Cisco’s journey in Oman?
It is an exciting time to be at Cisco, a worldwide technology leader that aims to change the way we work, live, play, and learn. My appointment in this country-specific role amplifies Cisco’s commitment to supporting the development of the Sultanate’s digital ecosystem and technology infrastructure to meet the demands of the digital era. A key part of my role entails working closely with public and private sector organizations with a keen focus on solving business challenges and enabling their digital transformation journeys. We are at an important inflection point for Oman, as the government is prioritizing technology and digitization as key contributors to the Sultanate’s long-term prosperity and a main driver of growth across key sectors.
Oman’s businesses and government departments are on a drive to evolve the way they serve citizens and customers and we have been closely collaborating with multiple stakeholders to help boost Oman’s digital transformation and contribute to Oman’s Vision 2040 objectives. Oman is considered a regional leader in the development of e-government and e-services, with a comprehensive program that aims to simplify government processes, enhance service delivery and accessibility, and bring services closer to citizens. Cisco is committed to supporting Oman’s digitization agenda in line with the government’s vision of enhancing government services and public-sector efficiency towards a smart future. Our primary focus remains to create unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers and ecosystem partners by transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate.
What is your primary growth strategy?
As General Manager of Cisco’s Oman operations, I will drive Cisco’s efforts to support the Digital Oman Strategy, which aims to advance the development of the ICT industry, and its key pillars such as the development of human resources, as well as the national digital infrastructure and governance. To accomplish this role, I will be leveraging the growing Cisco portfolio of solutions to strengthen collaboration with the Omani government and Cisco’s partner network to ensure that Cisco remains the partner of choice for digitization.
What is your assessment of Oman’s digital strategy? Where do you see things headed in the next 5 years?
The Sultanate is considered a regional leader in the development of e-government and e-services, with a comprehensive program that aims to simplify government processes, enhance service delivery and accessibility, and bring services closer to citizens. Combined with its strategic location on regional and international communication grids and easy access to emerging markets, the Sultanate’s dynamic business community and progressive, business-oriented government make it an ideal market to reap the benefits of digitization. Oman’s growing numbers of mobile and fixed Internet subscriptions, combined with a young population, also offer significant opportunities for the development of a vibrant digital economy.
Over the last decade, Oman has made significant advancements in developing its technology infrastructure and capabilities in both the government and private sector. Oman is currently undergoing a significant transition, with technology playing an increasingly important role as an enabler to the Sultanate’s economic diversification. As a technology leader with a longstanding presence in Oman, Cisco will continue to contribute its digital transformation expertise to support the country’s journey to transform into a sustainable knowledge-based economy and digital society.
What are the main challenges for the company? How are you meeting them?
The rapid growth of the ICT industry in Oman is creating demand for digital, networking, and cybersecurity skills and the challenge is to find these skillsets locally. Through Cisco Networking Academy, we are working actively towards closing this gap and developing the skills needed for the workforce of tomorrow. Cisco Networking Academy has been contributing significantly over the years by nurturing and developing talent for the digital era and driving initiatives to attract more young Omani students and graduates to pursue careers in technology. At present there are more than 3,000 students enrolled with Cisco Networking Academy in Oman, which has trained more than 15,000 students since its inception. With 71 percent of the enrolled students being female, to date Oman has the highest female participation rate in Cisco’s global IT skills and career building program.
This interview was first published in OER Dossier – Comex 2018 Special.