The Sultanate’s forward-looking leadership has been constantly striving to improve processes in order to deliver services efficiently. It is aware that this can be best done by inducting the best of information and communication technologies (ICT). With the nation building world-class technical infrastructure and acquiring the best of technologies, it becomes a question of choosing the most efficient processes. Oman Investment and Finance Company (OIFC) is one of those organisations engaged in inducting facilitating technologies to improve government efficiencies. OIFC’s Khedmah application for smartphones has received a cheerful welcome from users. It happens to be one of the most user-friendly apps ever developed making it easy to monitor utility bills and make timely payments. In fact OIFC launched its commercial identity, Khedmah, earlier this year, presenting a consumer friendly profile. The app and the kiosks that it has opened across major cities make it easy for people to get services. With the app, the user can check bills for utilities like electricity, water, telephone and internet and pay them with the ease of a touch. Those who are averse to using apps like that can visit a kiosk and get work done fast. OIFC website as well as its offices continues to accept payments from users who prefer a more conventional approach. Reflecting the steady increase in population, the number of electricity connections has been rising at a brisk pace of about 8 per cent every year after crossing 1 million in 2015. It is expected to top 1.15 million by the end of this year. The number of water connections has also been steadily increasing after it crossed 405,000 in 2014. It is noteworthy that OIFC plans to add another ten bill payment machines to 26 installed by the end of May.
The induction of new technologies and efficient processes to serve the people shows the pioneering spirit of the nation and its leaders. In fact the government has a major smart city plan to upgrade the network connectivity so that best of ICT would be available in key urban centres. The first locality to receive this technology boost will be Muttrah. The Research Council (TRC) has approved a proposal to make Muttrah the first smart city of the Sultanate. This entails upgrading the network connectivity and using Internet of Things to make managing of the infrastructure efficient. The network would cover transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, schools, libraries, community services, water supply, waste management and law enforcement. As TRC Assistant Secretary General for Innovation Support HH Dr Fahad Al Julanda Al Said, “The smart city initiative is already in the pipeline and there is a model on which TRC, Muscat Municipality and other partners are working.” The future smart cities will be based on that model. The authorities rightly reckon that the Sultanate has obvious advantages in pushing through the smart city proposal. Almost 95 per cent of the nation is covered by quality connectivity. The nation’s leaders are known for their ability to think out of box and come up with innovative solutions. We can hope that the Khedmah initiative will encourage other agencies to come up with equally innovative applications.