Muscat: Omantel and Sultan Qaboos University have long been strategic partners to foster innovation and scientific research. This partnership's objectives are familiar to those of Oman Vision 2040, which names scientific research as one of the main pillars of sustainable economic growth.
Bound by this common goal, Omantel and Sultan Qaboos University recently selected research projects for the Omantel Grant, supporting faculty and researchers in the university who wish to pursue research projects identified in cooperation with Omantel in the areas of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Nanotechnology. A joint committee met recently to evaluate the year 2020’s research proposals to receive the Omantel Grant for advanced research and chose six – three each from the University’s Nanotechnology Research Centre and the Communications and Information Research Centre.
The research proposals selected from the Nanotechnology Research Center are ‘Manufacture and Use of Modified Electrodes with a Zero-Dimensional Nanostructure for a Capacitive Deionisation System for Groundwater Desalination’ by Dr Muhammad Al Abri. ‘A Study of Using Nanoparticles to Enhance Oil Extraction’ by Dr Sanket Joshi and "Using Iron-Based Nanocomposites to Develop an Effective Technology to Treat Contaminated Soil,’ by Dr Muhammad Othman.
The Communication and Information Research Centre's selected proposals are 'A System for Artificial Intelligence in Education at Sultan Qaboos University. A Plan for Implementation and Challenges’ by Dr Dhia Nader, ‘Assessing the Coverage of Mobile Communications Networks Using Drones and Artificial Intelligence’ by Dr Nasser Al Tarhouni and ‘Designing and Implementing a Mobile Application to Monitor and Follow Up on Cardiovascular Patients During Physical Activity’ by Dr Khaled Al Rasadi.
These research projects cover vital issues in essential sectors of Oman’s economy, and thus their results will assume greater importance. The joint committee has put its faith in the outcome of these research proposals and is confident that they will translate into real solutions for issues and challenges facing the Omani society, like the creation of a simple and cost-effective and straightforward water desalination system, an energy-efficient nanotechnology solution to prevent groundwater depletion in addition to creating a mechanism to prevent soil from pollution due to natural and man-made factors, and finding a low-cost and environmentally friendly way of oil extraction.
Experts at Omantel and academics at SQU felt that the three other research projects from the Communications and Information Research Center would help prepare a clear roadmap on the use of artificial intelligence in education at the University, the stages of its application, challenges and cost for students to benefit optimally.
The joint committee was also optimistic about the proposal's result prospects to use small drones to assess the reach of communication services in remote areas and find practical solutions. The committee felt that investing in Artificial Intelligence in designing and implementing a mobile application for cardiovascular patients at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital could easily monitor their condition and thus take timely action to prevent deterioration.
Professor Yahya bin Mansour Al Whaibi, Dean of Scientific Research at Sultan Qaboos University, said that scientific research is fundamental to the university’s strategic plan, which is in line with the Oman Vision 2040.
Professor Yahya Al Wohaibi stated that the university has always stressed the importance of maintaining excellence in the quality of innovative scientific research, strengthening scientific analysis principles, creative thinking, participating in the creation and dissemination of knowledge, and contributing to the community service by finding solutions to issues. The agreement with Omantel, he said, was part of shared goals that the two pioneering institutions seek to achieve.
Laila Mohammed Al Wahaibi, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility at Omantel, affirmed the company's keenness in utilising its corporate social responsibility initiatives to support education, innovation, and scientific research as these are vital to advance scientific solutions that benefit the global society on one hand and the other, build Oman’s knowledge-based economy. Laila said that information and communication technology forms the backbone of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, on which societies and governments depend on bringing about qualitative, cross-sectoral growth.
"We are proud that through our partnership with Sultan Qaboos University, the country will benefit from the quality and innovative research projects. Our funding for these projects is a small contribution towards nation building and supporting Oman's scientific community. We are very excited at the prospect of what these results can achieve for society in general and the information and communication technology sector in particular.
Omantel’s research funding is part of the Company’s commitment to the nation and aims to support Oman’s aspirations of a knowledge-based economy. Omantel’s financial support to research and innovation will boost the Sultanate’s ranking on UNESCO’s Global Innovation Index through sub-indices on university/industry research collaboration, knowledge creation and, the percentage of total gross expenditure on R&D financed by business enterprises,” she further added.
“On the other hand, this initiative also contributes towards the Sultanate’s efforts in achieving the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 9 which is to ‘Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation’; in addition to goal 17 which is to ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, mainly through public-private partnerships’ and indirectly Goal 4 which is to ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” Laila Al Wahaibi concluded.
Since the strategic partnership in 2017, Omantel has funded 17 research projects. The total budget allocated by the company for this grant is OMR 60,000 per year for five years.
Omantel is the Sultanate’s first and leading integrated telecommunications services provider, enabling the digital society to flourish, allowing new ways of doing business, and delivering a world of information, news and entertainment. While striving to ensure optimum customer satisfaction, Omantel plays a critical social role in providing the necessary support and subsidy to all Omani society sectors.