ITA’s initiative to promote SMEs


The objective is to create a business eco-system which will help develop globally competitive ICT businesses in Oman. Photo – Supplied picture

Muscat: The 'Sas Programme', the Information Technology Authority's latest initiative supported by UKBI and Coventry University, was formerly launched in its premises at the Knowledge Oasis Muscat.

The Sas Programme is an ICT business development initiative and a state-of-the-art business designed to help promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and build a robust ICT sector in Oman. The launch ceremony was held under the patronage of Dr. Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Chairman of the Information Technology Authority (ITA).

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, ITA's Chief Executive Officer, said, "The Sas programme is a key element of our strategy to develop ICT business incubation in Oman. The strategy was developed jointly with United Kingdom Business Incubation (UKBI) and Coventry University and now the programme is being officially launched from these prestigious premises in the KOM4 building."

Highlighting what the Sas Centre will offer to Omanis, Dr. Al Ruzaiqi said: "The aim is to create a business ecosystem which will help to develop globally competitive ICT businesses in Oman. ITA urges the private and public organisations to allocate 10 per cent of their projects to be given to SMEs, including the ones in Sas Programme. The physical centre for Sas is now officially open, and we invite all Omanis, wherever they are based around the country and who feel that they have an ICT-based idea which can be developed into a business to contact the Sas Team following this launch today."

Sas Programme
'Sas' is an Arabic concept that refers to any solid foundation. Hence the 'Sas Programme' is designed to provide the foundation for creating a new and vibrant ICT industry, thereby fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in the ICT sector in Oman.

Targeting small and medium ICT businesses, students, and jobseekers of any age interested in starting a business, the Sas Programme seeks to develop an internationally competitive ICT industry in Oman, attract more foreign and local investment in the ICT sector, encourage and support innovation by contributing to the introduction of new technologies to create innovative products, solutions and services and encourage young graduates to create their own businesses through the development and implementation of  entrepreneurship culture-building activities.

Agreement for the Sas Programme was signed in the summer of 2011, with the United Kingdom Business Incubation (UKBI). Already, the centre has 12 projects, nine of which are being fully incubated and three projects in the pre-incubation phase. The fields of IT specialization for the incubated projects vary but include geographic information systems and software development, graphic design and multimedia programs, film-making and website design. 

Criteria and process
The criteria for joining the Sas Programme requires only that one: is an Omani; is not in full-time employment; has own 'big' idea and is fully committed to developing it into a real business; is ready to learn and open to new ideas and techniques; and is ready to take the opportunity to be in control of one's own future. The idea is to dispel the common misconception that incubation and business development programmes have an age and/or qualification cap. This is not the case for the Sas Programme; the Sas Programme and Centre welcome all prospective incubatees young and old, whether in possession of a qualification or not.

To facilitate the growth of ICT-enabled businesses in Oman, the Sas Programme offers training workshops and seminars to the entrepreneurs in all aspects of starting up and running a business. Participation also extends to joining ITA's 'networks', thereby allowing new businesses to extend the range of contacts and business opportunities and connect to an international network of dynamic young businesses.

The services offered by the programme include client needs assessment, accountancy, legal, business management, human resources, marketing, governmental support, investment readiness, access to finance, and client networking.

The three-year business development programme will be in four phases: pre incubation, early stage, classic incubation and graduation. In the first stage, incubatees are asked to prepare their business plan and develop it to be then evaluated and selected by an assessment panel. If their plan is accepted, the incubatees will advance to the next stages. Here, they are provided with IT infrastructure, client support services, team-building activities, and business development workshops.

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