Sharing Knowledge

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More than a decade ago, in March 2003 to be precise, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said shared the vision of transforming Oman into a sustainable knowledge-based economy. Inspired by this great vision and equipped with deep knowledge in computers, a young man in his 20's, began creating projects and giving presentations on information technology, personal and professional development for free. But, alas, he just had two hands.

"What if I had four hands, what if I had forty hands or thousand hands?" he thought. Instead of him doing all these programmes and presentations alone, he wanted many people to join him, to share knowledge across the country and to utilise the great potential of internet and social media. The idea was born: Knowledge Oman, his brainchild, a platform made of the people, by the people and for the people!

That was in April 2008. Knowledge Oman, with no funding and zero capital began its operation in a virtual space. The core team made of professionals, industrialists and academicians – all part-time - met at coffee shops, training institutes or colleges to chalk out programmes. They partnered with renowned organisations to launch unique knowledge related initiatives and train thousands of people for free and yielded even better results than many physical organisations ever achieved. And it won four awards, local and international, for four consecutive years for nurturing future leaders. Five years after, Tariq Hilal Al Barwani, the founder and president of Knowledge Oman or anyone in the organisation does not sit back cherishing the achievements and recognitions. For them, every day is a new day and success is all about remaining passionate till the end.

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The million-dollar question

How it works without funding or fulltime resources? "That's a million-dollar question," says Tariq who is now doing a PhD in Management of Organisations from University of Phoenix, US, after his Masters in Information Technology from Australia. Knowledge Oman is always on a lookout for talented individuals who are passionate to share knowledge and contribute to the community. "We promise one thing: if you are good, your work will be highlighted not just in Oman but all over the world. That's what they get back. We are a transparent organisation and everything that one does personally will go back to him or her," he adds.

For a part-time vocation, it's better than getting money, Tariq asserts. "Even while contributing in their own capacity, they learn the ways to work with people and even get selected to work in different companies or to go abroad for scholarship and training programmes. They get the exposure. Professors, doctors or whoever comes in, we ensure that we would promote them everywhere and what required of them is to share their knowledge and to do it passionately," he points out.

Thus, Knowledge Oman was able to attract talented people including CEOs and renowned names in the country to give presentations. "We were just four people when we started. Now, there are over 15,000 registered members spread across Oman, from north to south, and they support the mission by engaging with society on digital platforms and through workshops, sessions, presentations and projects. Thus we have created this single hub where people come to connect, network and share knowledge," Tariq beams.

Valuable contributions
There has been no support from the government yet, but Knowledge Oman has worked closely to support the government by providing speakers and professionals to share knowledge and work on society projects, Tariq says. "We get a lot of requests for sessions, presentations and project consultation from the government and we serve them," he adds.

The contributions had been immense. It was the first portal in Oman to have a discussion forum for exchange of information in both English and Arabic. "We were able to identify and highlight talented and passionate knowledge contributors in the country. We collaborated with many reputed companies like Microsoft to help them and at the same time ensure we achieve the mission of sharing knowledge for free and build up a knowledge base in Oman. We donated educational material to colleges and universities and initiated lot of charity campaigns for organisations like Dar Al Atta'a," Tariq says.

Every year, they tried different projects and assessed how they impacted the society. It was in 2010, they launched the exciting project "Knowledge Oman Ambassadors', inviting professionals in the country, the motivators from different disciplines to use the Knowledge Oman platform and tied up with colleges and universities, enabling the students to learn for free from eminent personalities and professionals. During these five years it won local and international awards which included the brand leadership award in 2010, World Human Resource Development award for outstanding contribution to the cause of education in 2012 and the Pan Arab cultural strategic award in 2013.

Sky is the limit
Tariq believes that every organisation can succeed if it has a clear purpose, model and a direction. "People are your strongest assets. You need to respect and believe in them, recognize and motivate them and ensure that you have some accountability and sustainability system in place. And keep every day a new day," he says.

All the members in Knowledge Oman are residents of Oman. It has Omanis, Indians, Algerians, Africans and Europeans, a mix of nationalities, people from industries, colleges and universities and even 14 year-olds but smart students. "We attract all segments and we are open to everyone. If you are someone who have knowledge and would like to contribute, you join. People also can come in just to become members and learn," Tariq says.

Though it remains with zero capital or investment, everyone in Knowledge Oman believes 'sky is the limit'. "We wish to set up a complete university, not a virtual one but a real one. But that's a dream, as at present everything we do is voluntarily and part-time. If we do it fulltime, then sky is the limit," he asserts.

However, lack of financial support for such big expansions remains the major challenge. "We have big ideas which require financial support for implementation. But we keep on trying to do things the best way and for free to impact the masses. Besides, volunteering has certain limits, but we are doing a great work. We love what we are doing and remain committed to deliver the best."

"If I can do it, you too can do it," Tariq has a message for brilliant young people in Oman. "Success is not magic, but it's all about being passionate at what you want to do. If you are passionate, work hard and remain focused, you can achieve anything," he adds.