Oman is moving ahead with its plans to promote entrepreneurship in the digital world among young citizens, with 100 of the best projects from the Ideathon for Oman Youths selected on Saturday for further development.
The finalists were chosen from a field of 600 participants who interacted over the course of two days on Friday and Saturday with a team of more than 100 experts and judges from Oman and abroad. The experts conducted workshops to help the youths frame their tech business ideas and pitch them to the 18 judging panels, each made up of three to four members.
Among the criteria for selection were creativity, scalability, impact, profitability and the candidate's pitching skills.
The 600 participants were chosen on Thursday from of a field of 735 who completed courses through Udacity, an online learning platform, to earn a Nanodegree — a entry-level qualification for jobs in data foundation, introduction to programming and digital marketing.
The Ideathon was organised by the Diwan of Royal Court’s National Youth Programme for Skills Development, an initiative to enable the country to prosper in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) brought about by advances in information and communications technology.
Dr Ali bin Qassim bin Jawad Al Lawati, the Adviser for Studies and Research to the Diwan of Royal Court and chairman of the NYPSD, said the participants’ completion rate for the Nanodegree courses was 74 per cent, higher than international rates in similar programmes.
Saturday's finalists will next take part in three modules to help them turn their ideas into actual businesses, services or products, according to programme officials.
The first module involves exercises to develop trust among peers, problem-solving, decision-making, creativity and leadership skills.
In the second module the finalists will spend two weeks in either Singapore or Switzerland, where they will be able to explore different areas of interest related to 4IR while working on their own projects.
They return to Oman for the final module, which has two objectives. First, to study 4IR in relation the economy and society of Oman, and second, to allow them to present their projects to an investor panel, providing an opportunity to secure funding. There will also be networking events with local and regional investors.
According to a World Economic Forum report on the future of employment and skills requirements in the Middle East and North Africa region, one in every five jobs in the Arab world will require digital skills by 2020.
The report, which ranked Oman 62nd globally in terms of competitiveness, said Arab nations need to foster entrepreneurial freedom to provide youth with more opportunities and prepare the region for the technological transformations ahead.
"In response to a world where technology is offering unparalleled opportunities to societies and communities, Oman is well positioned to take full advantage to ride these waves of evolution and create its own waves of innovation," said Dr Al Lawati.
"Of course, this needs the right skills to grasp the opportunities — which is where the National Youth Programme for Skills Development is set to make a significant difference with its vision to create a community of young Omanis ready to embrace and exploit the opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution for the benefit of Omani society — and for future economic prosperity."
NYPSD officials say the programme aims to build a strong rapport between youths’ expectations, skills and abilities and the business community, giving them an opportunity to achieve their aspirations and providing support to turn innovative ideas into reality.