“Together, we build a totally connected community through innovation.”
This is the vision of the Middle East’s leading Internet provider, Oman Telecommunications (Omantel). It emphasises the company’s intentions to provide reliable, fast, and comprehensive Internet connections in Oman, to connect Middle Eastern countries into a network, and to link the Middle East with the rest of the world, using innovative methods to do so. Sustainability is a priority in the company’s operating strategy, and they also promote it for the rest of the nation.
Oman, located southeast of Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Sea, has a reputation for neutrality. It’s the favoured country in the Middle East in which to hold sensitive peace talks and negotiations, especially with Iran. It was the first stop in the inaugural flight of the first solar-powered plane to fly around the world without fuel. There’s a certain kind of trust accompanying neutrality that makes Oman uniquely able to provide telecommunications services to a majority of Middle Eastern nations and the Western world.
In 2013 Omantel, which is 70% government-owned, provided 61.6% of Oman’s market for fixed broadband services, 58.5% for mobile networking, and 85.8% for fixed lines and Internet access. That year the company gave away RO1.3 million (US$3.38 million) in sponsorships to help strengthen its communities. With a combination of good marketing, good equipment, and fair treatment of employees, Omantel has built its market share and community impact to a leadership level.
Contrary to many corporations in this “modern” world, Omantel’s main focus is on serving its customers – combining a great communication network with great services and innovation – believing that a top level communication network helps local, regional, and international clients of all types to streamline and enhance their operations. Through this means, Omantel has the potential to:
• Enable Omani citizens to access online news, services, social media, education, and employment opportunities.
• Increase the effectiveness of Oman’s government & legal systems, medical & emergency procedures, and local trade negotiations & deliveries.
• Enhance regional trade, help neighbouring countries get online, and strengthen the identity of a cohesive Middle East.
• Connect internationally, facilitating the exchange of medical/emergency information, improving logistics of international trade, and speeding access to news worldwide.
Better planning, enhanced by more efficient communication methods at all levels, leads to less confusion and better project coordination. Public access to media worldwide leads to more accountable media reporting. More open communication between governments and the people they serve leads eventually to greater domestic and international peace.
Omantel is well aware of the potential effects of its operations and that, through good communication, it is helping to “unlock the full economic potential of the country,” according to its Sustainability Report. It is also well aware of its responsibility to act sustainably for the continuance of its services for future generations. In developing and carrying out its sustainability plans, the company has discovered how much those actions have enhanced its own productivity.
Here are some of the sustainability measures Omantel has or is carrying out:
• Keeping expenses under control. Omantel has earned Moody’s A3 rating.
• Caring about the well-being of its more than 2,700 employees (90% Omani, 22% female): Paying good wages & benefits, educating their families, providing high quality on the job training, distributing work loads efficiently, providing good equipment and services that help employees focus (gym, child care), and finding ways to prevent illness and accidents.
• Designing facilities that have natural lighting, clean air and water, walking spaces, greenery, onsite exercise facilities and child care.
• Making the company’s operations transparent to the public.
• Supporting the government of Oman in training and providing Internet access to more than 70,000 low income beneficiaries through their ITA PC initiative for low income groups.
To make sure its customers are being served well, the company conducts several types of customer satisfaction surveys: Quarterly third-party surveys, mystery shopping and caller surveys and, starting in 2013, an online customer satisfaction survey. The company’s customer experience management team also conducts internal surveys throughout the year on key aspects of service. The company also exchanges information with customers via social media outlets. The results have shown a far higher rate of customer satisfaction than what their competitors have.
Omantel has committed to building 100 kiosks for non-commercial access of 150 villages to make sure that villages are not left out of the digital age. They have over 270 villages already connected to the Internet so far. By expanding its reach, Omantel is providing employment opportunities for some of the 24% of Omani workers unemployed (Al Jazeera, 08/17/2013). It’s also subtly counteracting worries that might be emerging with Oman’s recent weapons build-up.
A high priority with Omantel is providing a reliable network. Accordingly, the company tested its network in 2013 to make sure it could survive natural disasters – a time when communication lines especially need to be open. Its workers improved critical stations that couldn’t hold up, including installing backup systems where needed, and the company made sure its emergency response team could be deployed efficiently.
Separate from development of its telecommunications network and its internal sustainable operations, Omantel has a three-pronged community social responsibility program. This includes investing in community initiatives and programs that provide opportunities for sustainable incomes and jobs, raising public awareness about healthy lifestyles and environmental issues, and helping more people to enjoy the benefits of a digital society. Omantel also supports community by sourcing 87% of its purchases from local suppliers. This includes multinational vendors who have registered their businesses in Oman.
Omantel staff are motivated by knowing that the company’s work increases the well-being of Omani society and they are encouraged to take part in community projects. In 2013 they handed out donations of food, money, clothing, and other necessities to underprivileged families, charities, and orphanages during the company’s Ramadan campaign. They coached business students at the Sultan Qaboos University to help them develop innovative ideas for new businesses, and they helped lead Outward Bound activities for youth.
In addition, the company sponsored a variety of community leadership programs for students, women, and underprivileged families, working also with disabled people and children with dyslexia. All told, the company spent RO1.3 million (US$3.37 million) on community programs in 2013, according to that year’s sustainability report.
Compared to other industries, Omantel’s environmental impact is negligible. Even so, the company is evaluating its carbon footprint and developing a plan to become as environmentally sustainable as possible. Most of its network is supported by gas-powered electricity, but the company recently started installing solar panels and all of its outlying kiosks are solar-powered. It’s new office headquarters incorporates extensive natural lighting and meets Gold LEED standards.
Probably the biggest impact Omantel has on supporting a healthy environment is in the overall effect of its telecommunications services. The telecommunications network, itself, helps Middle Eastern subscribers of all sizes to lower their carbon footprint – reducing paper use (saving trees) by conducting transactions via the Internet, and replacing vehicular travel (and the fuel it uses) with online video conferencing and email communications. This, plus the economic benefits of telecommunications, has already made Omantel a leader in Oman and, by extension, the Middle East.
Written by Susette Horspool
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27 March 2017