MUSCAT, October 2020
With his great engineering skills and a passion for innovation, Maqbool al Wahaibi has brought an outstanding contribution to the digitalization of Oman. An early contributor to e-government initiatives in Oman, he brings a deeper perspective on the digital transformation for business and society than most technology executives. After finishing his higher studies in the UK, Mr. Al Wahaibi started his career in the government sector, where he was deeply involved in projects which aimed to move most of the manual, offline procedures of public sector department online in order to increase efficiency. During that time, he helped government agencies such as the Royal Oman Police, Information Technology Association (ITA), and Justice Departments, re-engineer their processes, digitalize their services, and build a secure online infrastructure. As Oman slowly aligned itself with the global trends in digitalization, Mr. Al Wahaibi realized that there was still something missing from the market — local cloud storage services — and he decided to be part of that change. In 2012, Mr. Al Wahaibi was part of the Founding members that established Oman Data Park, the company he leads today.
Oman Data Park (ODP) offers online data storage services, web hosting, and cyber-security services. Before ODP came to the market, any company that needed to store its data had to either have its own data centre or use foreign platforms like Amazon or Google, which store the data on their servers abroad. According to Mr. Al Wahaibi, it’s much safer for Omani companies to store data inside the country, and it saves them money as well. Local data storage also allows them to offer better quality services to their customers. As with any new service, people were reticent at first, and it was a challenge to convince them that there is a better alternative on the market, so ODP ran several awareness campaigns.
The first client willing to trust ODP with its data was Nizwa Bank, a remarkable achievement considering the high standards in data security required by the banking industry. Today, ODP has 12 banks among its long list of satisfied customers, which now totals more than 500 companies from a range of industry sectors. Aside from Omani companies, ODP has also started attracting international corporations as well which are using its cloud services for their local branches.
ODP partners with global technology leaders like Microsoft, Cisco, Dell EMC, VMWare and Fortinet, among other well-known companies. A notable part of ODP’s activity is done in partnership with Omantel, for which ODP jointly with Omantel develops bundled solutions that allow Omantel to create value-added services for its customers.
This year, ODP has launched three new major products and services: Professional Services as a Service — which includes consulting and technical assistance in helping client companies move their data into the cloud — a virtual data center offering named Nebula, a localized Microsoft Azure stack and a Cyber Security Centre offering. As Mr. Al Wahaibi highlights, most of ODP’s products and services were created as a result of customer demand, and he believes an important part of running a business is listening to customers and tailoring your offering to their needs. “We are very close to our customers. After all, they are in our data centres. They live with us,”he says.
ODP now has three data centres – two in Muscat and one in Duqm. As the Duqm Industrial area keeps developing, Mr. Al Wahaibi is hoping that the data centre there will encourage more investors to establish their business in the area and focus on their core activities while their data is safely managed by a trusted partner like ODP.
ODP’s CEO says its strategy is to grow fast, and for that to happen it needs to expand outside of Oman, first in the GCC region, and then globally. No specific plans have been made yet in regard to specific locations, but Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are being considered as potential next steps.
Outside his role as an entrepreneur, Mr. Al Wahaibi is also working hard to support the development of the technology sector through better education with his involvement on the boards of two organizations that aim to bridge the gap between academia and the private sector. Every year, two or three engineering students are sponsored to create projects under the close supervision of ODP. In addition to that, ODP offers training for students in the fields of cloud computing and software engineering by teaching them in-house for several months. As Mr. Al Wahaibi explains, even if they decide to take jobs at other companies after their training, the important thing is that there will be more competent people in the sector, which helps the country as a whole.
In terms of overall technology adoption, Mr. Al Wahaibi believes that Oman still has a long way to go when it comes to building a sustainable technology industry, but that it’s definitely on the right path. In his view, the introduction of local cloud services has not only helped companies store their data, but it has also contributed to developing a new sector, building new competencies locally, creating new jobs, and therefore boosting the economy and promoting economic sustainability.
For Mr. Al Wahaibi, working at ODP has allowed him to use his engineering experience to bring innovation to Oman, but it has also allowed him to enter the business world and expand his horizons. “It was a dream come true,”he proudly says. Maqbool Al Wahaibi managed to create a market completely from scratch, and he is determined to keep exploring new possibilities which will help build a better future for Oman.
Affiliations, Awards & Honors
Technology Person of the Year, 2018