Low-Birth-Weight Linked to Poor School Performance Issue 326

Stress on Mental and Emotional Health
Food Imagery to Diagnose Disease
Mind Over Matter
2930 Students Graduate
Department of Public
Relations and Information
Sultan Qaboos University
News Update
Linked to Poor
School Performance
Issue 326
View Point
Misconduct in Research
Mohamed Salem Al Ghailani
Editorial Supervision
Santhosh Muthalath
Senior Editor
Sara Al Gheilani
Nasebah Al Muharrami
Ahlam Al Wahaibi
Design & Layout
Photography Dept., CET
Salim Al Sudairi
The rise in cases of scientific misconduct across the world is shocking because
scientists are supposed to possess high moral ground when it comes to the
search for truth about nature. The scientific method itself is developed with
a view to weed out human bias. However, scientists, like anyone else, can be
prone to bias. According to a report titled “False positives: fraud and misconduct are threatening scientific research” which appeared in “the Guardian”,
increasing competition for shrinking government budgets for research and
the disproportionately large rewards for publishing in the best journals have
exacerbated the temptation to fudge results or ignore inconvenient data. “Manipulated results can send other researchers down the wrong track, wasting
time and money trying to replicate them. Worse, in medicine, it can delay the
development of life-saving treatments or prolong the use of therapies that are
ineffective or dangerous. Malpractice becomes known rarely, because scientific
fraud is often easy to perpetrate but hard to uncover” the report says.
Those who investigate false practices in research talk about a range of bad
practices. “At the sharp end are plagiarism, fabrication and falsification of research. At the other end are questionable practices such as adding an author’s
name to a paper when they have not contributed to the work, sloppiness in
methods or not disclosing conflicts of interest”. According to a report in the
journal Nature, published retractions in scientific journals have increased
around 1,200% over the past decade, even though the number of published
papers had gone up by only 44%. Around half of these retractions are suspected cases of misconduct.
New tools, such as text-matching software, have increased the detection rates
of fraud and plagiarism in research publishing. Journals routinely use these to
check summited papers or those undergoing peer reviews. The advent of software that can detect plagiarism has alerted the world to the fact that plagiarism and redundant publication are probably more common than we realised.
“The Guardian”, report says that if things go wrong, it is the responsibility of
the scientists’ employers, the academic institution, to investigate and punish
misconduct. Denial and the tendency to say that it did not happen under “our
roof”, could make things worse. Institutions should realize that it is better to
admit that foul practice could happen and tell what they are doing about it.
Horizon invites contributions from SQU members of staff and faculty. Contributions in the form of
articles, news, travelogues, stories of unique and interesting experiences, encounters, etc., are welcome. Contributions may be edited for the sake of clarity and length. Please send your contributions
to horizon@squ.edu.om preferably, as MSWord attachments. Authors will be suitably credited.
The views and opinions expressed in the articles published in this newsletter are those of the authors
and are not to be construed as the official views of the publication. Horizon is published three times a
month by the Department of Public Relations and Information, Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 50,
P.C. 123, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Phone: +968 24141045
E-mail: horizon@squ.edu.om
10 December 2015 P2
Fax: +968 24413 391
Website: www.squ.edu.om
News Update
2930 Students Graduate
The 26th graduation ceremony of Sultan Qaboos University was held on 29
November and 6 December at the University’s amphitheater under the patronage of H.E. Sayyid Mohammed bin Sultan Al Busaidy, Minister of State
and Governor of Dhofar. As many as 2930 graduates from the nine colleges
at SQU received certificates at the ceremonies. The number of graduates
from each college is as follows: the College of Arts & Social Sciences 502;
the College of Economics and Political Science 470; the College of Education 430; and the College of Law 147; the College of Nursing 72; the College
of Medicine and Health Science 155; the College of Engineering 510; the
College of Science 443; and the College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences
201. The Graduation ceremony for this year coincides with 45th National
Day celebrations. The ceremony marks the graduation of the 7th batch of
PhD graduates, the 20th batch of master’s degree holders, and the 26th
batch of bachelor’s degree holders.
H.E. Sayyid Mohammed bin Sultan Al Busaidy, the chief guest and patron
of the graduation ceremony, said: “It is my pleasure to patronize the graduation’s ceremony of SQU students. The university has proved itself as one
of the greatest achievements of the Omani Renaissance led by His Majesty
Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The graduates of this university testify that the
real development of a country depends on well-educated youth. Today, we
are sharing the happiness with the graduates and I take this opportunity
to congratulate His Majesty Sultan Qaboos on the occasion of the 45th National Day”.
Speaking on the occasion, H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University, outlined the achievements of the
university since its inception in 1986. Over the years, SQU has received
more than 72849 students. “The people of the Sultanate pin hopes on the
graduates of Sultan Qaboos University who are well qualified in different
specializations to meet the job market requirements of the country, subsequently contributing to the development of Oman. During the current academic year, SQU successfully launched the Students Advisory Council’s
elections, in order to meet the aspirations and ambitions of university’s students in their academic and university lives. The university inaugurated
the Self Learning Center, which provides various services for students such
as courses, workshops and electronic services”.
The Vice Chancellor further said that the university pumps well-qualified
graduates into the labor market that includes the public and the private
sectors. Since its inception, the humanities colleges produced 31258 graduates. This includes 7807 graduates from the College of Arts & Social Sciences, 1509 graduates from the College of Law, 5994 graduates from the
College of Economics & Political Science, and 15948 graduates from the
College of Education.
Sultan Qaboos University, has so far, produced 15249 graduates in science
fields. The total number of graduates from the College of Nursing is 487.
The College of Medicine and Health Sciences has produced 2187 graduates. The number of graduates from the College of Engineering is 5449.
As of now, the College of Science contributed 4618 graduates to the labor
markets in Oman and abroad. The number of graduates of the College
of Agricultural and Marine Sciences is 2508. Upon completion of the 26th
graduation ceremony, the total number of graduates produced by the university since its inception reaches 46673.
Medical and Nursing
Graduates Take Oath
The oath taking ceremony of the medical and nursing graduates of
Sultan Qaboos University was held at the university under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Mohammed bin Saif Al Hosni, Undersecretary at
the Ministry of Health. Dr. Muna Ahmed Al Saadon, Assistant Dean
for Clinical Affairs, College of Medicine & Health Sciences, administered the oath to 109 medical graduates consisting of 75 females
and 34 males. Ms. Salma Juma Al Mukhaini, Lecturer, Department
of Adult Health & Critical Care, administered the oath to 72 nursing
graduates from the college consisting of 63 females and 9 males.
Prof. Omar Awad Al Rawas, Dean of the College of Medicine &
Health Sciences, and Dr. Esra Al Khasawneh, Dean of the College of
Nursing, congratulated the graduates on the occasion and wished
them success in their future careers. The Deans called upon the graduates to practice their profession with honesty and integrity. Ahmed
bin Ashraf Naaim and Khoula Al Khanbashi from the colleges of
Medicine & Health Sciences, and Nursing respectively, spoke on
behalf of the graduates. They expressed their gratitude to their respective colleges and the university. They promised that they would
practice the professions with utmost sincerity and integrity to ensure
the health and well-being of the people.
Bioethics Committee
Finalizes Theme for Forum
The fifth meeting of the National Bioethics Committee was chaired
by H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor of Sultan
Qaboos University, and Chairman of the committee. The meeting
finalized the theme of the seventh bioethics intellectual forum to
be held in June 2016. The theme will be “organ donation and transplantation”. The meeting also discussed the representation of Oman
National Bioethics Committee in International Bioethics Committee (IBC) and the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee (IGBC).
The meeting discussed about constituting the organizing committee and deciding the theme for the Second International Bioethics
Conference scheduled for February 2017. The Committee discussed
on launching an academic department in Bioethics at the College of
Medicine & Health Sciences at SQU. The committee also decided to
form a national level committee consisting of medical doctors and
specialists from the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs to review abortion cases in Oman.
P3 10 December 2015
Low-Birth-Weight Linked to Poor
School Performance
Low birth weight (LBW) has long been identified as a key predictor of
morbidity, mortality as well as physical, emotional, psychological, and
scholastic development and well-being in childhood and for the rest of life.
Previous studies have shown that LBW babies are 20 times more likely
to die during infancy than the normal weight (≥ 2500 g) babies. LBW has
been selected as an important indicator for monitoring major health goals
by the 2000 World Summit for Children. It is also one of the targets of the
2000 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for reducing
child mortality.
A recent study in Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) revealed that Oman
sees increasing incidence of low-birth-weight (LBW) (defined by the World
Health Organization (WHO) as a birth-weight less than 2,500 grams or 2.5
kg or 5.5 lb) children, and it is linked with poor school performance and
behavioural problem of elementary school children. Strikingly, an overall
one-fourth (25.7%) of the children with LBW had a below-average performance compared to 9.5% of the children with normal birth weight (i.e birth
weight 2.5kg and above).
The study was conducted by Dr. M. Mazharul Islam, an Associate Professor in the department of Mathematics and Statistics at SQU, and the report was published in a recent issue of the Oman Medical Journal 2015
(Vol. 30, No. 4:241-251). Data for the study come from a cross-sectional
survey of nine selected elementary schools (eight from Muscat and one
from A’Dhahirah region; three were private schools) in Oman. The study
utilized a unique database created by linking information from the children’s health cards and current academic and behavioral performance records from school. Information on children’s performance in various areas
such as language, mathematics, science, information technology, sports,
and behavior were obtained from the school registers. Teachers rated the
students’ performance on each area in a five-point Likert scale, designating
a score of one as unacceptable and five as excellent. Three was considered
an average score. Birth weight (BW) and selected socio-demographic data
were obtained from the copy of their health cards kept by each school. 542
elementary school children aged 7–11 years, who had completed grades
2–4, were surveyed. The overall objective of this study was to examine
how well LBW children perform in school in selected areas of school curriculum, compared to a group of children with normal birth weight (NBW;
≥2.5kg), controlling for the effects of potential risk factors of LBW.
Dr. Islam pointed out that compared to any developed country, Oman has
a relatively high rate of LBW, which is around 10% since 2010. “Despite the
improvements in health care services and medical technology in Oman,
LBW rates have shown increasing trends in the country since 1980. According to the National Health Information Statistics (NHIS), the prevalence of LBW was 4.2% in 1980, which doubled (8.1%) in 2000. Since then
it has shown a slow but steady increase reaching 10.2% in 2013. Recent
child health statistics indicated that the ability of the country to prevent
LBW has shown no improvement, but the ability to increase the survival of
LBW children has increased considerably,” he observed. Dr. Islam further
added that many of these LBW survivors are now attending school and it
is important to investigate how these children are coping in school, and
identify their special needs.
As Dr. Islam reported, “overall, 12% of the children exhibited below average performance on selected school outcome measures, irrespective of
their birth weight. The below average school performance varied from
5–17% across the six selected areas of school performance. The highest rate
of below average performance was observed in science (17%), followed
10 December 2015 P4
by arithmetic and language (16% each), IT (11%), and behavior (9%). The
lowest rate was in sports (5.4%).” “With the exception of sports and IT,
boys showed a higher rate of difficulties in the other four areas of school
performance than girls,” he observed.
The study highlighted that LBW children were 2–6 times more likely to
have poorer school performance in all areas than their normal birth weight
(NBW) peers were. “Birth weight showed significant negative association
with poor school performance,” Dr. Islam said. For example, one in every
three (34.4%) children with LBW had a below average school performance
in math compared to one in every eight (12.3%) children with NBW. He
further observed, “Overall, one-fourth (25.7%) of the children with LBW
had a below-average performance compared to 9.5% of the children with
NBW. “The highest effect of LBW (around six-times) was found on IT performance followed by language (around five-times) and lowest on sports
performance (two-times),” said Dr. Islam.
“Since the poor school outcomes of LBW children have economic and social consequences that go beyond the immediate health care and special
education costs and may have lifetime effects, an attempt should be made
to reduce or prevent poor pregnancy outcomes. In turn, this would reduce
the cost of health, education, and social services. Intensive monitoring
during the course of pregnancy by providing adequate prenatal medical
care might be one means of prevention of adverse pregnancy outcomes
like LBW. In addition, early intervention programs or special care for LBW
children in school could be an effective means of improving the educational outcome and behavior of these children. It is also important to increase awareness among parents, teachers, and the community about the
higher risk of ill health and poor cognitive development of LBW children
and their special needs for health and development”, Dr. Islam concluded.
Mind Over Matter
Food Imagery to Diagnose Disease
SQU Academic’s Article on Food
Imageries in Medical Learning
Draws Worldwide Attention
Food imagery has always been used in medical education to identify the diagnostic features of a wide range of medical conditions and
ailments, says Dr. Ritu Lakhtakia, Head of the Department of Pathology at the College of Medicine & Health Sciences at SQU. In an
article that appeared in the British Medical Journal Group’s Medical
Humanities (dated 10 July, 2014), Dr. Lakhtakia highlights imagery
such as anchovy sauce to describe the pus from a liver abscess, and
dome shaped elevation of a mushroom or the more irregular and
frond-like protrusion of cauliflower florets for their likeness to tumors in the gastrointestinal tract. The article titled “Twist of taste:
gastronomic allusions in medicine” received worldwide media attention due to the uniqueness and the usefulness of its content for
both physicians and nonprofessionals. Popular websites such as the
BBC Health, Medical Daily and Science Daily, commended the efforts of Dr. Ritu Lakhtakia in describing these ‘titbits’ of knowledge
in the Journal of Medical Humanities.
Sarcoma, a type of cancer (malignant tumor), owes its etymology to
its fleshy consistency. The word sarcos means flesh in Greek, says
Dr. Ritu, who starts her article with foods from animal sources evoking graphic comparisons with certain diseases. The “herring bone”
pattern of microscopic arrangement of cells in malignant tumors of
soft tissues reminds one of the branching pattern of ribs from the
spine of the herring fish. The author observes that any fish expert
would certify that the dark brown pus from an amoebic liver abscess looks like anchovy sauce. The root of the word ‘cancer’ lies
is its ‘crab-like’ grip and infiltration into surrounding tissues along
many fronts.
Plants and natures shapely forms also have dramatized conventional classification of the morphology of tumors, says Dr. Ritu in her
article. The smooth dome-shaped elevation of a mushroom or the
more irregular and frond-like protrusion of cauliflower florets are
embedded in their likeness to tumors that protrude into the cavities of hollow organs in the gastrointestinal tract. ‘Creamy’ pus describes a thick whitish fluid containing an admixture of necrotic tissue, white blood cells and bacteria. “Milk patch” is a circumscribed
whitish plaque representing a localised healed patch of inflammation of the membranes encasing the heart. The pseudo-membrane
in mucosal candida infection, affecting the skin and the mouth, has
a “curd-like” or “cottage cheese” appearance because of its white
granular appearance. The term “bread and butter” is often used to
describe inflammation of the pericardium (the fibrous sac surrounding the heart) or fibrinous pericarditis. “Chocolate cyst” of the ovary
is an endometriotic cyst containing dark brown fluid from repeated
cycles of endometrial proliferation and shedding with bleeding.
Dr. Ritu observes that junior medical students are taught that the
kidney is ‘bean’ shaped. “Rice-water” stools in cholera indicate the
effect of the cholera toxin resulting in floating mucosal breaks up
in a watery stool. The size of tumors are easily attested by being
compared with ‘peanuts’ or ‘walnuts’, and for larger sizes, with
‘lemons’ or ‘oranges’. Yellow to brown semitransparent protuberances seen on the borders of the skin plaques in lupus vulgaris (a tuberculosis skin infection affecting face and neck) by pressure application by a finger have been likened to “apple jelly”.
“Currant jelly” sputum is indicates the prevalence of Klebsiella
pneumonia (a type of bacteria). The “cluster of grapes” appearance of the uterine contents in a pregnant women indicates the
diagnosis of molar pregnancy. “Strawberry cervix” reflects the
inflamed red appearance of the cervix in trichomonas infection
(a type of sexually transmitted infection). The appearance of yellowish specks on the gallbladder mucosa affected with cholesterolosis (change in the gallbladder wall due to excess cholesterol)
is also compared with ‘strawberry’.
“Beer belly” denotes the apparently visible bulging of the abdomen in men resulting from regular consumption. Dramatic
and visible reddish purple birthmarks on the skin are generally termed “port wine” stain. Haematemesis (vomiting blood)
is diagnosed by “coffee-ground” appearance due to the acidic
action on the bloody stomach contents. If a person suffers from
tinea versicolor (a fungal skin infection), a potassium hydroxide
mount on the skin scrape is likely to show the “spaghetti and
meatball” appearance of yeast and hyphae of Malasezia furfur.
A ‘croissant’ appearance of the nucleus of a spindle cell tumor
helps pathologists to determine schwannoma, a benign tumor
arising on peripheral nerves.
Dr. Ritu observes that food imageries, once inspired and embellished medical learnings but are slowly vanishing from medical
writings. Her article, however, chronicles some of the innumerable allusions to raw and cooked food items that are capable of
reinforcing through imaginative imagery, audiovisual and olfactory understanding of diseases. At the same time, she feels that
food imageries may not be palatable for some readers. Dr. Ritu
concludes her article with the hope that the time-honored allusions have been and will continue to be a lively learning inducement for generations of budding physicians.
P5 10 December 2015
News Round Up
Student Chapter Retains
SEG Summit Award
The Geophysics Student Chapter at Sultan Qaboos University has received
the Summit Award from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)
for the second year in a row. The Summit award is the highest rank at the
SEG student chapters from all over the world. SQU Student Chapter is the
only student chapter from the universities in the Middle East that got such
a prestigious award. The award was announced during the SEG meeting
that was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA on 21 October, 2015.
A group of bright earth science students (Geophysics and Geology) including Marwa Al-Khayari (president), Satha Al Issai, Asma Al Abri and Esraa
Al-Hinai, runs the chapter. H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor congratulated the members of the SEG student chapter on winning
the Summit Award. The students briefed the VC about their activities that
led them to such prestigious success and the experience they gained while
working as officers for the student chapter during the last year. Prof. Salma
Al Kindy, Dean of the College of Science attended the meeting and wished
the students more success in future.
Dr. Hesham El-Kaliouby, the Faculty Advisor of the SEG student chapter
said: “I am very proud of the activities of the chapter during the last three
years. During this period the SEG chapter has been promoted from Base in
2012 (lowest rank) to Ridge in 2013 (Mid-rank) to Summit in 2014 (highest rank) in a relatively short period and kept this top rank in 2015 for the
second year”. The SEG selected SQU chapter from among 340 chapters in
63 countries. It is more challenging to stay on top than to get there”. The
Society of Exploration Geophysicists is a not-for-profit organization that
promotes the science of applied geophysics and the education of geophysicists.
CAMS Celebrates
International Year of Soils
The Department of Soils, Water & Agricultural Engineering (SWAE)
of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences (CAMS), organized
a workshop to celebrate “2015 International Year of Soils” under the
patronage of H.E. Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al Bakri, Undersecretary at the
Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries. The 68th UN General Assembly
declared 2015 the International Year of Soils (IYS). The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the UN has been nominated to implement IYS 2015 within the framework of Global Soil Partnership and
in collaboration with the governmental and the secretariat of the UN
Convention to Combat Desertification. The IYS 2015 aims to create
awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.
In the opening ceremony of the workshop, El Zein Mustafa El Muzamil, representative of FAO, spoke about the importance of soil
conservation to achieve food security and environmental protection.
“Healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, and fibre. Soils are
also essential to our ecosystems, playing a key role in the carbon cycle, storing and filtering water, and improving resilience to floods and
droughts”, he explained. “The International Year of Soils is an effort
to raise awareness and promote more sustainable use of this critical
resource. Soil is also the largest pool of organic carbon, which is essential for mitigating and adapting to climate change. In an era of water
scarcity, soils are fundamental for its appropriate storage and distribution”, El Zein said. Commenting on manmade and natural threats
to soils, El Zein said that 33 per cent of our global soil resources are
under degradation and human pressures on soils are reaching critical
limits, reducing and sometimes eliminating essential soil functions.
Workshop Gives Insights into Food and Brain Health
in Oman and the world. Scientists from Australia, USA, Switzerland,
Ethiopia, India and Denmark presented their research and updated on
the effect of food and brain health. Apart from students and researchers
from SQU, many health professionals, nutritionists, dietitians from attended the workshop. The opening ceremony of the workshop was held
under the patronage of Prof. Taher Ba Omar, Advisor to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at SQU. In his opening address, Dr. Rashid
Abdullah Al Yahyai, the Dean of the College of Agricultural & Marine
Sciences, explained how the workshop topic aptly suits to the interdisciplinary research approach promoted by the college.
The Department of Food Science & Nutrition of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences (CAMS), and the Ageing and Dementia Research
Group (ADRG) at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), organised the third International Workshop on Food and Brain Health. The workshop discussed
many topics related to neuroprotective action of food and natural compounds and the status of neurological diseases and traumatic brain injury
10 December 2015 P6
Prof. Lawrance Rajendran from the University of Zurich, Switzerland,
gave the first keynote address on “Insulin and nutrient signalling pathways contribute to amyloid formation in Alzheimer’s disease”. He said
that amyloid formation in brain cells that lead neurological diseases
could be prevented by improving or changing the lifestyle rather than
through therapies. Prof. Samir Al Adawi, Head of Behavioural Medicine
Department at SQU, chaired the first keynote session. In this session,
Prof Gilles Guillemin from Macquarie University, Australia gave a talk
on the benefits of natural products against neurodegenerative diseases.
Stress on Mental and Emotional Health
The Student Counselling Centre at Sultan Qaboos University seeks to promote the mental health of all the students at the university, to improve
their quality of life and create a learning environment that facilitates their
individual development. As specialists working with students, the staff at
the Student Counselling Centre helps students address whatever it is that
may be of concern to the students and is affecting their wellbeing. The
Counselling Centre offers a broad range of services including individual
counselling, group counselling, and other supportive services. The Centre
provides a range of programs to promote mental health, emotional resilience and wellness throughout the campus community. The counsellors
interact with students during orientation, conduct sensitization programs
and theme-focused short-term group sessions, and are in consultation
with faculty and staff in every academic department of the University.
Group counselling is one of the valuable services provided by the Student
Counselling Centre (SCC) at SQU. Group counselling sessions for the current semester commenced at the beginning of October 2015 will continue
until the end of November. Marwa Al Rajhi, Research Assistant at the Student Counselling Centre said that the group-counselling program targets
groups of students, each group not exceeding 12 individuals, who meet
regularly for 9 sessions and each session lasts for 50 minutes. One of the
specialized counsellors at the SCC runs the sessions. During the current
semester, seven sessions have been conducted on the following topics:
“strategies for improving life skills in the university environment”, “Skills
of the effective time management”,” Self-development”, “Management
of emotions”, “Trust yourself and achieve what you want,” “Strategies to
Success,” and “Skills of effective study.” All these topics contribute to the
enhancement of students’ academic, social and psychological life.
Marwa Al Rajhi said that the outreach-counselling program offered by
the Student Counselling Centre during this semester, handled a highly
relevant topic related to university students. “Students in this age are
approaching the entrance of a new life, the marriage life, in which new
responsibilities will be on their shoulders. Therefore, making students
aware and qualifying them for their future life is one of the goals of the
counselling centre. The outreach-counselling program that covered the
theme of “marriage” continued from 5 to 21 November 2015. The program targeted female students only and the lectures took place at the oncampus accommodations for female students at the university”, she said.
The lectures were very useful and introduced valuable knowledge about
different aspects that any girl should take into consideration when she
gets married. The lectures were interactive and the students got the
chance to ask questions and discuss relevant issues with specialized counsellors. The program compromised five lectures on the following topics:
“When should I think of marriage?” “Caring and Affection (engagement
period),” “ First year of marriage,” “Family relationships and their role in
marriage success” and “Planning for marriage”.
Training Workshops for Staff
The Student Counseling Center (SCC) at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU)
takes all efforts to include various sections of the university community in
its comprehensive programs. Although the primary focus for delivery of
diverse mental health services is the student community, the SCC has not
forgotten SQU staff as being an important part in SQU community who
also need to benefit from the counseling services. Therefore, SCC organize
a number of training workshops for staff that deal with family, social and
mental health issues.
For this semester, the series of workshops will start on 7 December and
will continue till the end of December. Each workshop involves staff not
exceeding 20. Specialized counselors at SCC will present five workshops
on the following topics: “Psychological, social and cultural effects of
housemaids on families,” “Children with no burdens,” “ How can I develop my child’s intelligence?” “How to increase your child’s self-confidence?” and “Enjoy your mental health.” The workshops will be offered
in Arabic and they target all Omani and Arab staff who are interested
to participate with no exceptions. In addition, these workshops are announced to all staff either via e-mail or posters displayed at different locations at SQU. Interested staff may register through the contact numbers
provided in these announcements.
P7 10 December 2015
Straight Talk
Towards a Knowledgebased Economy
Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi
Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi is the Chief Executive Officer of the Information Technology Authority (ITA), responsible for the implementation of the Digital Oman
Strategy (e.oman). Throughout his more than 28-year career in the IT field, Dr. Salim held different technical and
managerial roles in the Sultanate of Oman.He received
Doctorate of Science degree in Information Systems and
Communications from Robert Morris University of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Master of Science in Information
Systems Technology from George Washington University
of Washington DC and Bachelor of Science in Computer
Science and Mathematics from Lindenwood University
of St.Charles Missouri. Of late, Dr. Salim gave a talk on
“e-Oman towards a knowledge based economy” at the
College of Economics & Political Science at SQU.
based economy requires introduction of e-Government and
creation of a ‘digital society’. This is part of the national IT
strategy of the country. ITA aims at the consolidation and
activation of government policies to transform the Sultanate into a knowledge–based economy for achievement of
social and economic benefits to the Omani society by using
this technology “within” the policies of economic diversification and sustained development. Currently, the e.oman
strategy places emphasis on increasing the competency of
Omani IT manpower to enable growing Omani IT businesses particularly Small and Medium enterprises, and
creating jobs. Another area is driving digital literacy and
IT skills while enabling society’s use of digital technologies
and connectivity. The third area aims at increasing delivery, integration and quality of e-Government services and
drives their adoption by citizens, residents and businesses.
We expect by the end of 2015 to have at least 200 services
online from different government organizations be delivered to citizens and businesses in Oman. We have several
other services available online such as renewing registrations, and obtaining certification and permits from the
Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of
Manpower. In the area of e-Commerce, we are working
with several international companies that are coming to
Oman, from Estonia and Singapore and, hopefully Lithuania. In addition, we are focusing on localizing technology.
Hence, we have also launched our Virtual Reality Center,
and we will soon be launching our Mobile Applications
Center to assist people to be proficient mobile developers.
Horizon: Society and human capital development is one
of the main pillars of e.oman strategy. Can you outline the
progress achieved in this area, since the inception of ITA?
Dr. Salim: Imparting IT training to government servants is
of great importance in achieving digital literacy and e-Government. Within society and human capital development
framework, ITA has so far trained 74,000 civil servants. As
part of our efforts to provide IT literacy to the community,
as many as 19 community knowledge centers (CKCs) have
been established in various parts of the Sultanate. Around
55,700 citizens have been trained through these centers.
It is worth mentioning that out of the 19 CKCs, nine are
exclusively for women. Specialized IT training and certification was given to 4875 professionals. As part of the
National Free and Open Source Software initiative, 64,000
Open Source Software DVDs have been distributed. ITA,
with the support of three leading higher educational institutions, has established three Free and Open Source Software labs.
Horizon: How would you underscore the importance of
digital literacy in transforming the society into a knowledgebased economy?
Dr. Salim: The information society is characterized by the
great impact of information and communication technologies
(ICTs) across the socio economic, political and culture areas
of society. Limitless amount of information is disseminated
through ICTs worldwide and those who have no access to
these technologies are left at a disadvantage, being unable to
participate and share fully in the benefits of the information
society. Access to ICTs is seen as an essential factor for the development and the improvement of the well-being of society.
Horizon: ITA spearheads transforming Oman into a knowledge-based economy, as part of economic diversification
strategy. What extent ITA has advanced in attaining its goals?
Dr. Salim: In order to transform the country into knowledge
10 December 2015
Horizon: In future, how is ITA planning to assist the nation’s progress as a digitalized economy.
Dr. Salim: The 9th Plan of the Sultanate puts great stress
on transition into a digitalized economy. The ITA will function as facilitator and enabler for other economic activities.
We will work in collaboration with the industry and the
business firms in job creation initiatives and to achieve increased productivity and efficiency. ITA will enable creation of new services arising from emerging trends; reduce
cost of economic activities; enable new modes of doing
business and better and faster communication between
businesses. Apart from these, ITA will be direct contributor
to the economy through creating new jobs in the ICT industry and contributing to the economy through ICT services.
Creation of new small and medium enterprises in the field
of ICT is another area of priority. Our future activities will
definitely cover future trends and technologies such as the
Internet of Things, digital social interaction, cloud computing, 3D printing, autonomous machines and augmented