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Smart City Ambassadors

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       One of the key missions of the Smart Cities Platform (SCP) in the Sultanate of Oman is to increase the awareness and engagement of its stakeholders toward adopting the concept of smart city in their corporate and social life. The SCP has already initiated many projects to help achieve this mission. Smart City Ambassadors (SCA) was one of these successful initiatives and its goal was to create a smart community of practice by building a community of volunteered and skilled champions who would conduct a series of monthly free lectures and workshops related to the concept of Smart City around Oman.

       SCA program was launched in November 2019. It was supported by public relations campaign through social media and media relations activities to help increase the awareness of such a new communal initiative. The focus of the program was related to smart city-oriented topics. Therefore, most of the lectures/workshops were scheduled in 4th Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) topics such as: Blockchain, Big Data, IOT, Autonomous Vehicles/ Drones, AI & Machine Learning, and 3D printing. In addition, to maintain the quality level of SCA programs, resource speakers (Academic experts, researchers, Industry experts, consultants, business owners, and students) of high profile and proven experience in their field, were only accepted to conduct the sessions.

       As this is a non-profit initiative, SCA has partnered with different institutions and organizations to host its workshops free of cost and the SCA ambassadors have voluntarily conducted such workshops.

       Under the SCA program, forty-four (44) lectures/ workshops were conducted till the end of April 2020. A total of 3052 participants from 11 main cities in Oman attended the various lectures. The social media campaign, the workshop topics, and the high profile of resource speakers, all contributed to the grant success of this program. Our ambassadors became our Change Champions and the big supporters in the Government Innovation around the different cities in Oman. This initiative is the first of its type in Oman.

       The statistics of all the completed workshops can be tracked from our Instagram or Twitter accounts given below.

www.instagram.com/smartcity_oman

https://twitter.com/SmartCity_Oman

 
 
 

State your goals.

  • Create a database of expert ambassadors in Oman
  • Empower the Smart City Ambassadors to contribute in their communities
  • Enhance the skills of Smart City Ambassadors in sharing and exchanging knowledge and awareness
  • Facilitate and encourage Smart City Ambassadors in finding innovative smart solutions to the identified local problems
  • Break the gap of using technology through Smart City Ambassadors program
  • Engage young Omanis in the development of a knowledge-based society
  • Motivate innovation related projects of smart cities
  • Promote research & development activities in smart cities domain
 
 
 

What problems (particularly in value chain competitiveness and global disruption) are your community’s stakeholders facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

       Due to the severe effect of the pandemic in terminating the activities of our new program, we have decided to change our strategy. Therefore, we have shifted all our sessions to online delivery mode and we were the first group who started the online sessions in Oman during the pandemic. We informed all our ambassadors that we are changing the policy, so that we can continue our sessions without any interruptions. Seven (7) ambassadors volunteered and they were willing to deliver the online sessions on April 2020.

       Below are the main challenges we faced; we would like to mention them as challenges rather than problems because it gave us the opportunity for improvement.

1- We were not able to complete the full program based on our framework timeline. We couldn’t continue in the same theme that we had planned for.

 2- We couldn’t finish the program on April and this affected our other planned activities because we had planned to celebrate the end of the program with our ambassadors. This challenge has led the executive team to think about moving the program to a mature level which is elaborated in the below section.

 3- The executive team who is responsible for this program had to be more involved and committed as they have to be available during any online session. It was not like the physical sessions, in which each ambassador will be more responsible about his/ her session.

 

 
 
 

What minimum viable solution(s) are you proposing to address the challenge(s) in your community?

       Based on the challenges that we have faced which are stated in the previous section, COVID-19 has fortunately been a blessing to the SCA program. The program was made more successful due to the different solutions that has contributed towards the maturity of this innovative ecosystem to be more sustainable. We strongly believe that the huge success of this initiative was mainly due to a number of requests from different organizations in Oman on seeking the collaboration of SCA. We propose the following solutions to counter the above challenges:

-          It was very important to adopt innovative strategies to improve the performance of our Smart Ambassadors community to be sustainable and successful based on all the challenges that we faced during the pandemic. During COVID-19, health and safety was the main concern of the society. Accordingly, the smart city team prepared a virtual competition aimed to propose Smart app solutions to overcome some health concerns. The winners got a massive media coverage and were recommended to be a part of other related initiatives. We have been successful in empowering our ambassadors and market them as some of them are students in colleges.

-          All the online sessions were linked to COVID19, where we asked our ambassadors to prepare their content to link the usage of emerging technologies to potential solutions for the pandemic.

-          We have also changed the format of the sessions since we noticed that many organizations in and outside Oman has also started delivering in the same format. This will make the sessions duplicated and we may start losing the spark that make our SCAs unique as an innovative ecosystem. So, the content of the sessions was re-designed based on the request of the organizations. For example, one of our ambassadors has been nominated to deliver a session in Social Development Conference. She designed the content to link the usage of IOT applications to the smart services of that organization. Therefore, instead of delivering sessions based on a theme, we started conducting tailor-made sessions based on the organization’s needs.

-          Due to the increased requests we received to nominate our ambassadors in different activities and conferences, we extended the initiative to a mature level by creating a second level of this initiative titled “Smart City Ambassadors Professional Community of Practice Hub”. This initiative aims to empower smart city ambassadors through providing a hub to exchange knowledge and experience, to transfer their innovative ideas to projects with other ambassadors. Through this new sub initiative, we are moving our community of practice to a second level where we are trying to improve their skills in leading projects based on SDGs and Smart Cities Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

 

 
 
 

Share your story (your narrative)

       In Oman, we used to have the same experts and the same names who deliver the same knowledge, which makes it sometimes difficult and costly to reach them. Due to the previous challenges and pains we had in training government entities in digital transformation, we spent too much effort and money and ultimately, we don’t get a high value. We also can’t offer training for government employees who are located in different cities which make it difficult to reach them all. From that pain, we adopted the idea to have volunteered ambassadors who can support us to share and train government employees and all the different categories in their communities without any cost.

       It was challenging and everyone suspected the success of this initiative. The beginning of any initiative is difficult but if you believe in it, things will go smoothly and it will reach its goals.

       When we started the marketing plan for this initiative it wasn’t easy to make the community understand our goals. We even started searching for individuals from different cities in Oman and informed them about our new initiative and invited them to register. We have to admit that this task wasn’t easy as some individuals asked about the remuneration. We tried to explain to them the value they will get if they join as ambassadors. We have some ambassadors who didn’t agree to join for free, but when the initiative started to succeed, they came back and joined as ambassadors.

        The first month was challenging but we succeeded. We started with 6 ambassadors who delivered knowledge in 3 cities in Oman. We decided to increase the marketing and we nominated one of our ambassadors as a host in TV to speak about his participation as an ambassador in delivering knowledge. After that interview in the channel, our ambassador has been requested by an organization to deliver a session in Blockchain for their employees. The same ambassador has also attracted his colleagues to register and deliver more sessions in the following months, because they came to know about the success of their colleague.

         Most of our ambassadors felt empowered and get more confident as they shared their success story in the first virtual gathering of Smart Ambassadors on 12th August, 2020. They felt that they are able to be productive in their society through their qualifications and skills that were unknown before. Some of our ambassadors were fresh graduates, and participating as ambassadors has opened for them a chance to be known and well recommended to get better jobs.  These ambassadors are the most important part of the economy for any society. We have a lot of ambassadors who are qualified, but their certificates are hung on a wall or hidden somewhere. Now, they are getting the benefit of their qualifications as they are shared with the society.

       The story of our community has not ended and it has different chapters to highlight its success and to be adopted as a best practice to be used by every city who has the same challenge and pain in creating effective communities in Digital Transformation and Smart Cities. Cities who are facing difficulties with the shortage of budget to invest in building capacity, this initiative will be very suitable for them to support them in accelerating the digital transformation stages.

 

 

 
 
 

Please provide any additional relevant information that you would like to share.

        In order to create a successful ecosystem in your community, you have to think about all the stakeholders. This is what we did in our Smart City Ambassadors program where we involved everyone to be our ambassador; no matter how old he/ she is or what their nationality is. We succeeded in having all the citizens and residents in participating to be our ambassadors and now we have aimed to extend ourselves globally by having more ambassadors from different countries who joined us recently in our initiative.
 
        We will continue to provide all our sessions free which is our main goal. Currently our initiative is sponsored by 3 private sectors in Oman in order to make it sustainable through the team who is managing all the activities. Our sponsors are getting marketed through all our sessions and activities in return and we also promote their smart solutions and other services they offer.
 
       This smart ecosystem should be adopted by all countries in order to get ROI from their qualified and expert individuals who don’t contribute because nobody is embracing them or are aware about them.
 
         In order to be identified as a best practice global ecosystem, the smart city team has started discussing a research collaboration with UN eGOV office and hopefully we can share this successful initiative with all the organizations who face the same pain and challenge we had before. 
 

 
 
 

Your final proposal for challenge

yes

edited on Sep 1, 2020 by Nivashini Rave Rattey
Commenting is closed

Angi Gusztos 6 months ago

Hello Laila,

Your project is a great initiative in your country, you found a gap and paired it with a solution in order to solve it. How you changed your strategy and recognized that you have to have a competitive advantage when COVID-19 came was also an excellent step! I especially liked your idea of planning to work together with international ambassadors. Although you had a detailed project description, let me ask a few questions to have a clearer understanding.

-Do you plan to make this project profitable? If yes, what is your business model? It's can be an important question in the future, when you plan to involve international ambassadors as well.

-Are there any ecosystem players you can collaborate with? It might be a more effective way to reach your goals if you could find a partner who can provide services you don't and you complement each other. As I see this program can be a great way to implement the idea and the importance of smart solutions to the head of people, but they will need someone to support them on the next steps of their journey.

-Did you had a research towards finding the global best practices which do the same as you? It could be a good way to get inspiration.

Thank you for sharing your idea!

Best,
Angi

Laila AL Hadhrami 6 months ago

Hi Angi,
Thanks a lot for your valuable comments and you remind me to write this important details as Smart City Platform is getting sponsored from 3 different companies from the private sector and that is how the Program of Smart Ambassadors is funded through the executive team who are managing all these activities.

We are still planning to make all the sessions free because we need to keep in our goal that we have to keep educating everyone free so we can succeed in our awareness and keep empowering our ambassadors.

Our partners are getting advertisement in all our announcements for any session where they can market their smart solutions and we are planning to reach global companies too as our partners.

Thanks for raising the research topic as it was one of the priorities that we thought about it when we started this program. We contacted the UN eGoV team to work on a research so we can publish it as a best practice :). Now we have to follow up again and start on this research.

Henry Dobson 6 months ago

Hi Laila,

Congratulations on the success you've achieved so far with Smart City Ambassadors (SCA) - it's very impressive!

The key question for me has to do with the business model of this organisation. Whilst you state that the sessions with ambassadors is free, at some point your organisation will expand and require a team who can further build the network and engage directly with more stakeholders and participants. How are you planning to monetise SCA? Could you offer paid courses or perhaps one-to-one tutoring services with the ambassadors?

There is a huge amount of value that you're creating here, and that fact that so far it's all been free is fantastic, however, this will also hinder the growth and reach of SCA around Oman and the further aboard (internationally) as well.

Keep up the great work in these very difficult times!

Laila AL Hadhrami 6 months ago

Hi Henry,

Thanks a lot for your valuable comment and it is almost the same comment i got from Angi. It is my fault that I forget to mention the most important element of this idea which is the financial side and we are getting funded by 3 sponsors. We are marketing for our sponsors in all our free sessions. We will keep all our sessions free and attract more sponsors who can fund us to keep this approach sustainable. So far we are now supported from both government and private sector and hopefully that the next time we will get global sponsors as we are growing up with our ambassadors.

EUNICE KAJALA 6 months ago

Hi Laila,

What are the gaps in using technology in Oman? And by how much, do you expect the smart Ambassadors to cover those gaps?

Laila AL Hadhrami 6 months ago

Hi Eunice,
Thanks a lot for your comment. The gap of technology is the fear and resistance of using any new technology that some organizations feel that their staff are not ready or qualified for using new technologies in improving their services. The more you are increasing the awareness through the local ambassadors, the more you are increasing the trust and break that existed gap. We have some results conducted by a survey distributed to all the attendees and we got good impressions and asking us to keep in this program to deliver more sessions.

Hope that I answered your question and if you have any more inquires please don't hesitate to contact me.

Nivashini Rave Rattey 6 months ago

Status labels added: Community feedback received, Mentor feedback received

Nivashini Rave Rattey 6 months ago

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone.

Nivashini Rave Rattey 6 months ago

Hi Laila, you can refine your submission based on the feedback that you have received so far. Let me know once that's done.

Nivashini Rave Rattey 6 months ago

Hi, State how your practice enables stakeholder collaboration and the process behind it that helps to nurture the ICT centric ecosystem.

You can now start working on your final documents.

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Nivashini Rave Rattey 6 months ago

Status label added: Expert feedback received

Nivashini Rave Rattey 6 months ago

Status label added: Submission completed

Nivashini Rave Rattey 5 months ago

Status label added: Idea under jury review

Nivashini Rave Rattey 5 months ago

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone.

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