A five-member delegation of COMSATS Secretariat visited the Sultanate of Oman from 31st October, 2017 to 2nd November, 2017 in connection with signing a “Protocol of Cooperation” with Oman National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT). The delegation was led by Dr. S. M. Junaid Zaidi, Executive Director COMSATS, and included: Dr. Sohail Asghar, Professor, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT); Dr. Manzoor Ilahi Tamimi, Associate Professor, CIIT; Mr. Jamshed Masood, CEO, COMSATS Internet Services (CIS); and Mr. Nisar Ahmad, Deputy Director (Systems), COMSATS Secretariat. The delegation held a number of meetings during this period in different institutes.
On 1st November 2017, the delegation called upon the H.E. Mr. Ali Javed, Pakistani Ambassador in Oman at Pakistan Embassy in Muscat, Oman. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Salman Athar, Deputy Head of Mission and Mr. Muhammad Ishaque, Counselor Trade and Education, Pakistan Embassy.
The Ambassador warmly welcomed the delegation and gave a comprehensive briefing on the status of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Oman. The delegation was informed about the new initiatives being taken by the Pakistani Mission for outreach.
Dr. Zaidi shed light on the organization and functions of COMSATS and its flagship projects, and expressed desire to establish formal linkages between COMSATS and relevant institutions in Oman. The subject of the Sultanate of Oman’s membership to COMSATS was also discussed in detail and it was adjudicated that the event will be brought up at the appropriate forum and will be followed-up through the Embassy of Pakistan. It was proposed by the Ambassador to nominate an official at the COMSATS Secretariat to follow-up the matter with the Embassy. Appreciative of COMSATS’ efforts for South-South Cooperation, the Ambassador assured the Executive Director that he will sensitize the concerned officials of Oman, in parliamentary procedure to accomplish the aims of COMSATS.
Dr. Zaidi also held pre-visit meeting with H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Marhoon, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman in Pakistan, on 27th October 2017, at his office. Dr. Zaidi shared the purpose of his then upcoming scheduled visit to Oman and also informed that COMSATS intends to raise the matter of Oman’s membership to COMSATS during this visit.
Later, the delegation visited the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) that was established in 1986 and is the biggest and the oldest Public Sector University in the Sultanate of Oman. Mr. Ishaq of Embassy of Pakistan also accompanied the delegation during this visit. The meeting with Dr. Talal Khamis Al-Wahaibi, Assistant Dean (Research) was held in his office.
Welcoming the delegation, Dr. Talal expressed his pleasure to receive the guests and hoped that this visit will open new areas of collaborations. Dr. Zaidi briefed about COMSATS and its flagship projects with special focus on CIIT. Dr. Talal informed the delegates about the organizational structure of SQU and shared the activities and roles of his Research Department. It was informed that SQU currently has more than 17,000 students and 9 colleges. It was also shared that SQU has different types of grants for students, including ‘His Majesty Grant’, while different collaborative grants are also available like ‘British Petroleum Fund’ for energy sustainability projects, etc. It was also shared that foreign students are only registered in post-graduation programmes. The potential areas of future collaboration were explored in great detail.
The delegation visited different labs of SQU including Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) labs, Advanced Networking lab, Digital Design lab etc.; during the course of these visits, number of Pakistani faculty members in SQU joined the delegate and had useful discussions and ideas for future collaboration were discussed. During these discussions, the programmes and activities of COMSATS were highlighted and collaborations sought wherever feasible.
Afterwards in the evening, COMSATS’ delegation, on the invitation of Pakistan Social Club (Pakistani Community forum in Oman) participated in the Young Leaders Forum (YLF) organized by the Embassy. The participants welcomed Dr. Zaidi’s announcement for fully-funded scholarships to qualifying Pakistani students in Oman who wished to pursue their careers in the fields of Science & Technology and IT at CIIT. Dr. Zaidi also expressed full support to the online platform of www.YPFO.pk including IT support and participation through Lectures and Internships.
On 2nd November 2017, a “Protocol of Cooperation” was signed between COMSATS and The Oman National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT) to cooperate in the areas of cyber security and computer emergency response program. Dr. Zaidi and Eng. Badar Al Salehi, Director General of Oman National CERT, signed the agreement on behalf of their organizations during a ceremony held at OCERT building. The signing ceremony was also witnessed by visiting delegate and senior officials of OCERT.
The OCERT is one of the divisions of the Information Technology Authority (ITA), Government of Oman and it is established to serve as a trusted focal point of contact for any ICT security incidents in the Sultanate of Oman related to cyber safety and security, capacity building and promoting cyber security awareness and to serve public and private sector organizations, critical national information infrastructures as well as individuals. Besides, OCERT is playing a regional-level role in cyber security by hosting the ITU Arab Regional Cyber Security Center and chairs the OIC-CERT.
The purpose of this PoC is to seek research and development cooperation in the area of cyber security and computer emergency response program between the two parties and to cooperate for a whole range of fields of mutual interest in research and development and other activities, such as trainings and workshops, conferences and bilateral visits. This PoC also provides a framework and assurance that the research and capacity building activities at both organizations would be enhanced.
As agreed in the Protocol, both parties agree to develop the following collaborative activities;
(a) Conducting joint research and development projects;
(b) Organizing international conferences, training and workshops;
(c) Exchange of experts and researchers;
(d) Exchange of information and technical expertise;
(e) Search for opportunities to collaborate in the future.
Earlier in the day, the delegation was welcomed at ITA by Ms. Roqaya Al-Tobi, OCERT and other senior officials of the ITA that followed a detailed presentation on ITA activities entitled ‘e. Oman Strategy’. Ms. Azhaar Abdullah Ambusa’idi of ITA gave a presentation. Dr. Zaidi introduced COMSATS by giving a presentation highlighting the goals and achievements of COMSATS. Later, the delegation visited different labs of ITA including; SAS-Mobile, SAS Virtual Reality and SAS Entrepreneurship. The delegation also visited the OCERT, where senior OCERT officials welcomed the delegates and Ms. Roqaya gave a detailed presentation on OCERT functions that followed a technical briefing with live demos of applications and tools being used by OCERT against cyber threats.