Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Insights from Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni, Country Manager, Microsoft Oman and Bahrain on Innovation and Transformation

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Insights from Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni, Country Manager, Microsoft Oman and Bahrain on Innovation and Transformation

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Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni
Country Manager, Microsoft Oman and Bahrain

In this role, Saif leads Microsoft’s growth aspirations in Oman and Bahrain and
supports the
countries leadership in realising their national digital transformation agendas.
Al Hosni stands at the forefront of Microsoft’s collaboration with government entities, start-ups,
and private enterprises to leverage technology to empower everyone in the countries to achieve
more.
He has extensive experience in technology solutions, having worked in the sector for over 26
years.
He previously served as the IT Director at Oman’s Ministry of Finance.

With over 26 years of experience in the IT industry, what drives your passion for innovation and leadership? Can you share some insights into your personal leadership style and how it has evolved over the course of your career?

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Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: My passion for technology is rooted in a profound belief in its transformative power. Over the years, we’ve witnessed how advancements in cutting-edge fields like Cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have opened up profound opportunities for individuals, organizations, and society at large. These technologies have driven innovation and provided solutions to some of humanity’s most significant challenges. At Microsoft, our commitment is to democratize access to these powerful technologies, empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Central to the success of our mission is fostering an inclusive and diverse work environment. We believe that by empowering every team member to bring their best ideas forward, we can drive meaningful progress.

My career has underscored the importance of building trust, establishing open communication, and promoting a culture of continuous learning. This approach has enabled us to overcome numerous challenges and achieve business excellence across the region. By maintaining these core values, we continue to push boundaries and create impactful solutions for the future.

What are some notable digital transformation initiatives you have led in the public, education, and commercial sectors across Oman and Bahrain? How have these initiatives impacted these sectors?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: We have led several digital transformation initiatives that have enabled organizations across these sectors to enhance the quality of public services, improve learning outcomes for students, and ultimately create a safer and more competitive business landscape in the region. In Oman, for example, we are working closely with the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Information Technology (MTCIT) to empower students, academia, SMEs, startups and government employees with the skills they need to succeed in a digital-first and AI-enabled world.

As part of our commitment to accelerating digital transformation efforts, we are also supporting the MTCIT to develop AI use cases and proof of concept across different government entities. Similarly, we are working with the Governorate of Musandam to empower them with our cutting-edge AI solutions to drive efficiency, enhance strategic decision-making, and accelerate digital transformation efforts. We are also at the forefront of empowering educators with the advanced digital skills necessary to enhance learning in classrooms, as well as preparing students for the workforce of the future, through our long-standing partnerships with the Ministry of Education in Oman and the Education Ministry of Bahrain and University of Technology and Applied Sciences. 

Expanding the Azure cloud platform to local customers has been one of your achievements. Can you discuss the challenges you faced during this expansion and how you overcame them?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: The expansion of our Azure Cloud platform came with a unique set of challenges mainly revolving around addressing concerns about regulatory compliance, infrastructure readiness, and building trust amongst our partners and customers. To help navigate the local regulatory environment, we worked closely with the Oman government to ensure compliance while advocating for policies that helped support cloud adoption.

We also collaborated closely with several of our local partners including Omantel and PhazeRo to identify opportunities to accelerate cloud adoption and transformation across sectors. And in order to build trust in our comprehensive portfolio of solutions and services, we regularly conduct an extensive range of workshops, masterclasses, and education campaigns that demonstrate the advanced capabilities of our cloud platform, as well as our commitment to the highest standards of data privacy and security.

How has the accelerated adoption of cloud and AI technologies by Microsoft influenced the digital landscape in Oman? Can you provide specific examples of how these technologies have transformed businesses and public services in the region?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: The accelerated adoption of cloud and AI technologies has significantly reshaped and transformed Oman’s digital landscape. Businesses that have moved their workloads to the cloud are able to save costs and scale their operations more effectively, while integrating AI at various levels in their organization has helped them to optimize and streamline their operations and improve decision-making. In the case of Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, the adoption of Microsoft’s cloud-enabled solutions have empowered the organization to not only improve employee productivity but also increase the competitiveness of various tourism destinations across the country. Similarly, Omantel is leveraging Microsoft’s solutions to drive its digital transformation strategy and improve the quality of services being delivered across the sultanate.

With the latest advancements in AI, how is Microsoft leveraging these technologies to benefit businesses and government sectors in Oman and Bahrain?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: At Microsoft, we firmly believe that AI is the defining technology of our time, with the extraordinary potential to empower people and organizations to be more productive and creative. We are helping to achieve this through our AI-powered assistants, called Copilots, which uniquely incorporate the context and intelligence of the web with a user’s work data and what they are doing in the moment on their PC.

Our goal is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to spend less time on mundane and repetitive tasks and instead focus on more creative and fulfilling work with our growing stack of Copilot solutions, including Copilot for Microsoft 365, which we are showcasing during our participation at the 33rd edition of the COMEX Global Technology Show.

The solution is designed to support professionals to better manage their daily workloads by assisting them with meeting summaries, scheduling events, and generating to-do task lists, resulting in improved collaboration and operational efficiency across an organization. To further enhance the experience of professionals utilizing Generative AI in the region, we recently rolled out support for Copilot for Microsoft 365 in 16 additional languages including Arabic.

Data privacy and security are critical concerns for many organizations. How does Microsoft ensure these aspects are addressed effectively for its customers in Oman and Bahrain?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: Microsoft prioritizes the highest standards of integrity, security, and transparency. We are committed to fostering an environment where everyone can feel confident and secure in using our products and services, and we are achieving this through our extremely comprehensive approach to security, data privacy & protection, and cybersecurity. We have invested over $1 billion in security R&D and 3,500 cyber security experts into making Azure the most trusted cloud platform in the world. 

In addition, we offer over 90 compliance offerings to proactively safeguard data and streamline compliance. We are also very transparent about our data practices and our Microsoft Privacy Principles outline our commitment to user control and clear communication on data collection and use. Lastly, regularly collaborate with various government bodies and private institutions to ensure that we are helping contribute to a transparent and secure technology ecosystem. In Oman, we are working closely with the Oman Cyber Defense Centre to safeguard digital infrastructures, bolster cyber defenses, and uphold the principles of trust in technology. 

Responsible AI is a significant focus for Microsoft. How do you ensure that the AI solutions deployed in Oman and Bahrain are ethical and align with responsible AI principles?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: Microsoft firmly believes that when you create technologies that can change the world, you must also ensure that the technology is used responsibly. As such, we are committed to creating responsible AI by design through our core Responsible AI principles of fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability. We also regularly share our learnings, innovations, and best practices to ensure that our latest AI breakthroughs earn the trust of the citizens and residents of Oman. 

Just recently, we released our Responsible AI Transparency Report that provides insight into how we build applications that use generative AI; make decisions and oversee the deployment of those applications; and support our customers as they build their own generative applications. Furthermore, we collaborate with local authorities to develop national policies on responsible AI use, and actively participate in broader societal conversations about ethical AI usage across industries.

Skilling and empowering local talent is crucial for sustainable growth. Can you elaborate on the initiatives Microsoft has undertaken to enhance IT skills and professional development in Oman?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: Absolutely, the rapid evolution of cloud and AI technologies that we are seeing today has meant that employees across every business in every industry will need to build their digital aptitude to stay ahead of the emerging skills gap. Our latest Work Trend Index report found that the use of Generative AI alone has doubled over the past six months, and that 75% of global workers are already using it at work. We commit to helping prepare Oman’s current and future workforce for the opportunities and demands of an AI-driven market through various initiatives launched in collaboration with our local partners.

Building strong relationships with key stakeholders has been a cornerstone of your success. What strategies do you employ to maintain and strengthen these relationships, ensuring long-term collaboration and customer satisfaction?

Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni: Our approach to building and maintaining long-term relationships with our stakeholders revolves around consistent engagement, transparency, and delivering value. We prioritize regular communication with our partners and customers to understand their unique needs, challenges, and specific technology goals. This involves hosting regular workshops and masterclasses that facilitate open dialogue and collaboration.

To ensure transparency around our products and their responsible use, we inform our stakeholders thoroughly about our strategies and services. We also offer personalized support and dedicated account management teams to promptly help address and resolve any issues that organizations might face. Additionally, we invest in joint initiatives and co-creation projects, fostering a sense of partnership and shared success. By building trust and demonstrating commitment to our stakeholders’ success, we ensure long-term collaboration and customer satisfaction.

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