Andreas Berheide - Fotolia
As the UAE braves tumbling oil prices and gears up for the World Expo 2020, the country is set to increase its IT spending.
IDC expects the country’s IT spend to grow to $6.2bn in 2017, as technologies such as cloud, big data, social and mobility become investment priorities.
“The emergence and increasing traction of so-called innovation accelerators, such as the internet of things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality, next-gen security and 3D printing will both disrupt and boost spending,” said Jyoti Lalchandani, IDC’s group vice-president and regional managing director for Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META).
For example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE’s) public cloud market will grow to $75m in 2017, according to IDC.
Ranjit Rajan, associate vice-president of research at IDC Middle East, said increased competition among cloud providers would drive aggressive pricing, bundling and customer service, and there would be a growing focus on securing small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) accounts.
Meanwhile, the transformational impact of the internet of things (IoT) will begin to show in the UAE in 2017.
According to IDC, IoT technology will become more evident in sectors such as freight monitoring, smart grid electricity, manufacturing operations, production asset management, and remote health monitoring.
Read more about IT investment in the UAE
- Etisalat signs deal to offer its customers a mobile wallet service, as fintech expands in the Middle East.
- Amid a spate of high-profile global data leak incidents, Middle Eastern consumers are losing confidence in organisations’ ability to keep their information safe.
- Telecoms operators and technology firms in the UAE are experimenting with applications for light fidelity (LiFi) technology, in the hope that the high-speed data transmission concept will aid the development of smart city systems.
The biggest spenders on IoT in the UAE next year are tipped to be the manufacturing, transportation, utilities and healthcare verticals.
While there is heavy investment in technologies such as cloud and IoT, there is a deeper underlying trend. Jonas Zelba, analyst at Frost and Sullivan, said the latest fad in the UAE enterprise market was digitisation, a process that identified all the areas of a business that could be transformed by ICT to offer integrated products and services.
“The starting point will be to show how connectivity can improve profitability in sectors as diverse as oil exploration, agri-processing and the clothing industry, but expect ICT providers to start positioning themselves as complete, end-to-end partners with the ability to transform their clients into digital pioneers,” said Zelba.
Mobile payments ecosystem expands
Perhaps the most overt digital transformation being seen globally is in payments. Every day, people are paying for goods and services using their mobile phones or contactless cards.
The UAE has traditionally been the pioneer of mobile payments in the Gulf Cooperation Council region. But in 2017, Zelba said there would be growth in two areas:
Mobile-based merchant payments and international remittances will be increasingly adopted, and help to expand the broader mobile payments ecosystem.
More companies will enter the mobile money market. Most prominent among these will be the major internet players, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, who are using communication platforms to link to consumers’ digital wallets.
Forget BYOD – it’s time for BYOS
Mobile is also changing how workers do their jobs, and their employers have to react to this. For example, UAE enterprises are being challenged by the concept of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and its impact on data security and privacy.
Zelba at IDC said the complexity of supporting a range of personal devices had proved difficult. “But most companies have come to accept BYOD’s place in their organisations.”
However, no sooner have IT departments achieved this than BYOS (bring-your-own-software – or, potentially, service) has emerged as a fresh challenge, he said.
“As organisations become more global, they seek to increase employees’ productivity and drive efficiencies by reducing IT costs. As an added benefit, allowing employees to select their own tools increases satisfaction.
“BYOD is now an accepted part of most mainstream organisations with internal IT capabilities, but the emergence of BYOS is set to challenge these organisations further,” said Zelba.
The IT infrastructure supporting new technologies might not be as exciting, but it is just as important.
Phil Collerton, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) managing director at Uptime Institute for the datacentre sector in the Middle East, said initiatives such as smart cities, e-government, last-mile connectivity and mobile and cloud adoption continued to drive demand for datacentre and related services in the UAE.
“We are seeing inward investment from international service providers to cater for local digitisation agendas and act as edge datacentres for international firms,” he said.
Collerton said countries in the Middle East were building datacentre infrastructures to global standards of resilience and availability “so it can participate in the global economy”. During 2017, countries in the region will continue to compete to become the regional digital hub, he added.
UAE tech salaries to rise
A consequence of all the IT investment in the UAE is increased demand for local IT professionals.
The adoption of emerging technologies, ERP platforms and mobile systems is driving strong demand for talented technology professionals in the region.
According to the Robert Half 2017 Salary Guide, technology roles in the UAE are set to see average starting salaries increase by of 2.4%, which is on a par with starting salaries for professional roles.
Chief information security officers (CISOs) can expect to see the biggest starting salary rises of all technology C-suite roles in the coming year. A starting salary increase of 5.2% will see CISO positions command salaries of between $163,500 and $255,000.
With an increased awareness of the potential dangers of cyber threats, the need for strong leadership within IT security is driving the demand for experienced CISOs in the region.
“The technology department is no longer being seen as an afterthought in the business world and is quickly becoming a fundamental piece of the puzzle,” said Gareth El Mettouri, associate director at recruitment firm Robert Half UAE.