AI and digital transformation will drive IT

Channel Post speaks with Miriam Burt, Research Vice President, Gartner on the current IT trends in the MENA region and the main drivers for IT growth in the region.


What are the top IT trends in the region?

Today the focus in IT is shifting from data centres and virtualization towards customer centric technologies like virtual personal assistants and other upcoming ones like artificial intelligence and machine learning. The key IT trends that will underpin development in the region will be advanced analytics, digital transformation and security in the IoT environment.

Are organisations in the region ready to keep pace with the changing IT trends?

In terms of approach, I would say that the organisations do understand the necessity to migrate to the current and emerging technologies. The government sector in the region, especially the UAE government, has either implemented or is in the process of adopting the latest technologies available.

As far as awareness of latest technologies and the significance of their adoption are concerned, most regional businesses are well-informed. However, there are areas where this region is still struggling, like the unavailability of experienced personnel in the IT industry having the right skill set and an under-developed backend system that needs to be modernized to be a part of the digital platform.

Considering that 2016 was a hard year for the IT industry, why do you think organisations will be inclined to increase their IT expenditure?

Gartner expects IT spending in the MENA region to increase by 2.4 per cent from 2016, projected to reach $155.8 billion in 2017. Actually, IT expenditure forms a very small portion of the total business cost. When businesses look at cost optimisation, most of the savings they expect come from other parts of the business rather than IT. Hence, the organisations cannot really gain much by cutting IT spends but they can optimise costs in the rest of the business processes by investing in the right IT infrastructure. So, this year they will be spending on IT to help their business identify how they can work more efficiently.

Another very important reason is that today most organisations in the region understand the importance of investing at a time when the economy is in a downswing so as to take maximum advantage when things turn around and opportunities emerge.

Which verticals are expected to contribute to maximum growth in IT spending?

The key vertical segments driving IT spending growth include communications, services market, banking and financial sector and manufacturing. Apart from this the utilities market is also expected to support the increasing IT expenditure.

In your opinion, what factors will drive the increase in IT spending?

This surge in IT expenditure is mainly due to a strong increase in mobile phone expenditure with consumer mobile services claiming most of communication services budgets. Rise in the demand for servers & unified communications and growth in enterprise application software are other factors that will accelerate IT spending this year.