By Matthew Southwell
The Saudi Arabian market is the place to be for both ambitious end users and vendors seeking rich revenue streams in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia’s information and communications technology market is booming. In addition to the US$68.6 billion the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority will spend on ICT in over the next 20 years, other government organisations and private sector companies are set to ramp up their IT spend as technology becomes a way of life for businesses in the Kingdom and initiatives such as the National IT Plan kick in.
Essentially, the Saudi Arabian market is the place to be for both ambitious end users and vendors seeking rich revenue streams in the Middle East. For evidence of this trend, visitors to today’s show need look no further than the quality and quantity of the vendors crammed into the three halls of Gitex Saudi Arabia 2004. Providers of international repute, such as IBM, Canon, Kodak, Acer and Epson, can be seen standing next to local powerhouses such as STC, Jeraisy, Hoshhanco and Al Makateb. Each of these IT companies is looking to tap into the Kingdom’s enthusiasm for IT.
“In terms of business, Gitex is a very important show for exhibitors... [It allows] exhibitors to strengthen present business contacts and establish new business leads and opportunities,” says Mohammed Al-Hussaini, deputy general manager of Riyadh Exhibitions Co. Ltd.
According to Selman Al Fares, group IT director of Al Faisaliah Group, both the Kingdom’s ambitious e-government programmes and its move towards a liberalised telecoms market are driving technology adoption like never before.
“We see a lot of activity in the IT market, but even more so in the telecom space with the deregulation of the GSM and data services. This will be a catalyst and it will present business opportunities in themselves and there will also be opportunities caused by them,” he says
Other vendors are also predicting huge growth in the Saudi market and fully intend to take their slice of the action — starting with Gitex. BenQ, for example, hopes the show will help it grow its Saudi business by 10% before the end of the summer.