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Thu 17 Apr 2008 03:00 PM

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New era for Saudi Arabia's IT business

Increasing connectivity, maturing IT deployments and a budding research culture all point to Saudi Arabia taking the lead in the IT sector

Gitex Saudi Arabia returns once again on Sunday, bringing together the Kingdom's IT professionals and the vendors that want to sell them solutions.

With around 43% of the total Gulf IT expenditure coming from Saudi Arabia, it's no surprise that may vendors regard the Kingdom as their prime target, even if their lack of participation in trade shows such as Gitex Saudi Arabia in the country doesn't accurately reflect this. While the trade show might be in decline in Europe and the US, the market in Saudi Arabia is so diverse, and expanding so rapidly, that new customers in the Kingdom are crying out for information.

The ACN Saudi IT Survey shows the wide range of activities that IT organizations in the kingdom are undertaking. In line with IDC figures which show Saudi Arabian spending on IT services growing by 10% and security spending growing by 15%, there is a definite top-end of companies that are involved in advanced IT projects. One quarter of respondents to the survey said they had undertaken virtualization projects and data centre upgrades in the past twelve months. At the other end of the scale, over three quarters of respondents were still completing cabling, infrastructure and server deployments. The survey paints a picture of broad opportunities across many different sectors.

The focus of vendors, be it Cisco and SAP who are promising to increase headcount, Acer and BenQ who are building their channel, or Samsung who has ramped up customer services, the industry is positioning itself to meet the demand.

The Saudi telecoms sector presents an even more promising picture. The voice and data service operators in the Kingdom are pushing ahead with projects to bring next generation connectivity to the large number of potential users that aren't yet connected in the country. While the work may not be 100% done yet, the huge amounts paid for licences in Saudi, and the large number of operators that are involved in projects suggest a scramble to attract users that will hopefully create a highly competitive market to provide services for users in Saudi. In turn this will create a highly connected, technologically enabled base of end users and contribute to the economic development of the country.

Even in fields like R&D, previously unknown in developing markets, Saudi Arabia looks to be on the dawn of a new age. While the Kingdom's educational establishments like KACST have long been involved in technology research, the Knowledge Economic City in Al Madinah is reported to be holding discussions with many different technology vendors about its research efforts in the Kingdom. If KEC can turn those discussions into genuine joint ventures with technology leaders, then Saudi Arabia can truly realize its potential as the leading IT market in the region.

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