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Tue 19 Feb 2008 09:00 AM

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Stand up and be counted

It's survey time, as ACN tries to discover what makes Saudi IT managers tick...

Saudi Arabia is a big place. Roughly one-fifth the area of the USA, it is home to 27.6 million people, and the site of around a quarter of the world's proven oil reserves. The country has 2640 kilometres of coastline, and incorporates the greater part of one of the largest and most inhospitable deserts anywhere in the world.

Not incidentally, it also has an economy worth around US$572 billion measured by purchasing power parity, and is currently in a period of extended and significant growth. However one looks at it, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the biggest state, economy, market and political player in the Gulf.

All this we know - but what we don't know is much of what drives this economy, with the obvious exception of oil. Throughout the kingdom businesses are expanding, government departments are modernising and extending their reach, and new enterprises are springing up.

This activity, combined with the lack of established reporting procedures, has created a great void when it comes to detailed knowledge about business drivers and trends. For business people working within Saudi Arabia, as well as those outside working to gain a foothold in the country, this absence of information is frustrating - not only is it hard to get an accurate picture of the current state of affairs, it is also very difficult to predict the future direction of KSA's enterprise sector.

In recent years there has been significant progress in this area - Saudi government departments are coming out with much more detailed reports, economic data is easier to get hold of, and market research is throwing light on various parts of Saudi Arabian society.

One area which might justifiably feel left in the cold, though, is enterprise IT. As yet there has been little hard research done on IT trends in the kingdom - and this is a real shame, as it is currently one of the fastest-moving sectors in the economy.

Readers with longer memories may remember my lament last year on the lack of available and applicable research into this sector. Well, the ACN team's feelings on this absence of data have not abated - and so we have decided to venture into the research field ourselves.

The ACN KSA survey - online here- aims to take a snapshot of the current state of affairs in the kingdom's enterprise IT sector. We're asking IT decision makers in Saudi Arabia to take a few minutes of their time to answer some questions on their current intentions, activities and opinions.

We are of course excited to see the results of the survey ourselves - but the wider aim of the operation is to bring some degree of enlightenment to the Saudi market, as well as the GCC and Middle East as a whole. And we hope that IT managers in Saudi Arabia will want to see the big picture of their sector that the survey will produce, and stand up and be counted.

We will publish the results in the April issue of ACN - to coincide with GITEX Riyadh. In the meantime the ACN team will be monitoring the results with interest, and looking forward to hearing the conclusions of other industry observers after the results are released.

And while this survey is focused purely on Saudi Arabia, ACN hopes to do similar exercises for the rest of the region in the coming months - so watch this space for more information.

However, for those in KSA, happy surveying...

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