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Fri 23 Jun 2017 12:53 AM

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UAE firms scramble for new IT staff as cyber threats loom

New research shows shortage of local talent as companies recruit from India, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, UK and the US

UAE firms scramble for new IT staff as cyber threats loom

Businesses across the UAE are scrambling to hire new talent for their rapidly changing IT needs, brought about by the consumer shift to mobile and increasing cyber threats, according to a new study.

According to the research, demand for information security professionals has surged over the past five years, from 4 percent of all searches in 2012 to 9 percent in 2017.

Network engineers saw a similar rise in demand, from 6 percent of searches to 13 percent.

Research into the UAE's IT job market by GulfTalent, the online recruitment portals, analysed the data of over 85,000 IT professionals contacted by employers and recruitment agencies in the UAE over a five-year period to 2017.

The increased demand for cyber-security professionals is largely in response to the rise in security breaches and cyber-attacks.

In 2015 alone, one third of all UAE firms were hit by data breaches, according to a survey conducted by KPMG.

More recently two global ransomware attacks, Locky in 2016 and WannaCry in 2017, severely impacted thousands of businesses across the world.

Regulations issued by the UAE government have increased the demand for cyber-security expertise. In particular, the National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) obliges companies holding sensitive data and systems, such as firms in banking and aviation, to put stringent security measures in place.

The research also showed that software development, which constitutes the largest single category of IT demand in the UAE, has maintained a stable share of IT vacancies.

However, its composition in terms of skills has changed massively, the study found. By far the biggest shift has been in the demand for mobile app developers, driven by the explosion in the use of smartphones.

Searches for Android and iOS developers have rocketed from almost zero in 2012 to 20 percent of all software development vacancies in 2017.

By contrast, demand for traditional web technologies such as PHP, used in many popular websites such as Facebook, and Java, used heavily in financial services, has dropped from a combined 66 percent of total software development demand in 2012 to just 36 percent in 2017.

The research showed that many UAE employers are having to look outside the country to source the talent they need. In the first five months of 2017, 40 percent of IT vacancies were filled from outside the country, with India, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, UK and the US leading the way.

The study also found that, in terms of net salary after tax, earnings of IT professionals in the UAE are comparable to those in top European markets such as the UK, although still significantly lower than the US.

For instance, the average annual take-home earnings of a software developer in the UAE is $29,500, compared with $31,000 in the UK.

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