On-going economic growth in the region is being driven by major investments in technology. However, a possible lack of suitable IT skills to match demand may slow the growth according to the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) organisers of the region’s key IT and communications exhibition, GITEX 2006 that takes place at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) from 18 - 22 November 2006.
“We’re seeing business and organisations right across the region investing heavily in technology, but they need to focus as hard on ensuring the right skill mix,” observed DWTC General Manager Exhibitions, Trixee Loh in the run up to GITEX 2006.
According to industry experts*, skills are currently required in three major areas: networking, project management and hands-on skills. Skill sets under particular scrutiny cluster in hot technology areas such as IP telephony, security and wireless. In the advanced networking area itself, the skills shortfall is projected to touch the 40% mark by 2009 - more than twice the European figure.
Over the past three years, the region has recorded some of the highest GDP growth rates in the world. According to the analyst group IDC, an on-going economic expansion will have a strong impact on ICT demand, including networking skills.
IDC expects the demand for IT in the Middle East to increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of more than 16.9% between 2005 and 2009. Investments in hardware equipment increase at a CAGR of 19.6% until 2009, while investments in software products will rise by 11.2% and IT services by 10.8%. In comparison with Western Europe, the Middle East region is expanding at more than twice the rate.
“The business environment has evolved in recent years. Organisations are now, more than ever, interconnected entities that depend on the network for integration with their business partners. So not having sufficient networking skills available for this integration influences the competitiveness of not only organisations, but for the country as a whole,” explains Phillip van Heerden, Senior Analyst at IDC.
This is clearly a critical area for the industry, given the complexity and sophistication of next generation investments into IT systems. “What we’re talking about is the effective use and implementation of technology,” explained DWTC Project Manager, Aliya Al Ali.
“Technology on its own is not a solution – to add real value, it must be aligned with the business. Ensuring that close fit is the challenge for many organisations but it is a critical step towards the knowledge-based economy on which the region is building its future,” Ms Ali said.
Driving knowledge transfer and skills development is a key component in the skills development cycle of major vendors in the region. GITEX 2006 is expected to serve as an ideal platform for both vendors and industry experts to explore future collaboration. A number of IT training companies, including New Horizons Computer Learning Centre, International Learning Solutions, Sites Power, Al Khaleej Training, Dubai Netlink and others, will be showcasing their learning and training offerings at the show.
“Technology vendors are keen to look at ways in which they can help ensure that students and IT workers across the region are able to keep abreast with the latest innovation and developments taking place. GITEX 2006 will be an ideal platform that can bring the different groups together to help promote a common goal,” remarked Ms Ali. “We expect the show to provide an excellent opportunity for networking in the skills arena, allowing IT professionals to understand the skills that will in demand as new solutions are rolled out across the region,” she remarked.
With a number of government and vendor initiatives in place, the main points of an under skilled IT sector may be avoided. One thing is certain: national IT professionals armed with industry-knowledge will have more marketable IT job skill sets. That will help them in both international and regional economies.