Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

UAE: Shortage of Networking Skills Could Impact Economic Growth | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat- Unless the networking skills shortage is addressed urgently, in only three years demand for networking skills in the United Arab Emirates will exceed supply by 27 per cent in 2009 and there will be a shortage of more than 19.000 skilled people required to help drive economic growth. This finding comes from a new report on the demand for Networking Skills in the Middle East, part of a series from IDC, commissioned by Cisco Systems.

In contrast, findings from the same study carried out across Western and Eastern Europe revealed an average networking skills gap of 11.8 per cent by 2008.

The situation is even more extreme when certain technology areas are singled out. For example, the shortfall between supply and demand in advanced networking technology skills (IP telephony, security and wireless) will be 35 per cent in 2009. Again, this is in contrast to findings from Western and Eastern Europe that showed an average advanced networking skills gap of 15.8 per cent by 2008.

The UAE is experiencing impressive economic growth and has consistently maintained GDP growth levels. Over the past three years, the Middle East region has recorded some of the highest GDP growth rates in the world – the UAE’s GDP increased at an average of 13.5% from 2001 to 2005.

IDC expects the ongoing economic expansion in the region to have a strong impact on ICT demand, including networking skills. As an example, IDC forecasts demand for IT in the Middle East to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 16.9% between 2005-2009.

This has led to the unprecedented demand for general and more advanced networking skills. Insufficient training programs also compound the situation and increased recruitment from local markets accentuates the need to address the issue through local training schemes.

The UAE is actively attempting to address the shortages through various human resource development initiatives. These initiatives reflect the importance of ICT skills to society, and the need to ensure the availability of skilled staff. The UAE’s National Human Resource Development & Employment Authority (Tanmia), was formed in the UAE in 1999 to address the persistent skills shortages in the country, and focuses on improving the education and skills development of locals. To date, Tanmia has strengthened ties with various UAE educational institutions and partnered with some of the UAE’s largest private sector companies to improve the participation of UAE nationals in the private sector.

There is also scope for Internet growth in the UAE. overwhelmingly 99% of respondents in the region indicated they mostly use the network for email and internet access. They all indicated that the important of the networking would increase in the future. The potential for network expansion is therefore very big, requiring significantly more skills to support such an expansion.

Investments in hardware equipment are expected to 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%. To put this in perspective, the Middle East region is expanding at more than twice the Western European CAGR of 5.8%. The economies of the Middle East are clearly expanding at a very fast rate, and as a result investment in IT is increasing across the board.

While there are a number of regional initiatives currently underway in the UAE to promote further training in science and technology, the forecasted gaps highlight the need for more work to be done to provide the right training courses and to encourage student enrollment. The study findings represent a call to action to governments, the private sector, educators and individuals to do more to address these needs. If plans are not put into place now, technology adoption, business competitiveness and market growth will be placed at risk.

Samer Alkharrat, General Manager, Cisco Systems Gulf Region, said: “The networking skills shortage could become critical in hindering technology adoption and economic growth in these high growth markets unless action is taken now. By having the skilled people in place, businesses can take advantage of the productivity gains that can be generated with the rapid advances in technology – and that are being experienced in Europe. We need to continue to work with the Governments of these countries to raise awareness of employment opportunities across the regions, and encourage students to learn and develop both basic and advanced networking technology skills.”

Phillip van Heerden, Senior Analyst, IDC, said: “The business environment has evolved in recent years where supply chains compete against supply chains. Organisations are now, more than ever, interconnected entities that depend on the network for integration with their business partners. Not having sufficient networking skills available for this integration influences the competitiveness of not only organizations, but for the country as a whole.”

Vendor-backed initiatives such as Cisco’s Networking Academy Program are already making a difference. The Cisco Networking Academy Program addresses the need for training in networking technologies through structured courses. The program has impacted more that 11,000 academies and 1.9 million students around the world since it began in 1997.