Internet Networking Skills Shortage in the Gulf

Industry experts in the Middle East expect the current deficit in skilled professionals capable of running Internet-based networks to continue. With networking currently underpinning a substantial percentage of the world economy, commentators are raising the alarm for the Arabian Gulf region, which may face threats to its economic competitiveness as a result.

This follows publication of the results of a survey carried out by research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), which highlights the looming skills crisis in Europe. The report, entitled “The Internet Economy – An Employment Paradox?”, was commissioned by Cisco Systems. It warns industry and governments to act now or face severe economic consequences.

“As the network continues to gain importance as the core engine of business, there is a tremendous demand for networking skills to manage these systems.
“If business and government do not act now to ensure they have the right skilled talent capable of running these systems, the situation will only get worse,” said Rowland Griffiths, General Manager at Cisco Systems Middle East.

According to the IDC research report, by 2002 the Middle East will see a shortfall of well over half a million individuals possessing the fundamental skills to design, build and manage networks.

According to independent industry commentators, the Arab world could find itself in a serious predicament, on top of its existing short supply of skilled IT professionals.

IDC research in the Middle East shows that end-user spending on training is expected to grow from approximately US$60 million in 1997 to over US$180 million by 2002. This investment in skills development is a step in the right direction, but experts warn that this investment may still not be enough for the Arab world to remain competitive.

At a regional IT employment symposium in Damascus organised by the Syrian Computer Society (SCS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jerzy Szeremeta, advisor at the UNDP in New York, warned that Arab states would need to create around 7 million skilled workers by 2015 to accommodate an expanding market.

The report discusses the indisputable rise in networks usage and the associated demand for networking skilled professionals, and the likely consequences of a networking skills drought.

There is a dramatic explosion in Internet usage and related networking technologies in the Middle East, according to the IDC: by October 1998, the Middle East had 206,400 subscribers (around 607,000 users). Another estimate from Arabia Online puts the estimate at 331,000 by the end of 1998.

UAE (United Arab Emirates) University has already come on board as a Regional Networking Academy, and several more institutions are in the final steps of joining Cisco’s network training program.

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