Businesses in the Middle East and Africa will spend $33bn on information technology (IT) in 2010, according to analysts at US technology consultancy IDC.

This will account for 17 per cent of global IT spending, up from 6 per cent in 2009. In the UAE alone, businesses are projected to spend $5.12bn in 2010.

Emerging markets, including the Middle East accounted for 29 per cent of global IT spending in 2009. IDC forecasts that this will rise to 49 per cent between 2010 and 2013, driven in part by demand growth in the Middle East.

Regional chief information officers (CIOs) saw their IT budgets fall by around 2 per cent in 2009, a much lower number than elsewhere in the world.

Privately, CIOs tell MEED that they are being asked to produce more efficiency fo less money, and that as a result they tend to focus on core applications that will support a company’s business and show a quick return on investment.

IT heads around the region cite operational efficiency and costs as their biggest issues, IDC says, with many looking at cost and value initiatives with the added benefit of better integration between departments.

“The challenge [is] that users required higher availability of the system, but at the same time you have less money,” says Ahmad Almulla, Dubai Aluminium (Dubal) vice-president for IT. “Dubal has focused on [its] operational budget, ensured that the IT department has become closer aligned with other business units in the company and focused on return on investment for projects undertaken.

“During a crisis, a business has a lot of pain points and it’s important that you get close to the business and know those pain points,” he adds.

Dubai Customs has also ensured it is closely aligned with the rest of the business, says solution delivery head Mohammed Jawal al-Sabbagh, adding it had measured costs against value for its IT investments.

However, while companies are still investing in IT, only 35 per cent of budgets go toward software and services.

“Companies are spending a disproportionate amount of money on building the infrastructure rather than on using that infrastructure,” Jyoti Lalchandani, vice-president and regional managing director at IDC, said at the analyst group’s IT Manager Forum in Dubai.