It’s becoming more common these days to hear about cyberattacks in the Middle East’s oil and gas sector. Just this past August alone, two of the region’s oil and gas giants were hit by viruses that caused them to go offline for days. A malware attack against Saudi Aramco forced the world’s largest oil company to take down its companywide office systems for 12 days. Soon after, RasGas, the second largest producer of Qatari LNG after Qatar Petroleum, was hit by an “unknown virus” that took the company offline.
The daunting part is that these attacks are becoming more sophisticated over time. Usually, these types of viruses are designed to steal highly sensitive competitive information and gather intelligence like design documents and assets from oil and gas companies. As a result, cyberdefense is becoming a top development priority in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia plans to invest $3.3 billion in oil and gas infrastructure security, with others soon to follow.
Cyberattacks are one of many trends shaping IT spending in the region’s oil and gas sector. We’ve also been seeing more IT spending going to:
Information management. Over the years, oil and gas companies that have to deal with unpredictable oil prices have limited their hiring of new employees, which has contributed to the industry’s skill shortages. As a result, oil and gas companies are constantly seeking information management tools to increase the utilization of their current employees’ expertise.
Recently, Standard Chartered released its estimates on the banking assets of the Islamic banking segment globally, which it predicts will reach US$1.1 trillion by 2012, up 33% from 2010. Over the past five years, Islamic banking in the Middle East region — which accounts for 60% of global Islamic banking assets — has witnessed a CAGR of 20% and is well positioned to double by 2015.
Consequently, the likes of Temenos and Misys have seen growing interest in and demand for IT solutions catering to the Islamic banking segment. In the past month alone, two major deals were signed in Oman: Muscat-based Bank Sohar and Bank Dhofar both signed agreements with Path Solutions to implement of their Islamic banking IT solution iMAL.
Enterprises in the Middle East are increasingly aware of the strategic value of mobility to enable or enhance business processes, particularly as they focus less on concerns over compatibility and uniformity. Oman Air’s recent deployment of SITA’s resource management solution for its 2,500 employees at Muscat International Airport is a clear example. The solution will provide a platform for planning, rostering, management, and real-time scheduling of work tasks and enable communication of tasks via mobile devices and monitoring of operational status and billing information in real time.
But as the perceived importance of supporting mobility increases over the next two years, we expect more organizations in the region to re-evaluate their mobile technology choices. After 10 years of using BlackBerry, Halliburton, a major energy provider headquartered in Dubai, decided to switch 4,500 of its employees to the iPhone as its preferred platform for expanding mobile technology usage by giving employees secure access to internal applications from outside the corporate network. In addition to security, compatibility, and access, organizations will increasingly evaluate mobile OS platform support for developing and localizing their own applications, e.g., developing applications in Arabic.
Below I’ve highlighted several of the drivers of further mobility adoption for enterprises in the Middle East:
Being based out of Dubai and so close to all the action, I was so anxious to start digging in and talking to tech vendors to get their reactions on what's happening in the region. In my latest report I decided to answer a question that's been on everybody's mind: "What’s happening to the IT market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the midst of the recent political unrest, the Arab Spring?" While it's not easy to answer the question as demonstrations are still happening and elections are still pending the report presents a snapshot of the current state of the IT market in MENA.
Following the Arab Spring, Forrester revised downward its IT spending forecasts by more than 2% for the MENA region in 2011. Many distributors were stuck with large PC inventories or had delivered inventory to their clients and have yet to receive payments. A lot of public sector projects were also put on hold as national governments were shaken by the recent political events. As a result, vendors in the region have reallocated some their resources currently located in heavily affected countries, e.g., Egypt, Libya, and Syria, to countries that need more attention, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Many vendors are also taking a more regional approach and are expanding their presence from their base countries into the rest of MENA.