Why tech jobs are in demand in the Middle East

Growing threat of cyber attacks and increasing dependence on digital infrastructure are driving demand for IT professionals

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It is common knowledge that the technology sector is currently facing huge challenges, both internationally and locally.

Many information technology companies are scaling back hiring, while most of the bigger names are making thousands of their employees redundant.

However, there are still some areas of growth within tech and in some cases, there is huge demand for certain niche skills.

We are experiencing a skills shortage locally, resulting in many international candidates relocating to the region for new opportunities.

With large infrastructure projects such as hotels, shopping malls, leisure and residential developments showing no signs of slowing down in the region, there is still a need for connectivity, physical security and the software to support them.

This demand has steadily risen over time, also due to a growing population and an appetite for data, with the implementation of technology such as 5G.

In the past few days, UAE telecoms and technology company e& announced a $400 million investment in the Careem Super App, which is a huge deal for a Dubai-based company that was founded only more than 10 years ago.

It proves that regional telecoms providers are financially healthy, with many large-scale digital transformation programmes happening across the GCC.

Possibly the largest growth area within the tech industry is cyber security, which is an increasingly important field in the Middle East.

The growing threat of cyber attacks and the increasing dependence on digital infrastructure means a rise in demand for cyber security professionals in the region. There are many other factors driving this demand.

Government initiatives

Many governments in the Middle East are investing heavily in cyber security as part of their national security strategy.

They are also unveiling initiatives to promote the development of the cyber security industry, which is creating job opportunities in the region.

Most governments want to localise their IT infrastructure, data centres and talent, which is all fuelling demand for jobs.

Military and defence

Cyber warfare is real and countries are investing billions to protect themselves and prepare for any threats.

The growth and development of artificial intelligence for applications such as drones, has dramatically increased in recent years, but there will be many other uses for this technology.

Even soldiers, pilots and naval personnel will rely heavily on using the best technology available.

Public safety

Similar to the defence sector, public sector workers such as police and rescue workers also use secure means of communication, which are similar to mobile network technology.

These networks will be modified or replaced in the coming years, which requires huge investment.

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Increased cyber threats

The Middle East has been a target of several high-profile cyber attacks in recent years, such as the Shamoon malware attack in 2012 and the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017.

This has raised awareness of the need for stronger cyber security measures and is contributing to the demand for cyber security professionals.

These threats will only continue; thus the demand for cyber security jobs will also increase in tandem.

Digital transformation

The Middle East is experiencing rapid digital transformation, with many organisations adopting new technologies, such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things and AI.

This is creating new vulnerabilities and risks that need to be managed by cyber security professionals.

Again, the appetite to keep the support local rather than offshore will only increase the need for these skills.

Mega projects

Neom, a flagship business and tourism destination being built in Saudi Arabia, has a surface area larger than Kuwait and is set to receive enormous IT investment over the coming years.

There are many similar mega projects and, once completed, there will be ongoing ICT support contracts awarded for decades.

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, FEB 24, 2016. Jason Leavy, MD of Edelman Dabo. Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National (Reporter: Frank Kane /Section: BZ) Job ID: 27616 *** Local Caption ***  RM_20160224_JASONLEAVY_004.JPG

The growth opportunity in the Middle East is second to none and there seems to be no slowing down.

Overall, the demand for cyber security professionals in the Middle East is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, making it a promising field for those looking to pursue a career in this field.

If recruiters are having to headhunt some of these skills from all over the world, it would be a good idea for technology professionals in the Middle East to upskill and try to get into the cyber security ecosystem.

Students and graduates should also be encouraged to explore opportunities in this field.

John Armstrong is founder and managing director of JCA Associates

Updated: April 21, 2023, 5:00 AM