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Bring Your Own Device trend is ICT industry's hottest talking point at GITEX Technology Week

by Nadeen El Ajou ~ Sept 24 2012

The Middle East is bracing itself for new security challenges as the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend - a business practice of employees bringing personally owned devices to their place of work - grows exponentially in the region with no sign of abating. The practice of allowing access to personal devices in the region is among the highest in the world.

GITEX Technology Week, which runs from October 14-18, 2012 at Dubai World Trade Centre, is set to rigorously examine both the potential and issues associated with the BYOD phenomenon at the Consumerisation of IT Forum.

Featuring prominent experts such as Dave Brook, General Manager Middle East, Dell, and Todd Thibodeaux, President and CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the hot topics up for discussion include challenges faced by today's Chief Information Officers (CIOs), how to benefit from BYOD's cost saving potential and methods of establishing robust policy frameworks to reduce legal and liability risks. Fayyaz Alam, Vice President - IT Production Services, Emirates Group will also deliver an in-depth case study on striking a balance between end-user demands and enterprise information security requirements, touching on everything for coping with workforce needs and expectations to the complexities of managing the impact of BYOD.

The Middle East's receptivity for BYOD was vividly illustrated by a recent study by networking vendor Aruba Networks, which noted that 80% of companies in the region allowed some form of access to personal devices - the highest in the world.

Against a backdrop of discerning, youthful and tech-savvy populations, industry experts believe that the ability to use the latest smartphones and tablets in the workplace has shifted from negotiable luxury to a specific demand; a study by Fortinet found that 56% of respondents in the Middle East considered using their own device as a right rather than a privilege.

According to ABI Research, 2.4 billion employees will be using smartphones in the office worldwide - a growth rate of nearly 17%. Looking at the big picture, a report by MarketsandMarkets predicts that the BYOD and enterprise mobility market will reach $181.39bn by 2017, increasing by 15.17% each year.

With Google's annual Mobile Planet smartphone study claiming that the UAE alone has a smartphone penetration rate of 62% and Ericsson's second Traffic and Market Report revealing that the Middle East as a whole enjoys a mobile penetration rate of 96%, there is enormous potential for BYOD uptake and acceleration across the region. And for good reason - analysis by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney suggests that BYOD can deliver savings of up to 22%, taking into account software depreciation and maintenance costs. A global pilot study by a software firm, for example, reduced device management costs by 20% and the budget for maintenance and upgrade tasks by 80%.

Aruba Networks's findings chime with the notion of notable performance enhancements, indicating that 35% of organisations in EMEA expect to improve coverage and capacity of their wireless network to support BYOD initiatives. Furthermore, 53% of organisations indicated they anticipate an increase in wireless investment in the coming year.

Nevertheless, the BYOD boom is not without its pitfalls. A study by Forrester Consulting found that 86% of surveyed IT decision-makers in the UK, US and Germany pegged data security as the number one concern, while almost half (47%) of enterprises allowing employee-owned devices to connect to a company's network reported experience of a data breach.

Elsewhere, KnowBe4 and Information Technology Intelligence Consulting flags up the worrying observation that 71% of businesses that allow BYOD have no specific policies and procedures in place to support deployment and ensure security. Common BYOD risks often stem from the lack of company-wide protection after employees download malware hidden within legitimate apps, click on a malicious links or open dubious attachments.

"With an increasingly tech-savvy workforce and employees focused on productivity, companies in the Middle East have everything to gain from fully embracing the consumerisation of IT trend and the desire to be increasingly mobile," said Dave Brook, GM Middle East, Dell, which is a strategic sponsor of the Consumerisation of IT Forum.

"The improved ability to work anywhere appears to be driving higher productivity for employers, with employees looking to be evaluated on the output of their work versus the number of hours spent. These factors are redefining the workplace, and we feel that, at Dell, we are providing the products and solutions companies and employees are looking for as they navigate this new environment."

André Scheffknecht, Regional Vice President NEEMEA at British IT security company Sophos, said: "The Middle East is one of the world's most tech hungry regions and BYOD is understandably set to grow exponentially. To this end, a degree of pragmatism is needed in the business community, as well as a measured approach to adaptation that avoids security risks and cost-intensive mishaps. By being aware of the risks and collaborating with companies like Sophos, significant benefits can be unlocked to drive everything from overall efficiency to innovation and creativity among the workforce."

Trixee Loh, Senior Vice President at Dubai World Trade Centre, organiser of GITEX, added: "BYOD is one of the most significant developments in the ICT sector and we are delighted to draw attention to its dramatic influence at our Consumerisation of IT Forum. Bringing together some of the world's top experts on the subject our goal is, as ever, to inform, educate and facilitate the connections that can help businesses become more empowered. GITEX Technology Week is proud to be at the forefront of understanding this crucial trend and helping decision-makers across the region manage its many benefits."

Now in its 32nd year, GITEX Technology Week connects more than 138,000 ICT professionals from 144 countries and over 3,500 suppliers from 77 countries across five continents, making it one of the world's top three ICT exhibitions. This year's GITEX Technology Week is themed "Where Technology Means Business".