Exhibiting at the 2013 Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) for the first time was a truly interesting experience. Held in Dubai with more than 3,000 Exhibitors and over 130,000 attendees it is the largest conference of its kind covering the Middle East, Gulf Region and Africa.
Most of the big software and BI vendors had a substantial presence there including Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, IBM, SAS and Microstrategies just to name a few. Oracle had huge banners stating “#1 in Business Analytics”, SAP had flags and their logo prominently displayed all around the entrances to the event and Microsoft was raffling off a Ford Mustang.
The range and diversity of attendees was huge. I met attendees from UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Jordon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Kosovo, Albania, Oman, Angola, Kenya, Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Georgia and Serbia just to name a few. Many had not heard of Business Intelligence but most were definitely interested, both large and small. One person I spoke to was just starting an e-commerce site for selling pickles and could immediately see the benefit of using BI to track customer order and spending trends as well as geographical patterns of existing and new customers over time.
There was not a lot of interest in big data but data quality was high on the priority list. Several people explained to me that most companies attending were not able to take full advantage of business intelligence and analytics tools because of data issues and cleaning up the data was where the greatest need existed. Of course, this same issue exists in Western countries as well, but ETL and data quality tools are much more mainstream. Even with such tools, some data quality issues persist and some organizations actually use Business Intelligence solutions to help identify the data problems.
There were a large number of government organization attendees in search of better ways to measure and monitor their projects, spend and outcomes. Surprisingly, very few had comprehensive data warehouses or even data marts and there was very little, if any, usage of business intelligence tools. The big software companies have focused primarily on selling financial, ERP, CRM and other applications but very little business intelligence.
Mobile solutions were popular and Android appears to have the bigger market in this part of the world. With populations that are more likely to own a smart phone than a computer, there is huge potential for all sorts of mobile applications including business intelligence. A company from Tanzania that stopped at the InfoSol booth was impressed by the Energy Efficiency mobile BI dashboard we showed the managing director, but was even more impressed when he typed in his address in a small village and the dashboard showed a birds-eye picture of it through the integrated Google map, so he could calculate the benefit from adding solar panels.
GITEX clearly showed us that there is a need for business intelligence everywhere and an eager, receptive audience just waiting to be shown how to apply it.