The five-day Gitex Technology Week 2017 opened Sunday as global providers of information technology, mobile technology and artificial intelligence battle against tepid economic growth in the oil-rich Gulf states.
The 37th edition of Gitex, which will run through Thursday, attracted 4,100 exhibitors from over 70 countries.
The event comes amid struggles in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which are the Gitex host countries, namely United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, as oil prices slump and geopolitical uncertainty remains.
The GCC mobile phone market remained relatively flat in the second quarter of 2017. The US technology research and consulting firm of International Data Corporation (IDC) released a month ago its quarterly mobile phone tracker, which showed overall GCC shipments for the quarter totaled 6.4 million units, representing a minor decline.
However, it contrasts starkly with the steep 20.2 percent year-on-year decline seen in the first quarter of 2017, suggesting the market might recover in 2018, said IDC.
Analysts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted less than one percent economic growth for the GCC in 2017.
Earlier in the year, US research firm Gartner said IT spending in the Middle East and North Africa will reach 155.8 billion US dollars in 2017, a 2.4 percent jump compared to 2016. However, the increase is lower than the 3.7 percent climb between 2015 and 2016, Gartner said.
The lukewarm development in ICT, or Information and Communication Technology, is in line with a global trend. The worldwide server-market revenue declines 4.6 percent in the first quarter "as the market prepares for a major refresh," according to IDC.
There were contrasting fortunes in the GCC's two biggest markets, with the UAE growing 1.6 percent in the second quarter and Saudi Arabia suffering the region's largest decline of 4.2 percent.
Analysts also suggested that the introduction of a five percent value added tax (VAT), a first in the GCC, has triggered individuals and firms to lower spending in IT.
There are also positive signs seen at Gitex itself. Finland, Georgia and Guatemala mark their debut at this year's fair, and even a group of companies from war-torn Syria celebrate their first time appearance with a small pavilion at the Gitex in Dubai's world trade center.
Also, the consulting firm Accenture said artificial intelligence in the UAE will grow "exponentially," the Abu Dhabi daily The National reported.