Report: Worldwide IT Spending to Increase 5% in 2020; Market Uncertainties Exist

Worldwide IT spending is set to increase by 5 percent during 2020 but the uncertainties surrounding the Coronavirus and the sliding PC market are causing businesses to keep a tight reign on short-term investments, according to International Data Corp.’s updated Worldwide Black Book.
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person using laptop
Worldwide IT spending is expected to increase 5 percent this year, but businesses are not spending much on short-term investments. // Stock photo

Worldwide IT spending is set to increase by 5 percent during 2020 but the uncertainties surrounding the Coronavirus and the sliding PC market are causing businesses to keep a tight reign on short-term investments, according to International Data Corp.’s updated Worldwide Black Book.

The Framingham, Mass.-based IDC says investments in software and services are expected to remain stable while smartphone sales recover on the back of a 5G-driven upgrade cycle in the second half of the year. Risks remain weighted, however, to the downside in the face of uncertainty around the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak. The update reports total ICT spending (which includes IT plus telecom services) will increase by 6 percent in 2020 to $5.2 trillion.

Excluding smartphones, IT spending will dip from 7 percent growth in 2019 to 4 percent in 2020. Software growth will decelerate slightly from last year’s 10 percent to less than 9 percent and IT services growth will dip from 4 percent to 3 percent, but most of the slowdown will be due to the PC market where the end of the recent buying cycle (partly driven by Windows 10 upgrades) will see PC sales decline by 6 percent this year compared to 7 percent growth in PC spending last year.

“Much of this year’s growth is dependent on a positive smartphone cycle as the year progresses, but this is under threat from disruption caused by the Coronavirus crisis,” says Stephen Minton, program vice president in IDC’s Customer Insights and Analysis Group. “Our current forecast is for broadly stable tech spending in 2020, but PC sales will be way down on last year, while server/storage investments will not recover to the levels of growth seen in 2018 when hyperscale service providers were deploying new datacenters at an aggressive pace.”

Hyperscale service provider IT spending will recover to 9 percent growth this year, up from just 3 percent in 2019, but this is short of the pace of two years ago, the report says. Cloud infrastructure and digital services providers also will continue to increase their IT budgets in order to meet strong end-user demand for cloud and digital services, which will continue to expand at a double-digit rate of growth as enterprise buyers increasingly shift their IT budgets to the as-a-service model.

“Much of the explosive growth in service provider spending from 2016 to 2018 was driven by aggressive roll-out of servers and storage capacity, but more spend is now moving to software and other technologies as these providers seek to drive into higher-margin solution markets including AI and IoT,” says Minton. “Nevertheless, after infrastructure spending cooled last year, we expect service provider spending to be broadly stable and positive in the next few years because these firms need to keep driving up capacity in order to deliver services to end-users.”

The downside risk to the short-term IT spending forecast is underlined by the importance of China as a driver for much of this growth. China was expected to post IT spending growth of 12 percent in 2020, up from 4 percent in 2019, as the U.S. trade deal and a stabilizing economy helped to drive a rebound, especially in smartphone sales. The Coronavirus looks likely to inhibit this growth to something less. It’s too early to quantify the spillover impact on other regions, but risks also are now weighted more to the downside in the rest of the Asia/Pacific region (currently forecast to post 5 percent IT spending growth this year), the United States (+7 percent), and Western Europe (+3 percent).

Annual growth of 6 percent is expected to continue through the five-year forecast period as investments in digital transformation continue to drive stability in overall tech investment. Strong growth will come from cloud, AI, AR/VR, blockchain, IoT, BDA (Big Data and Analytics), and robotics deployments around the world as businesses continue their long-term transition to digital while governments and consumers roll out smart city and smart home technologies.

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