As we embark on another new year it’s always worth casting our minds back over the previous twelve months. And what a bumpy 12 months they were for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (Meta) region.

Declining oil prices, currency fluctuations, and political instability all played their role in fuelling the turbulence, with IDC taking the prevailing macroeconomic and political situation into account when we revised our forecast for META ICT spending in 2015 down from $270 billion to $250 billion.

There is no doubt that confidence has been hit, with IT budgets typically becoming more conservative across the region. And as capex continues to be slashed in favour of opex, IDC expects ICT spending in META to grow at a relatively modest 4 per cent year on year in 2016 to total $260 billion.

Despite this cautious outlook, the show must go on. Indeed, it is simply not an option at this point for organisations to cut back completely on their IT investments; if they are to remain competitive, they must continue to seek out software solutions and IT services that help them meet their cost-optimisation demands.

Under such circumstances, the CIO community will not be surprised to learn that the calls for them to do more with less will grow even louder in the year ahead. But as the competitive landscape intensifies, they will also be expected to deliver innovative — and cost-effective — applications at a faster rate than ever before.

That’s because business expectations continue to grow, meaning CIOs are constantly playing catch-up. And the demands associated with enabling digital transformation across their organisations are piling even more pressure onto CIOs to find funding and facilitate faster delivery.

Interestingly, the use of open source solutions provides a way to not only address both of these challenges but also to catch up with business expectations — at least until the next round of demands emerge!

We all know that mobility, big data, social, and cloud are shaping a new way of doing business and that the emergence of the internet of Things is set to disrupt the traditional norms of commerce like nothing else before it. But what is often overlooked is the fact that open source software underpins all of this and is increasingly becoming a vital and essential component of the IT portfolio.

Given the growing pervasiveness of open source software, it is possible to implement certain technologies without even considering the fact that these technologies rely on open source software. For example, both Android and Linux, which are widely used in many contexts, rely on open source, and the sheer momentum of open source development means that its use is no longer optional.

IDC believes that CIOs who become open source aficionados will find themselves much better positioned for success in terms of meeting business expectations. At the same time, those CIOs not using open source are likely to find themselves in an untenable position with respect to the twin challenges of doing more with less and delivering solutions faster. Simply put, it is becoming critical that CIOs understand the true value and implications of open source software and accordingly chart a course for its use across their organisations.

Despite this pervasiveness, a few common misconceptions remain around the use of open source software. Typically, these revolve around the issues of quality, reliability, and stability. The first of these concerns can be dismissed fairly easily as numerous studies have shown that the defect density of open source code is lower than that of proprietary code. In essence, the quality of open source code is considered to be at least as good as or better than that of proprietary code.

Concerns around reliability and stability are perhaps even easier to debunk, with a large number of prominent organisations — including Netflix, FedEx, eBay, PayPal, Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and Nasa — all using a wide range of open source technologies within their operations. And according to Netcraft’s “Most Reliable Hosting Company Sites”, all of the top 10 sites run on open source operating systems, while over half of the world’s active sites use the Apache web server. It is evident, therefore, that open source solutions are not only reliable and stable, but also here to stay for the long term.

With all this in mind, it is almost inconceivable for an organisation to not be using any open source today. Indeed, innovation — a cornerstone for the vast majority of businesses — is largely driven by open source, as it facilitates rapid and inexpensive ways to build and experiment with new solutions. In this regard, open source software is one of the key technology disrupters of the digital era and all forward-thinking CIOs should be looking to harness it effectively in order to create competitive differentiation.

The columnist is group vice president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC) He can be contacted via Twitter @JyotiIDC.