Despite a weakened economy and caution about spending on information-technology consulting services, Hong Kong companies have increased overall spending on IT services this year, according to Gartner Group. IT services revenue rose 11.8 per cent this year to US$1.5 billion, from US$1.3 billion last year, Gartner said. Worldwide, there is a trend towards outsourcing IT services and Gartner expected such spending in Hong Kong to rise to US$2.6 billion in 2005. 'The Asia-Pacific services market continues to outpace other regions significantly, with a growth rate that doubles the world average, and nearly triples that of North America. This will continue for the foreseeable future. Hong Kong remains a sophisticated market within the region, with a healthy outlook for IT services demand,' said Jacqueline Heng, senior analyst for Gartner IT services group in Asia-Pacific. The fastest-growing segment within IT services, for Hong Kong and the rest of Asia, was development and integration, which almost doubled from US$368 million last year to US$794 million by the end of this year. Hardest hit by the economic uncertainty was the consulting segment, which Gartner expected to grow 13.6 per cent this year and recover in three financial quarters after the overall economy started to grow again. Rolf Jester, Gartner's head of IT services research in Asia-Pacific, said: 'So far, the overall response has been to avoid risks and delay investment decisions. In the meantime, IT services vendors must rely on 'life preserver' services, such as payment-processing and applications.'