Compiled ByJill Jusko With a growth rate of negative 2.3%, 2002 is shaping up to be the worst ever for the information technology industry, says global advisory firm IDC. "Overall, the IT industry has contracted by roughly 3% over the past two years," says John Gantz, IDC chief research officer. "This is in sharp contrast to the average annual growth rate of 12% enjoyed by the industry over the past 20 years." Contributing to the decline is a 9.3% decrease in the worldwide systems market, comprised of personal computers, servers and workstations, says the Framingham, Mass., firm. The worldwide storage market shrank by 10.6% in 2002, while the network equipment market decreased by 7.6%. On a more positive note, IDC predicts that IT spending in the U.S. will grow 4.4% in 2003 if geopolitical forces such as a plunge in the stock markets or a war with Iraq do not materialize. Worldwide, spending on IT is forecast to grow at a rate of 5.8%. However, were such unfavorable events to occur, global IT spending likely would be around 2%, the firm says.