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Issues Deter Government RFID Plans

A majority of government IT executives see the business case in RFID, but a number of barriers hinder adoption.
By Jonathan Collins
Dec 03, 2004While government information technology executives see RFID as way to improve their operations, obstacles to adoption still need to be addressed, according to a new survey. The survey found that IT administrators working at government agencies around the world expected RFID to improve a wide range of government processes, with potential applications ranging from homeland security applications, asset visibility, toll collection, animal tracking and a range of business process and productivity improvements.
Nick Evans

Conducted online by business consultancy and systems integrator BearingPoint, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and Federal Computer Week magazine, the survey questioned 172 IT managers, supervisors and executives at a range of government agencies, from defense to civilian, and at state, local and federal levels. The survey, which was conducted from mid-September to mid-October 2004, drew 80 percent of its responses from IT managers and executives working at government agencies in the United States; the remaining 20 percent worked at government agencies located in other countries. The annual IT budgets at the respondents' agencies ranged from more than $10 billion to less than $50 million. At least 10 percent had budgets over $1 billion and nearly two thirds (61.4 percent) were in the less than $50 million category.

Fifty-six percent of respondents described RFID as an emerging technology that would improve government processes. In addition, 48 percent described RFID technologies as important or very important to their business strategy, with only 15 percent describing RFID as unimportant or very unimportant. Despite that enthusiasm for the potential of the technology, the survey also found that issues in the RFID marketplace and also within the government agencies themselves are stifling deployment.

"There are a ton of opportunities in the government market, at the federal, state and local level, where they believe they have a good business case for deployment. While there is an issue of a lack of funding, similar to their commercial counterparts, what is holding back government agencies is concern about policies for security, privacy and standards," says Nick Evans, global lead with BearingPoint's emerging-technology practice.

More than half of the respondents (55.3 percent) indicated that the absence of guidance from government and industry around security and privacy policies and standards was leading them to defer further RFID development. Other barriers to deploying the technology included a shortage in funding, the absence of government-wide adoption of RFID and insufficient intra-government coordination.

"While information tends to be shared pretty well across agencies, respondents said that there should be more organized and coordinated programs, groups and offices to promote RFID deployment," says Evans.

Reflecting the current reticence to invest in RFID technology, the survey found that 48 percent of respondents indicated that their government organization had investigated RFID technologies, but only 16 percent had actually deployed RFID technology. Most respondents said their agencies were planning to spend less than $250,000 on RFID projects in 2005 and less than $1 million annually from 2006 through 2008.

While there may not be money flowing to RFID initiatives, respondents expressed a willingness to invest in the technology once key issues have been addressed. The survey also revealed that around 31 percent of governmental annual IT budgets are directed toward IT innovation, which would include initiatives using RFID.

BearingPoint, Federal Computer Week and the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) will present the results of their survey in a webinar on Dec. 8, 2004, at 1 pm EST. To register for the webinar, visit www.bearingpoint.com/RFIDwebinar. A full copy of the survey results will be provided to webinar participants.

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