Across the Digital Nation: Buying hardware has a new hue

Rishi Sood

Over the past three years, state and local governments have curbed spending on hardware and postponed large-scale hardware refresh initiatives. Although a tight fiscal environment fueled many of these moves, there also has been increasing agreement among public-sector chief information officers that hardware deployment across the jurisdiction needed to be reigned in.

Similarly, many of these decision-makers have recognized the cost and efficiency advantages of hardware consolidation and outsourcing. These issues have changed the nature of hardware acquisition and maintenance of government infrastructure.

As the state and local government market transitions into a period of sustained IT spending, however, demand is growing for new types of hardware products. In particular, the focus on homeland security has renewed interest in many technologies and hardware-intensive solutions geared toward public safety.

Over the next three years, state and local government authorities will launch jurisdiction initiatives to enhance security and provide more robust surveillance capabilities. Potential areas of expansion include upgraded driver's licenses, smart identification cards, biometric and radio frequency identification readers, next-generation closed-circuit television systems and greater geographic-information systems deployment.

Moreover, as agency modernization efforts begin, there are several areas ready for more intensive hardware deployment. Mobility is a specific area of interest among public-sector decision makers and can be an important aspect of agency transformation initiatives. For example, as human services agencies become more customer focused, providing mobility services to case workers in the field can be an important part of greater efficiency.

Mobility-oriented solutions can also play an active role in next-generation police automation, integrated court applications, and public works infrastructure tracking.

Although the focus on e-government has changed dramatically over the past three years, there is still major political value in deploying citizen-centric applications and services. Clearly, from an e-government perspective, Web-based applications such as online driver's license renewals and online tax filing deliver tremendous volume and provide key value for these agencies.

However, there are a host of other government-to-citizen initiatives that have not generated significant activity and may be better served through other channels. For example, public-sector service kiosks at government buildings, local shopping centers and area attractions can provide immediate cost and efficiency benefits for enrollment, filings, vital records, ticketing reservation management and job-searching services.

Vendors focused on the state and local government marketplace must acknowledge the changing dynamics of the hardware opportunity and align their products, solution focuses and messaging with newer public-sector priorities. Despite ongoing consolidation, outsourcing and commodization effects, hardware spending will increase over the next three years.

For hardware vendors, there are three keys to growing new revenue opportunities:

  • Proactive partnerships with major systems integrators to capture large modernization initiatives

  • Strategic focus on hardware-intensive government solutions

  • Tactical account targeting of the major user tiers of the state and local government marketplace.

Rishi Sood is a principal analyst with Gartner Dataquest in Mountain View, Calif. His e-mail address is

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