Univ. delays GWorld system upgrade

Plans to overhaul the GWorld program have been put on hold because of economic and timing issues, University officials said last week.

The new system – dubbed GWorld 2.0 – was set to be fully implemented by the start of the fall 2009 semester, but now will not be ready until fall 2010. Students would have started seeing changes as early as this spring if the plan continued on schedule.

“It is a long project because we have over a thousand (card) readers out in the field. It is not something you can do in a weekend or even a week,” said Ken Pimentel, the GWorld card program director. “When you are looking at the total implementation you are looking at at least six months to eight months for installation and conversion.”

Once introduced, the new cards will include a tap-and-enter system – like that used for the Metro SmarTrip – rather than the swiping system for access into buildings and residence halls. The University conducted focus groups, which recommended that the new card include a Metro payment option as well as other features that will be phased in after the new program’s establishment.

Concern over the current economic crisis was one of many reasons University officials decided to postpone the potentially pricey project, said Associate Vice President of Financial Management Edwin Schonfeld.

An official estimate has yet to be released, but administrators have tentatively given the project a multimillion dollar price tag.

“We are targeting under a couple of million,” Pimentel said. “It covers multiple servers on the front end and backup servers in another location – at least eight different servers. It is covering the software, licensing fees, accessing software.”

Schonfeld said the decision to postpone the project was made by a team in the executive vice president and treasurer’s office, including people from Information Systems and Services and other administrative departments.

The team decided it would be better to wait until after companies that provided the Smart Card system and software – like BlackBoard – updated their security and capabilities so GWorld 2.0 had the most up-to-date technology.

The current GWorld card can be easily duplicated, giving people not affiliated with the University access to secure areas like offices and residence halls, Pimentel said. When GWorld 2.0 is finalized, those cards will be secure from identify theft.

The University is confident in the system’s capabilities to last through the next year, Pimentel said.

“We took a hard look at the current system’s ability to meet our needs for the next year, for both software and hardware, and found that is would last for one additional year,” Schonfeld said.

He added that the University has not seen any major security issues with the GWorld cards.

“We are a victim of our success; we have been running the system very well,” Pimentel said. “It is really a testament to the staff we have.”

While the development has been postponed, Pimentel said the University plans to gather more information about what faculty and students want from the card.

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