The Internet brought government services home to constituents, and now some governments are using kiosks to bring the same self-service ease to places we shop. The kiosks not only bring convenience to constituents who use them, but ease congestion in government offices.

In 2002, only 18 percent of Arkansas' vehicle tag renewals were done via Internet, phone or mail, according to Fred Porter, administrator of the Arkansas Office of Motor Vehicles. The remaining 82 percent of drivers renewed their vehicle tags in a State Revenue Office. "We're trying to pull traffic away and give better service," said Porter.

But the only way for citizens renewing tags to complete transactions with the vehicle tags in hand is by going to a State Revenue Office during normal business hours and paying with cash or check. Credit card processing is only done on the Internet or by phone.

Now the Office of Motor Vehicles is rolling out kiosks, in partnership with Wal-Mart, that will allow tag renewers to go to participating Wal-Marts, renew tags at their convenience and pay with the method of their choice, as well as walk out the door with a new vehicle decal.

"Wal-Mart offers all the options, [like] 24/7 service, so you don't have to take off work to do it," he said. "You get product in hand when you buy it, and you can pay by credit card or even your Wal-Mart gift card if you have one of those."

People who want to renew their tags enter information from their renewal notice into the kiosk, which is located next to the customer service desk. When the information is entered, the kiosk checks Motor Vehicle databases in real time to ensure property tax and liability insurance for the vehicle in question are current, and then displays the vehicle information for verification.

Porter said only the minimum amount of information necessary for verification is displayed, such as license plate number and year, and make and model of the car.

"It's not going to put your name and address on there so that pervert behind you can see it," he said.

If all requirements are met, the kiosk prints an invoice with a bar code that tells the renewers how much they owe. Citizens take the invoices to any cashier, along with any other items they choose to buy. The bar code is scanned and the money owed is added to their total. Once the renewal fee is paid, the citizen scans the bar code at the kiosk and tags are automatically printed at the service desk. Users can also pay invoices at the service desk if they don't want to wander around the store.

Communication between kiosks and the Office of Motor Vehicles is in real time, so when drivers leave the store, their status has already been updated on Motor Vehicle Office computers. That's one less person who will make a trip to the office, Porter said.

"For people who do have to go to the tag office, that person's not going to be standing in line in front of them," he added.

Porter said theft isn't a problem because the tags are printed for each transaction. Blank decals have no value.

Partners for Better Service

For the five-store pilot launched in May 2002, 3M developed the technology to print the decals, and provided toner, registration certificates and printers at no charge. 3M won the contract to continue providing after the statewide rollout in October 2002 through a competitive bidding process, according to Porter. The kiosks will be located in 51 stores.

Kiosks and their programming were provided by Wal-Mart.

The Office of Motor Vehicles will pay Wal-Mart $1 per transaction for the first 18 months, said Porter, and 50 cents per transaction thereafter. Porter

Emily Montandon  |  Staff Writer/Copy Editor