community level," he said. "One federal agency isn't going to know everything in terms of what communities want and need for kiosk services."
According to Reisner, the Interagency Kiosk Committee believes that a project of this scope needs a coordinating council that sets policy guidelines to deal with issues concerning kiosk ownership and control of applications. "While a postal kiosk on a postal location would likely be managed by the Postal Service," he said, "I think it [application content and control] needs to be done cooperatively with a group including federal, state and local governments where they all feel they have a voice."
"Customers will use kiosks if the kiosks meet their needs," stated the Interagency Kiosk Committee report concerning strategies for kiosk applications. To ensure that happens, a national network of kiosks needs to provide services for (1) agency-specific transactions, (2) transactions related to specific services and products, and (3) real-life scenarios.
The first two options would serve customers who know which agency they need to contact or the specific service or product they desire. Even if they aren't sure, the kiosk would lead them to their "destination" through the use of key words and icons.
The third option is probably the most complex. It might involve job changes, family changes or location changes and would require the kiosk to guide a customer to services at different levels of government. For example, someone seeking a new job would enter basic information and the kiosk could display pertinent government and private sector job openings with detailed information about type, salary and location.
It could provide a print-out of the information, electronically submit an application to the employer and schedule an interview. The kiosk could also offer related information and services, such as information on job training or unemployment benefits, information on and applications for scholarships, grants and loan programs, welfare and Medicaid, and the locations of the nearest shelter or health clinic.
The Committee foresees using modular kiosks to provide flexible and comprehensive services. All kiosks would contain a core set of capabilities and functions that could be used and completed in high traffic areas, such as shopping malls or post office lobbies. More enhanced kiosks -- with keyboards, for example -- would enable more lengthy transactions, such as filing income taxes, and would require a secure, private setting, such as a library or community center.
NETWORKING: TWO APPROACHES
Recognizing that the cost of networking thousands of kiosks for multimedia could be formidable, the Committee report suggests two possible architectural models for developing a national system. Both would deliver similar services but use different system designs.
The first architecture model is a networked-based, client/server solution, where applications reside at each agency and access is provided in real time through a hierarchical network of servers. The second model is called a kiosk-resident solution, with applications residing on each kiosk and communications lines being used only when it is necessary to communicate with remote databases and agency servers outside the region where the kiosk is located.
The networked model requires only one version of each application, which is fully controlled by the agency that developed it. The model also allows for complete integration of existing government servers and databases, leading to a simple management structure, similar to the Internet. The primary disadvantage of the networked model is its cost. Such an approach would require lots of high-bandwidth communications to deliver services to a customer in a multimedia format.
The kiosk-resident model requires each kiosk to contain all the applications, potentially limiting their number, size, and multimedia intensity. Access to remote databases is possible, but is limited to text when accessing over standard telephone lines. The key advantage of the kiosk-resident model is its low