No matter how many kiosks end up being networked, the national system stands little chance of succeeding unless participating government agencies adopt a uniform set of standards, protocols and navigational tools for linking the providers of services. To achieve that goal, the kiosk network needs an organizational structure to support it.

One choice would be to have a single federal agency responsible for governing and coordinating the network. But the Interagency Kiosk Committee report recommends that a coalition of agencies set policy and procedures for operating the network, as well as establishing electronic development, standards and protocols to be used across the system.

The Committee envisions an overall national support group or hub, as they call it, and five regional support hubs, which would primarily fill a coordinating role rather than a governing one. The regional hubs would work with state and local agencies, helping them to partner with each other, sharing new applications with other states in their region.


The Committee report looked at building a 10,000 kiosk network and came up with four possible cost scenarios, based partly on which networking model is chosen and how fast the system is deployed. The total costs range from $413 million to nearly $956 million, and would include hardware, software, personnel, maintenance, telecommunications, advertising and interest.

As for funding, Robert Reisner referred to the example set by Info/California as a possible model. The state earns money for its system using three different types of charges. First, an agency pays the people who run Info/California to develop the interactive application. Second, an agency contracts with Info/California to put their application on the kiosk and, third, in some but not all cases, there is a charge for individual services.

Private funding is another possibility. The Committee recognizes the private sector's ability to deliver cost-effective services in a competitive environment, but assumes that in such a venture, firms would expect to recover all costs plus a profit from later usage fees.

Another form of private funding, not mentioned in the report, but practiced in a limited way by some states, involves cost-avoidance. In Texas, the Employment Commission only pays the kiosk vendor (North Communications) the actual costs to deliver job information via kiosks, a significant savings over what the Commission used to pay to do it themselves. That difference is enough to cover the Commission's cost for using the network. The Commission also pays North a monthly fee for each kiosk that provides employment information [see GT, Sept 1994].


State and local governments have been testing kiosks in a number of formats since the late 1980s. Today, the few small-scale systems in operation are a far cry from what many government visionaries believed would be possible by 1995. Recognizing the slow growth in government kiosk services, the Interagency Kiosk Committee cautions that a national kiosk network will not be created overnight.

Technology is dynamic and kiosk applications are still in their infancy. But with the federal government finally pushing the idea forward, and with more state and local governments developing innovative ideas for multimedia services, the future for government kiosks looks bright.



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