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Installing Government Kiosks: Uses, Costs, and Benefits

Government offices perform a variety of administrative services. At the same time, state, federal, and local governments have operated in budget crisis mode for years.

One solution to fulfilling a public need while also reducing staff and cutting costs has been the installation of self-service and informational kiosks. These machines perform a wide variety of administrative tasks, such as licensing services, bill payment, and even court scheduling.

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Updating Information

A government kiosk allows constituents to quickly and easily update their personal information. For example, those receiving social services must notify the department regarding any changes to household information, including employment, income, number of occupants, and address. With a kiosk, these recipients enter the information quickly and accurately, and the unit sends it to back-end systems to be processed. There are no worries about data entry errors, and no salaried staff needed to perform this purely administrative task.

In addition, when statute changes (as it always does), you don't have to throw out old forms and print new ones. Instead, the software lets you easily update the forms within the system. You can also easily offer new services as they become available, and phase out old ones.

Making Payments and Testing

The public can easily pay fees and any other bills through a kiosk. This reduces wait times for all customers, and cuts down on the amount of staff required to accept payments. The system prints out receipts and sends the "paid in full" information right to the customer's account.

Government kiosks also make certain types of testing simple. In states with emissions testing, for example, performing this task through a kiosk is quick and simple. The customer pays right there, and the test results go directly to the state agency. If the customer passes, he or she receives the authority to renew license and registration. A failed test prompts a warning letter.

Submitting Documents

Kiosks that include scanners make it easy to submit verification documents, such as birth certificates or receipts, and without the need to involve a government employee in the transaction. The scanned image goes to the system's back-end, and the constituent takes his or her original document home, with a printed receipt in hand.

Reduce Long Lines

Constituents coming in to perform a simple task, such as completing a form or dropping off a payment, take up valuable clerk time, as well as wasting their own time standing in long lines. For tasks that can be done easily, getting those people in and out quickly is the main goal.

This means that your employees deal with fewer people annoyed from waiting in a long line. It also means that people coming in who need to talk to an actual person don't have to wait so long to do it. Win-win all around.

Reduced Labor Costs

As you already know, government offices are making cutbacks wherever they can, often in the form of staff reductions. Unfortunately, you still need employees to do the work of the people, but that capital is better spent on work that cannot be easily performed by a machine.

You still need clerks to work the licensing counter, of course. But, when the average person coming in is there to renew their teaching license, for example, you can install a kiosk to handle forms and payments and cut your staff by at least a third. That means reductions in salary, benefits, pension, and personal time. It also means you're able to keep one more mission-critical position.

Expand this idea to numerous government agencies and tasks, and you see how quickly these savings add up.

Average Government Kiosk Costs

Kiosks come in a wide variety of sizes, types, and styles, which makes estimating costs difficult. However, there are some guidelines.

Tablet-sized, portable kiosks run between $200 and $1,500, on average. These are most often found in restaurants and retail outlets, though.

The price of a table- or wall-mounted kiosk starts at around $2,000. Large standalone models come in at around $3,000. For both, costs extend to around $10,000, depending on features and customization.

For example, upgrading the touch screen adds between $2,000 and $10,000 to the unit price. Other add-ons, such as scanners and printers, typically add $1,000 apiece. In the end, the average price of a kiosk is in the $5,000 to $8,000 range.

Customized software has even broader price ranges, between $3,000 and $20,000. In addition, you pay between $300 and $500 in software licensing fees for each kiosk.

An extended warranty that includes maintenance adds around 20 percent to the purchase price.

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