Boston's kiosk system links citizens to city hall services
(IDG) -- Boston residents soon will be able to avoid long lines at City Hall by paying parking tickets and excise taxes online at electronic kiosks set up across the city. Several were to be in operation by the end of June, and one was to be unveiled in late July at the Boston Public Library. The library terminal will be the first to use Bell Atlantic's Digital Subscriber Line high-speed communications services.
The kiosk project is the result of Mayor Thomas Menino's desire to give all Boston residents access to City Hall and the Internet at any time. "Boston is really a city of neighborhoods, and everything is spread out," said Jennifer Latchford, senior adviser in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer. "We want all of Boston's residents, visitors, students and tourists to be able to use this technology for their own purposes.... And there's an enormous amount of information out there."
The cost of the project, which plans for 20 kiosks to be up and running by the end of the year, is being picked up by kiosk-maker JC Decaux USA, which will sell advertising on the kiosk screens. The kiosks will be put in public facilities, such as schools, libraries and transportation stations, in each of the city's neighborhoods.
"People who already are going to the grocery store can access the times of their kids' Little League game or see what's going on at the community center," Latchford said.
Lexitech Inc. produces Netkey software, which the public will use to perform simple touch-screen tasks. Netkey provides an assortment of World Wide Web kiosk functions, including multimedia capabilities, system protection and a customized graphical interface.
"The reason we invented this product was to give companies the ability to turn their Web sites into public-access terminals," said Alexander Richardson, president of Lexitech. "The people in Boston can access entertainment news, movies and art and have the ability to pay taxes or library fines through what is really an outdoor electronic newspaper by using our Netkey product."
The kiosks are equipped with a telephone, printer and credit card reader, making it possible to complete processes such as paying for tickets, getting directions to a restaurant or accessing local neighborhood maps. "It really allows the 'have-nots' to have access to the whole e-commerce infrastructure," Richardson said.
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