Idaho OntheGo mobile credit card payments

Idaho takes credit card payments on Android devices

For states with large rural populations, using cutting-edge IT to conduct business is a stretch, at best. Mobile is relatively easy to consider in cities and areas that have plentiful cell and Wi-Fi service, but in isolated rural counties it’s a whole other matter.

NIC Inc., which runs websites and online services for many state and local governments, is hoping to change that with a service first developed in Idaho . Called Idaho OnTheGo, it allows state, county and city employees anywhere in the state to take credit and debit card payments on Android devices, even where there is no cell or Wi-Fi service.

Access Idaho, the NIC-run administrator of the state’s Web portal and electronic government solutions, already has an over-the-counter solution for payments, said its marketing director Rich Steckler.

“But, with the growth of mobile imminent, we wanted to stay ahead of the curve,” he said. “We understand there will only be a small usage of it at first, but we know that will grow later, much like in the private sector.” Eventually, NIC hopes to roll out the service nationally

With OnTheGo, government employees can use an optional mag swipe card reader that encrypts the card and payment information and stores it. The reader continually searches for cell and Wi-Fi signals, and once back in range it transmits the stored information over a secure connection to central government systems, where it’s processed just like any other card payment.

OnTheGo also provides a full, 24-hour reporting feature, Steckler said, so that billing reports, email receipts and other items associated with the payments can be uploaded from an Access Idaho site at any time.

The system is already in use in various places around the state. Clark County, for example, covers 1,765 square miles and has just 950 residents. The sheriff’s department there uses OnTheGo to collect roadside payments from drivers who have committed some kind of infraction.

“Before, if a trucker had been pulled over, he would have been issued with a citation and then have to go to a certain location where he could pay the fine, and then be allowed go on his way,” Stickler said. “With OnTheGO he can pay the fine right there on the roadside, which saves him a lot of time.”

No backend support is needed from the government, as OnTheGo is a completely standalone system and ties directly into Access Idaho’s payment engine. Given that none of the payment information is kept on the Android devices themselves, that also strengthens the security of the whole system.

NIC is also looking into expanding the service to include Apple iOS portals.

It’s difficult to put a specific ROI on the service, Steckler said, but people in the field certainly seem to see its value when they know they can guarantee payments without having to carry cash with them. As mobile gets bigger, that value argument should also get easier, he feels.

It’s also likely there will still be new adopters of the system many years down the road, as rural locations in particular can take a while to accept these kinds of technologies. There are still counties in Idaho that look on the over-the-counter systems as new, Steckler said, and that’s been available for 10 years.

“I’m sure in another 10 years there will be people who say the same about OnTheGo, and want to get on board with mobile,” he said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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