Touch-screen technology can oil grinding gears of government gridlock

The Rat took a long lunch hour a few weeks ago to attend the state of Maryland's
technology show in Baltimore. There he cottoned on to the future of government:
self-service kiosks.

Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration has deployed automated teller look-alikes from
NCR Corp. at supermarkets and malls around the state. The kiosks accept vehicle
registration renewals, payment of outstanding parking tickets and other driver debts.

The state is installing electronic systems to handle regulatory transactions such as
professional licensing and permit renewals.

Gov. Parris Glendening raved about the machines to an assemblage of government and
private-sector chief information officers. Glendening bragged that kiosks are saving the
state $1.95 per transaction. In view of the long lines at the MVA when the cyberrodent
last queued up, that could add up fast.

Glendening said Maryland is looking for other ways to apply technology to save money
and give better service.

That made the Rat's brain spin as he thought of all the things the federal government
could replace with self-service kiosks--and how it could create new sources of revenue at
the same time.

Executive agencies, not to mention entire segments of legislative and political
activity, could be replaced wholesale by an army of ATMs:

We're not talking high tech here, merely a kiosk with a credit card reader, coffee
machine, microphone and video loop of the chief executive saying, "I feel your

Why stop there? The Rat has been working on self-service ways to lighten the load on
his support staff and beef up his departmental budget. But the users don't like having to
swipe a credit card through a reader on their desks to gain network access.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at

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