HUD aims to raise its public profile with computer kiosks nationwide

The Housing and Urban Development Department this year will finish installing 95
computer kiosks—including five traveling units—across the nation to provide
housing information to the public.


Through the HUD Next Door program, the kiosks let users pull up data about agency
services and topics such as affordable rents, housing discrimination and home buying.


The department wants the public to perceive the kiosks as user-friendly information
tools that will, in part, encourage residents to use HUD facilities to hold community
meetings, view satellite training presentations and log onto HUD’s Internet site,
department officials said. School groups are invited to the offices to learn how
government programs can benefit their neighborhoods.


“We’ve been tasked with developing these kiosks as a means of raising our
profile across the nation and to show people that we are really here to help,” said
David Gottlieb, director of developmental technology.


The traveling kiosks, which can be easily assembled and shipped, are designed to
increase awareness of HUD’s services, especially in remote areas, Gottlieb said.


Standing only about three feet high, the traveling kiosks use a Toshiba America
Information Systems Inc. 470 CDT. The notebook runs on a 200-MHz Pentium with 128M of RAM
and a 2G hard drive.


The permanent kiosks have Dell Computer Corp. 350-MHz Pentium II GXi PCs with 64M of
RAM and 6G hard drives.


Both the traveling and permanent kiosks tap into the first layer of HUD’s Web
site. The permanent units use a Korea Data Systems Co. monitors with touch screens; the
mobile units use WEN Technologies 170 monitors with the same touch screen.


Forty-one kiosks have been placed in federal and state buildings, malls and subway
stations across the nation during the last year. Another 49 are to be installed this year.


There are two main servers on the system at HUD headquarters. The Web server is a Sun
Microsystems Sparc Ultra 3000 Enterprise server with five 250-MHz RISC processors, a 50G
hard drive and 1G of RAM.


The database server, which is updated as needed, is a Compaq ProLiant 6000 with four
200-MHz Pentium processors and 4G of RAM. The kiosks are connected via a LAN to the HUD
WAN by a T1 line.


“It’s a wonderful system that goes a long way in bringing HUD information to
the citizenry across the nation,” Gottlieb said.


The freestanding kiosks cost about $18,000 each; there will be 80 in place by the end
of the year. Ten other kiosks will be installed in storefronts, much like automated teller
machines, at about $11,400 each. The five mobile models cost $15,300 each. 


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