Interactive government comes to Washington

The General Services Administration and the National Partnership for Reinventing Government have partnered with Internet technology firms Urban Cool and GS Planet to provide citizens with quick, easy and free access to federal, state and local government services through an interactive kiosk in the nation's capital.

District of Columbia residents will be able to access a wide range of government services via the kiosk at the Hechinger Mall Safeway grocery store in Southeast Washington.

Information on the kiosk and others like it around the country is sorted by topic, so customers only need to know what they are looking for, not which agency has the information. IRS tax forms, change-of-address forms and city event listings are just some of the options available through the machines.

The kiosks are a part of NPR's Hassle-Free Communities initiative, which works to make government services more accessible to the public. "The kiosks are being placed where people live and shop so that getting forms or information from city hall is as convenient as shopping for groceries," said Morley Winograd, director of NPR.

Agencies like the Departments of Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development have linked their own kiosks into the system as well.

Approximately 36 kiosks will be hooked up by the end of this summer, according to a spokeswoman for NPR. California, Texas, Indiana, and Georgia are just a few states that already boast interactive machines. Maryland and Virginia are slated to get kiosks in August.

The machines can be found in bus and train stations and shopping malls where Internet access is limited.

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