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International Cooperation

Public Participation Guide: Information Kiosks

Stand alone kiosks are electronic information stations capable of presenting a large amount of information using a computer and touch screen or mouse for navigation. Kiosks are similar to automatic teller machines, offering menus for interaction between a person and a computer. Information is provided through a presentation that invites viewers to ask questions or direct the flow of information. Software used in kiosks is highly specialized, storing information on hard drives, replaceable disks or through internet connections that allow retrieval of specific information based on directions from the user. Computer hardware requirements are fairly minimal, requiring relatively simple computer equipment. However, they must be made very rugged with easy to use interface components to provide for expected use.

Interactive video display kiosks aim to deliver information via a multimedia presentation. These media can appeal to all age groups and are suitable for those not able to read or those who prefer visual as well as verbal cues. The interactive elements, and the sense of a video-game to the presentation, will elicit responses from people who may not otherwise participate in a planning or decision-making process. Well set-up interactive video display kiosks provide a multimedia option for finding information about an event, issue or proposal, through a “click and find” process, rather than having to scroll through a great deal of information to find the desired information.

Kiosks are generally placed in high traffic areas such as shopping malls and libraries.

Advantages

  • Can elicit preferences from people who may not otherwise participate
  • Complements staff availability by being always available
  • Can also serve as a distribution point for printed information
  • Can also be used to collect input
  • Can reach people who do not normally attend hearings or meetings
  • Can allow the user to enter a special request to the sponsoring agency or join a mailing list
  • Can be placed in a variety of locations and may be either stationary or mobile, and can also be brought to other types of meetings and events
  • Can be developed similarly to web pages and navigated in a similar way, hence, a lot more information can be made available through kiosks than stand alone displays.
  • Can place in a strategic location to include marginalized communities

Challenges to Consider

  • Sophisticated information programs and rugged requirements make interactive displays expensive
  • Takes time to design, program, build and set up
  • After construction and installation, staff commitments are relatively limited, but must be maintained to keep operational
  • Any new technology involving machines may cause unease to portions of the public
  • Potential vandalism is a factor in site selection
  • Strategic siting of kiosks is imperative; they should be located in areas frequented by large numbers of people who are likely to be interested in spending time learning about community issues
  • Consider whether the kiosk is worth the money--does it offer anything more or reach any additional stakeholders than can be achieved through your website?

Principles for Successful Planning

  • Conduct local meetings to determine whether interactive video would be a viable option for your community. The interactive video network might be used to serve a number of community projects and needs and build the community’s capacity to participate in decision making in relation to issues of community concern
  • Contact communications providers and government agencies for funding and sponsorship for the project (e.g. telecommunications companies may lay fiber optics as part of their community service obligations). Sponsorship is more likely if a number of agencies can present a case for using the systems
  • In setting up displays on a community issue, present materials in ways that are simple, graphically interesting, and easily understood
  • Develop material in similar ways to web pages, so they can be navigated similarly
  • Seek limited public input through the inclusion of electronic surveys; however, manipulation is a possibility and results should be regarded with care
  • Specialized software and industrial designers are required

Resources Needed

Staffing

  • Information technology professionals
  • Specialized firms to build the kiosk
  • Expert programmers to set up interactive display and keep it updated/troubleshoot and repair
  • High speed internet connections
  • Regular policing to prevent vandalism

Materials

  • Sophisticated hardware and software
  • Custom case

Planning Time

  • Can take many months to design, program, build, and install

Implementation Time

  • Should be maintained throughout the life of the project

Group Size

  • Unlimited

Cost

  • Very high cost.

Most relevant participation levels:

  • Kiosks can be used at all levels on the IAP2 spectrum.

Explore the full Public Participation Guide.


Contacts

For additional information on EPA's Public Participation Guide, contact:

Shereen Kandil
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: kandil.shereen@epa.gov