New internet kiosks in local councils to push e-government
Local councils in Malta have started to install on their premises new internet-enabled kiosks with access to online services for citizens. Four so-called “eGov4U Digital Stations” have been already deployed and another 11 will be available soon, i-Tech has learnt.
These kiosks are part of a pilot project funded by the eGOV4U project, an EU initiative partly funded by the competiveness and innovation programme of the EU (CIP ICT PSP). The Local Councils Association is a partner in this project together with another eight organisations from different European countries.
The overall objective of EGOV4U is to accelerate the take up by citizens as well as the pace of development of e-enabled citizen-centric service delivery.
Around one-third of EU citizens are still excluded from using e-government services through a combination of lack of skills, social conditions and affordable access to suitable technology. The eGOV4U project tackles these particular problems.
“Local councils have served as a focal point to collect hard copies of forms but we believe that this system is outdated and past its expiry date,” Jimmy Magro, executive secretary of the Local Councils Association told i-Tech. “We believe in having all government services online. We are training persons how to use the e-government services and also providing other means to encourage people to go online and communicate with their government without waiting in queues and wasting their time.”
Each station consists of a touch screen, a keyboard and a small hidden computer connected to the internet. The touch-screen runs on special software for such kiosks. Internet access is filtered but allows access to the most important websites with services to the citizens in Malta such as MyGov and NGOs.
The Forestals Group has won the bid to provide the setting-up, installation, monitoring and servicing of the stations as part of the eGov4U project.
“Councils are very much interested in these kiosks. The sturdy construction, which is vandal-proof, was very much liked as this will allow councils to put the stations at a location without the need of constant surveillance,” commented Gordon Dimech, general manager (commercial) at the Forestals Group of Companies.
The local councils of Vittoriosa, Mellieħa, Ħamrun, Siġġiewi and Naxxar are the first to get these public access terminals. The selection of the local councils to have the first batch of 15 stations was made after an open competition between these councils. The adjudication was done through a board of evaluation appointed by the Department of Local Government.
It is anticipated that all local councils will have a public access terminal in order to serve as a one-stop shop to all citizens.
“The Local Councils Association believes that once the government is building its e-government services infrastructure, we have to encourage its use across all segments of society. The project is focused on disadvantaged groups in order to facilitate e-inclusion. The idea of setting up public access terminals in local councils arises out of the need to make e-government services accessible to all including disadvantaged groups and excluded persons,” added Mr Magro.
The eGov4U project in Malta is undertaking other technology-related initiatives through the Local councils Association. These include the provision of free refurbished PCs for local councils, community centres, NGOs and non-profit organisations in partnership with the Malta Communications Authority; the launch of a user friendly portal for e-government services; the direct delivery and TV training of e-government services; the creation of a number of so-called digital centres; and the development new services for citizens.
Local councils interested in installing one of these internet-enabled stations can contact the Local Councils Association for more information.