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63rd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 31- September 5, 1997

Wings Across America: The U.S. Postal Service Delivers
Electronic Government Information

Jerry W. Mansfield
Head, Public Services
U.S. Postal Service Corporate Library
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, D.C. 20260-1540, U.S.A.


This paper introduces the web-based WINGS program as designed and developed by the U.S. Postal Service. The WINGS program is the United States’ effort to comply with the G-7 recommendation to provide governmental information and services through the use of online systems. By using the Internet and standalone kiosks in public places, U.S. citizens can interact with government agencies to obtain information critical to real-life events such as government benefits, applications, registrations, permits and more. Information is accessible from the federal government as well as state and local government agencies. It is anticipated that the provision of kiosk and web-based government information will replace the practice of using the telephone to speak directly with a government employee and thereby save valuable resources, time and money.


Who among us finds it easy to obtain an answer to a simple question from a government agency? Are you tired of being transferred from "expert" to "expert" within government agencies? I'm sure that we all have experienced the frustrations associated with obtaining official answers to urgent questions from our respective governments.


Realizing that problems and frustrations like this exist in most countries, the Ministers from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US) met to address this issue. In February 1995 the G7 representatives and members of the European Commission responsible for telecommunications, information technologies and culture met in Brussels for a conference on the Global Information Society. At this meeting they launched major pilot projects in eleven theme areas. Government On Line is one of the eleven projects.

The Government On Line project (Theme 9) promotes collaboration in the area of best practices to improve public services through the use of online systems. Two key goals are to replace paper based operations with online operations and to improve online access to public information. In the United States the representatives at the international level are in the General Services Administration's Office of Government Wide Policy, Office of Intergovernmental Solutions. There is no central funding for the G7 Government On Line project, leaving participating countries to budget for staff, technology and implementation.

In the U.S., Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review proposed creating an electronic infrastructure that would link all levels of government federal, state and local into a single system. The report further recommends establishing a nationwide network of interactive kiosks that would provide people access to this infrastructure. In response a Customer Service Improvement team was chartered to coordinate the development and implementation of a one stop government service kiosk. To reach this goal the Customer Service Improvement Team asked the U.S. Postal Service to lead an interagency committee to create a kiosk plan for national implementation. Unlike many government initiatives which can take years to get off the ground, this one has moved expeditiously under the purview of U.S. Postal Service managers.

Why the U.S. Postal Service? The U.S. Postal Service embraces this vision for the introduction of information technology to improve the delivery of government services to the public, as a method to revolutionize the manner in which the public interacts with government. The U.S. Postal Service was also chosen to take the lead in this effort since there is no other federal agency or business that has a presence in virtually every city and town in the United States. With more than 42,000 post offices nationwide the opportunity for public access to an interactive kiosk is enhanced. When local libraries, shopping centers, hospitals, airports and other public places are added, the potential of affording every citizen access to interactive government information is overwhelming. And the U.S. Postal Service also has a long history of fostering new technologies, as well as being uniquely qualified by virtue of its corporate mission: "to bind the nation together through the delivery of information and services."

The Postal Service Leadership role will also ensure uniform delivery of electronic government services to even the most distant and remote locations. Access to government information will be available through public kiosks, personal computers and eventually across interactive television.


To meet this challenge the U.S. Postal Service developed a program called WINGS Web Interactive Network of Government Services which was introduced as a prototype in 1995 and then with a test model in October 1996.

The WINGS vision is to provide:

And here is what a kiosk looks like - user friendly, convenient, and handicapped accessible.

Beginning in the fall of 1996, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, Mecklenberg County, and the State of North Carolina became the first WINGS pilot partners. An expanded market test is scheduled for the fall of 1997 with nationwide deployment starting in the spring of 1998.

We presently have 25 live WINGS in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are onsite in two shopping malls, the airport, a hospital, two 24-hour grocery stores, a K-Mart, a community college, six libraries, five post offices and other government agency locations such as the city/county building and the police department. These units are receiving a lot of use and we are learning what citizens want to see or know. For example, in the libraries there are Internet connected personal computers sponsored by the local network, “Charlotte’s Web.” We also have kiosk units nearby. The kiosks are receiving high usage in these locations by people who are not attracted to the personal computers. The kiosk technology appeals to people who are comfortable using automated teller machines (ATMs), but not computers.

It is anticipated that these touch screen kiosks located in shopping malls, post offices or grocery stores would offer the core functionalities of simple and quickly concluded services such as registering to vote, whereas kiosks in secured locations such as libraries could be equipped with keyboards or scanners to enable users to file their income taxes or complete other complex transactions.

The primary purpose for WINGS is not to allow a user to contact a government agency per se but to allow a means of access to those things in government that affect daily living, such as social security benefits, taxes, voting, veteran's affairs, passports, immigration and naturalization, and much more. WINGS is aimed at helping people get benefits and services when they most need them. Thus, WINGS groups federal, state , and local agency services around the real-life events when people interact most with government.

The U.S Postal Service staged nationwide focus groups to help determine where to place kiosks and to determine the types of government information to which citizens required access. In a national survey of city managers, 83 percent of the more than 400 respondents said they wanted to improve customer service, 71 percent said it was necessary to form partnerships with federal and state agencies to make information available to the public electronically, and 65 percent see the public kiosks as the way to make services immediately available to the public.


What incentive is there for a government agency to "enlist" and provide basic services via a kiosk? Why would a shopping center or an airport be interested in hosting and maintaining a kiosk of government information?

In addition to their inherent goal of wanting to provide access to information to the people, government agencies realize that participation in WINGS can save valuable tax dollars. The financial model for a national kiosk system shows that it would be self funding at an agency cost of between $1.00 and $2.00 per transaction on the average, depending on how applications are implemented. This can be compared to an average cost of $40.00 per phone call to have a live person sit at a desk and respond to callers’ requests via a call center or a 1 800 toll-free number.

Business owners have "bought in" to the idea of having a kiosk in their mall or place of business on the basis of customer service philosophies. They believe that people using such a kiosk on their premises will most likely become customers and make purchases in conjunction with their visits to the kiosk. Also, businesses agreeing to host a kiosk are responsible for minimal maintenance only. The kiosks will be owned by the U.S. Postal Service and require cleaning only twice a year. Each site is to designate two people to check more than once a day for paper.

Safeguards have been installed into each kiosk. For example, the ctrl alt delete key combination has been disabled on the kiosks, proxies have been blocked, and no matter which search engine is selected, the program reverts back to www.wings.gov. Thus, surfing the internet is not allowed on the standalone kiosks users only have access to the program of government information and services.

Safeguards are also built into many of the services the users access. For example, MoversNet requires user authenticity so that strangers may not arbitrarily change your mailing address without your knowledge and thus divert your mail to an address of their choosing. For this, certificate authorities will be issued which require two forms of photo identification. A smart card will then be issued for secure kiosk transactions.


So far I have provided the background and developmental details; now it is time to show you what WINGS offers its users. The rest of this talk will be a visual presentation using Powerpoint, to show some of the exciting content of WINGS.



Examples of U.S. Government services which will be made available to
the citizen through WINGS via a local kiosk and/or a personal computer. ORGANIZATION APPLICATION Office of Personnel Management Application materials for job openings National Park Service Brochure requests Campground reservation requests Park status information (weather, events, open/closed, etc.) Registration for park events Census Bureau Information on the decennial census Information about the benefits of the census Temporary job information Assistance for filling out forms Community demographic data U.S. Postal Service Zip Code look-up General service information Change of address service Order philatelic products National Technical Information Service Public access to FedWorld BBS Online access to Federal Register, Congressional Record, Congressional Record Index, and Enrolled Bills of Congress Electronic Storage Facility (documents accessible to the people) Electronic Directory (publications and documents listings) Immigration and Naturalization Service Information dissemination (green cards, citizenship, visas, etc) Internal Revenue Service General Information (How to obtain forms and publications, When to file and where, Who must file, Where to go to get help, and Tax Topics) Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran special interest group information List of VA benefits offices and health care facilities Notification of a change of marital status Notification of the birth or death of a child Directory of VA benefits Health and Human Services Health information publication requests Source: The Interagency Kiosk Committee



STATE		Job Match
		Job Training Partnership Act (JPTA)
		Job application registration
		Unemployment insurance
		Boating laws
		Department of Motor Vehicles
			Vehicle registration
			Driver's license information/renewal
		State Universities
		Student aid
		State benefits
			Electronic Benefits Transfer
		Child immunization requirements
		Vital statistics
			Birth certificates
			Death certificates
		State parks

LOCAL		Voter registration
		Hunting and fishing licenses
		Building permits
		Community colleges
		School district information/schedules
		Municipal services
			trash, fire and police
		Obtaining a disabled parking permit
		AIDS/HIV information
		Community bulletin boards

Source:  The Interagency Kiosk Committee


Dept. of Motor Vehicles: vehicle registration		147.0
Social Security Administration: telephone inquiry	 54.0
U.S. Postal Service: Change of address			 40.0
Fishing licenses	  				 37.0
Hunting licenses					 30.0
State unemployment claims	  			 27.6
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture: food stamps	  		 21.0
Employment applications	  			 	 20.0
National Parks: overnight stays	  			 18.0
Immigration and Naturalization Service	  	 	 16.0
U.S. Postal Service: Zip Code look-up	  		 13.0
U.S. Treasury: $50 savings bonds	  		 12.0
Immigration and Naturalization Service: electronic
transmission						  5.0
Government Printing Office: publication orders		  5.0
Office of Personnel Management: Applications
for federal employment 4.6 State Department: passport application 4.0 Internal Revenue Service: Walk-ins for forms 4.0 Bureau of Land Management: information requests 3.0 Selective Service registration 2.0 General Services Administration: Federal Information Center1.5 National Technical Information Service: FedWorld 1.0 Small Business Administration: information request 0.8 Federal Emergency Management Administration: disaster registrations 0.7 U.S. Postal Service: philatelic orders 0.5 National Technical Information Service: orders 0.4 Source: The Interagency Kiosk Committee