E-gov walk-ins welcome

Even though states are pressing for e-government solutions, they still have to account for the unconnected status of some residents. That's why GovConnect Inc. is working with Western Union Holdings Inc. to craft a walk-in answer for child support payments.

GovConnect is treating an initial deployment in Rhode Island as a pilot system, and the company expects to use it as the basis for a solution to show other governments by the first quarter of 2003.

"There's still a decent percentage of the population that is strictly cash-based, that has no bank account ... or access to credit card facilities," said Jeff Ficke, GovConnect's senior vice president for new market strategy. "There's no way they can make payments over the Web, so there's a need to provide a way for them to make physical payments."

Western Union was an obvious choice to help in this role because the company is widespread and already has the infrastructure to deal with walk-in business, Ficke said. Western Union has more than 50 locations in Rhode Island and about 20,000 locations nationwide.

The child-support payee's involvement ends when he or she hands over cash to a Western Union agent. Western Union then makes sure the appropriate electronic data record is sent to the state, along with the relevant account information.

GovConnect officials believe that about 80 percent of the Rhode Island solution can be used as a standard component for the national product, with a relatively small effort needed to conform the solution to a state's specific child support requirements.

Several states have already expressed interest in the product, Ficke said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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