Employment kiosks an issue in Iowa. Looks like they rely on sneaker-net for remote monitoring as well as ad hoc usage determination. We suspect it was a do it yourself with a relative company getting the implementation contract. Hard to say given the lack of background info. Usually though that ends up in investigation.
Job kiosk problems need to be fixed
The vast majority of unemployment claims are not filed at an Iowa Workforce Development office. That has long been the case. Iowans use personal computers or smart phones to file claims, hunt for jobs and sign up for training. So while the closing of 36 state unemployment offices last year was controversial, it wasn't necessarily the wrong move. Iowa doesn't need dozens of brick-and-mortar offices.
But perhaps it doesn't need all of the 2,059 "online access points" established to help take the place of those closed offices either.
In recent months the state agency has provided computer software and hardware to more than 600 entities, including homeless shelters and social services organizations. In many cases, these are state computers that are no longer being used. The agency also installs programs on computers belonging to libraries or schools to help ensure Iowans have direct access to agency services.
But technology can't repair itself. A computer doesn't pack up and move to another location when no one uses it for months. What is Iowa Workforce Development doing to maintain these kiosks that it says save money and increase access?
Not enough apparently.
Des Moines Register reporter Jason Clayworth visited a dozen sites recently and found several computers were broken or rarely used. Two of the 12 sites were closed. Three kiosks in Perry, Pella and Ames didn't work. Staff at seven of the sites estimated the computers were used about once a week or less. One installed six months ago has never been used. Though the Register reviewed only a small sampling, there could be problems at hundreds of kiosks.
It raises questions about whether Iowa Workforce Development thought through the implications and responsibilities of setting up thousands of stations in every corner of the state. While technology can and should be used to help deliver government services to Iowans, it takes staff to maintain and repair that technology. Before adding more online access points, as the agency is doing, it should pause and reassess what the Register spot check found.
Communications director Kerry Koonce said 15 regional managers and their staff conduct spot checks of sites every eight to 10 weeks. Yet more routine checks may be needed. It's also hard to believe it is the best use of a regional manager's time to drive all over the place and check on computers in addition to their regular responsibilities.
The state can't set up a kiosk at an elementary school or church, call it an "access point" and not have a clear system in place for maintaining it. And it's troubling that the responsibility for reporting problems with machines falls largely to staff in libraries, community colleges or other places where kiosks are located. Those people have their own work to do.
Iowa Workforce Development needs to conduct a comprehensive assessment about the workability and use of existing kiosks. Going forward, if the state determines one is not being used, it should be removed. If additional help is needed in a certain location, it should be provided. The system to report and make repairs may need modifications and additional staff.
A largely rural state can't afford to have brick-and-mortar buildings within a stone's throw of every Iowan. Using the Internet frequently makes sense and it is something the Register's editorial page has supported to help unemployed Iowans. But a computer-based infrastructure needs maintenance that only humans can perform.
Considering no one is clamoring to add state workers, thousands of kiosks may simply be too many.