Government of Canada InfoCentre Pilot Project
This was a comprehensive, multi-phase research program in support of the Government of Canada’s InfoCentre pilot project. The project, co-led by Human Resources Development Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada, involved 28 federal departments and agencies. On a pilot project basis, the federal government placed 100 touch screen kiosks in rural communities in four regional clusters in the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba. The kiosks provided a federal presence in small communities by providing residents with Internet access to information on government programs and services. A website version of the kiosk interface was also developed as part of this pilot project. The research program involved four distinct elements:
- Exploring the perceptions and attitudes of kiosk hosts (i.e. representatives of organizations that consented to ‘host’ a kiosk in their location), including their overall impression of the kiosk, their expectations, related concerns, and the impact of the kiosk on business.
- Exploring the views of kiosk users and potential users. Areas of investigation explored with users included why they used the kiosk, what they used it for, their ability to find the information they needed, and ease and quickness of use. Areas of investigation for potential users included why they had not used the kiosk before, what information they would expect to find on it, and reasons why they might use it in the future.
- Exploring the views of representatives of federal departments and agencies that took part in the InfoCentre project. The purpose was to provide departmental partners with an opportunity to evaluate and comment on their participation with respect to various aspects of the project. Areas of investigation included impressions of the InfoCentre product itself, the process and form of participation, and departmental perspectives on technology issues, including future directions.
- Reviewing user messages and questions sent by email to the InfoCentre team, from either the kiosk or website version.
The study included qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Phase one included 25 in-depth telephone interviews with kiosk hosts. Approximately six interviews were completed in each region, with a mix of participants based on ‘type’ of host establishment (e.g. convenience store, post office, community centre). The interviews were semi-structured in nature and lasted 30-45 minutes. Phase two included a set of 48 in-depth interviews with kiosk users (30) and potential users (18) on location. Approximately 12 interviews were conducted in each region (i.e. Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba) in two communities per region. Six of the interviews in Manitoba were conducted with Francophones, a linguistic minority (St. Pierre, Man.). The interviews were semi-structured in nature and were conducted in the facilities hosting the kiosk. A laptop computer was used for the interviews, which contained a ‘canned’ version of the kiosk content (i.e. no live links).
The survey of representatives of participating federal departments and agencies was self-administered (i.e. mail/fax survey) and distributed to departmental representatives at the final interdepartmental committee meeting. People who were not able to attend that meeting were contacted, and the questionnaire was then faxed/e-mailed to them. The respondent was the main contact person responsible for the project on behalf of his/her department/ agency. However, representatives were encouraged to discuss the survey with other team members in the department, and provide a ‘collective’ response to the survey. The final research element was in the form of a content analysis of email inquiries received through the kiosk and website versions of the initiative. A coding scheme was created, and email inquiries were coded and analyzed.
This study involved many challenges, including:
- Recruiting kiosk users and potential users posed a major challenge. Two strategies were used to address this. A pop-up message was installed in kiosks in locations chosen for the interviews. Kiosk users would see a message advising them of the study, offering them an incentive for participating ($50), and providing them with a contact number if they were interested. Kiosk hosts were also enlisted to help recruit kiosk users and potential users. Hosts were offered an incentive ($300) and asked to collect random names of kiosk users and potential users who would be willing to participate in the study. These lists were then used to contact potential participants.
- It was important to conduct the interviews in the host locations in order to be in physical proximity to the kiosks. However, the public nature of these locations was not conducive to the conduct of in-depth interviews. In order to minimize the possibility of distractions and interruptions, discrete areas of the host establishment were reserved for the conduct of the interviews.
- Kiosk users were not necessarily frequent users of the service. In order to obtain meaningful feedback, it was necessary that they be able to recall the content of the kiosk. To address this, kiosk users were asked to refresh their memory by spending a few minutes before the interview using the kiosk. In addition, a “canned” version of the kiosk content contained on a laptop computer was used during the interview itself to elicit feedback on specific design and content issues.