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COMPUTER KIOSK WILL PROVIDE GREATER GOVERNMENT ACCESS

Want to e-mail the president but don't have a computer at home? How about sending a complaint to the state attorney general, or figuring out your Social Security benefits?

All those contacts and more can be made through a new computer located in the food court of McKinley Mall. The blue kiosk, located next to Burger King, gives the user access to more than 150 government services and costs nothing to use.

The interactive computer kiosk was to be unveiled at a ceremony today. Beatrice Disman, regional commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration, and Thomas J. Ryan, regional administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, were to officially open the kiosk to the public. Also scheduled to be on hand were U.S. Immigration Judge Philip J. Montante Jr., chairman of the Federal Executive Board for the Buffalo district, and local officials.

The kiosk consists of a personal computer system with touch-screen features, a laser printer and a direct connection to virtually every government agency in the U.S., New York State and Erie County governments. It is among the first of thousands that will be placed in public places throughout the country.

The McKinley Mall kiosk is a cooperative effort between the U.S. National Partnership for the Reinvention of Government and the mall, said Joseph M. Cuddihy, district manager of the Social Security Administration and vice chairman of Buffalo's Federal Executive Board.

It was purchased by the U.S. General Services Administration, and McKinley Mall is providing the space for the kiosk, the telephone line for the Internet connection and the electricity to operate the machine, Cuddihy said.

Different federal agencies around the country have offered their employees' services to help set up and maintain the kiosks. In Western New York, the Social Security Buffalo office will update and maintain the computer, Cuddihy said.

Jean Finn and Debbie Corbett, both of Buffalo, were eating at the food court with their 1-year-old daughters, Colleen and Clare, on a recent afternoon. Both have computers at home but thought the kiosk might be helpful to those who do not.

"I do the Internet at home on my computer," Finn said. "My mom might use it. She's really into it, and she doesn't have a computer."

"If people know what it is, they'll use it," Corbett said. "Now I want to try it out."

The kiosk is located under a sign, "Hassle Free Communities, Government Services," and features information from A to Z.

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