The People's Internet Expands in Australia

AUSTOUCH Kiosk Network Serves Canberra

CANBERRA, Australia, June 4 /PRNewswire/ - The people of Canberra now have their own free, 24-hour access to the world of electronic commerce: it's called AUSTOUCH, housed in multimedia kiosks around the city. With no computer knowledge, no computer network access - in fact, without the need of a computer at all - anyone can now conduct automated transactions with Australia Central Territory government (ACT) by touching one of 10 new public touchscreens.

The network is managed by North Communications Australia, in conjunction with a team of technology and public service specialists at the ACT Government. The ACT Minister for Urban Services, Trevor Kaine, unveiled the system recently; its goal is to provide people with a smart window to government and community information and services, making government more efficient and controlling costs.

"Most people in Canberra will have to travel only a few kilometres to access a kiosk. The touchscreens are also designed to be user-friendly to both people with literacy problems and people with a physical disability," said Mr. Kaine. Noting that many other states in Australia are considering similar moves, he added, "The ACT Government is leading the way for Australia in the introduction of such services. While the Victorian government is still talking, the ACT Government has already delivered."

The kiosks offer a broad range of government and community information, neatly organized on the colorful touchscreens, which feature full-motion video, stereo sound and instant response. The information available ranges from garbage collection to vehicle registration, from tax information to sport and recreation. People can use their debit cards to pay their rates, land tax, parking and traffic fines in a completely secure environment, with all kiosks issuing verified, official receipts. Information is updated frequently from a single control centre.

"Rather than using the unfamiliar, cryptic symbols and commands familiar to desktop computer users on the Web, our `People's Internet' touchscreens shield people from the complexities of high- tech jargon," explained Mark Botsford, Managing Director of North Communications Australia. "Moving around is as simple as touching a picture or a word. It takes a lot of advanced technology to make complicated things look so simple."

The first ten kiosks are located across Canberra in high pedestrian traffic areas, at the Tuggeranong Hyperdome, the Belconnen Mall, Woden Plaza, Cooleman Court, Manuka, the Ngunnawal Shopping Centre, Kippax Fair, Dickson Library, Erindale Library, and the Civic Shopfront. Four more kiosks will be introduced at the major Bus Interchanges over the coming months. These locations ensure wider geographic access to information and payment services, and in several cases 24-hour access.

AUSTOUCH is also available on the Internet, which offers more in-depth information. "AUSTOUCH on the Internet" currently attracts over 8,000 visits per week. For more details on the locations of the kiosks, see

North Communications Australia (NCA) was founded in 1993 by Mark Botsford and others; the company initially deployed a multimedia network in Brisbane, recently added more screens in Tasmania, and plans announcements of new entertainment-based kiosks soon. NCA is a division of North Communications, with international headquarters in Los Angeles; the company has deployed highly successful touchscreen networks in California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Utah, Washington, Singapore, Canada, and for the Social Security Administration. An affiliate of Metromedia Company, controlled by John Kluge, is the majority shareholder of North Communications, Inc. The North Communications site on the Web provides more detail, at; kiosk hardware, model and configuration information is available at

      `The People's Internet' is a servicemark of North
  Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
  SOURCE  North Communications
        -0-                             06/04/97
        /CONTACT:  Chris Dick, Marketing Director of North Communications
  Australia, 61 7 3870 8944, or, or Rick Rommel,
  Marketing of North Communications, 310-577-7700, ext. 7326, or
  CO:  North Communications
  ST:  California
  SU:  PDT