The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 3, 2011
Poll: DMV adds self-service kiosks in Southern California

The Department of Motor Vehicles has expanded its self-service kiosk program, according to a press announcement released last week. The ATM-style machines are now available in two dozen field offices in four counties. If you haven't seen how the machines work, click the viewer above.

The goal, the press release says, "to get vehicle registration stickers and cards into customers' hands in a few minutes or less."

The DMV program reminded us of when the retail grocery industry a few years ago launched self-service checkout stands in stores. It was a controversial addition, at least for the grocery employee union locals in California that worried the machines were taking jobs from their members.

The supermarket chains saw customer self-service as a way to cut employee costs in a fiercely competitive industry that lives and dies on razor-thin profit margins. It was a logical extension of a trend that started years earlier when banks added ATMs as a way to shift labor costs to customers and machines while enhancing service speed.

Since then banks, retailers and government also have exploited the Internet to automate transactions that were formerly face-to-face, mailed in or handled over the phone. The trade-off is the same: less input work and cost for the institution, more input work and convenience for the customer.

What do you think? Is self-service government technology a creeping threat to state jobs? A vital path to providing services more cheaply? Somewhere in between?

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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