There has never been a more critical time for digital inclusion than the present. The world is no longer just a global village. It has taken on new heels and transformed into a fast-paced global town. The economic and social benefits of massive digital inclusion cut across nearly all the sectors.
Public engagement, therefore, should not be left behind. As information becomes more widely available, there is a growing need to form online engagement communities to leverage the broader connectivity and diversity of ideas.
This calls for local authorities and government agencies to awake to the reality at hand and start shifting their focus from traditional channels of public engagement. For one, these channels can only reach a limited audience. Secondly, most citizens have a busy lifestyle and can only access information that is readily available on the go.
Therefore, it doesn’t help much to rely on paper-based public comment systems alone in this fast-paced digital era. With many people squeezed for time to attend meetings and the like, a public comment period can quickly expire without maximizing the desired or expected gains from public engagement.
Against that backdrop, most project management leaders and consultants are turning to virtual solutions. A digital public comment platform is the quintessential best virtual solution for more optimized and results-driven public participation.
What is a digital public comment system?
Think of it as a vastly improved version of the traditional paper-based public comment setting. While the system wasn’t invented to entirely replace traditional public participation, it offers incredible complementary benefits that couldn’t be achieved any other way.
Digital commenting systems essentially leverage internet availability to make public participation in key decision-making processes easily and widely accessible. The system helps local authorities, government agencies, and project managers weave a commenting functionality into their official websites where the public can readily drop their comments.
On the same site, the publishing body or agency can easily engage their audience on the underlying subject. This can in turn trigger massive sharing of the content and achieve the desired target within a shorter time.
In other words, a virtual comment system is a timely public comment period solution that combines innovation, efficiency, and speed to expand the scope of public participation even to those previously marginalized. Through this rapid humanity interconnection, local authorities and government agencies are well on their way to building more inclusive communities.
Why migration to digital comment systems is ripe
At the core, digital cooperation brings people from all walks of life together to address economic, legal, societal, and ethical challenges that would otherwise be a preserve for a handful of technocrats. This diversity of ideas is what simplifies the decision-making process by collating faster and well-reasoned solutions from the broader populace.
So, why the urgency of integrating a digital public comment system into a public comment period? Let’s dive into some of the gains local authorities and government agencies can realize through this innovative implementation.
· Comment analysis made easier
Whether soliciting comment support for an environmentally impactful project, permit applications, or rule amendments, engagement-oriented agencies and organizations can find an excellent companion in a web-based public comments software.
Such a system adds an extra layer of efficiency by providing complementary support. The agency can accept digital comments while still receiving letters, emails, hearing transcripts, or Regulations.gov submissions hence reaping the best of both worlds.
Electronic comments received can be stored in a secure database within the system. From that point, organizing the comments either by topic or outcome is made a lot easier. What’s more, they can later be analyzed in bulk using in-built charts and graphs for better presentation.
· Real-time response
Digital comment systems don’t restrict the number of users or commenters. This allows the consultant or agency in question to function in real-time. They can easily manage the comments as they stream in. No shared spreadsheets or manual updates are needed. With each complete response, the data is cleanly exported into the required format for further analysis.
· Tailored reports
An electronic public comment system eliminates the hassle of manually assembling the final collated document of responses and comments. The system can easily compile the final document and export it in a tailored format to align with the desired, required, or recommended report format. The report can further be customized to an individual’s or agency’s personal preferences.
· Better societal cohesion
These digital comment platforms make the submission of public comments a lot easier than their paper-based counterparts. With more people participating as a result, government agencies and local authorities are needed to be more accountable to a larger populace.
This translates to deeper transparency as people are made part and parcel of the decision-making process. Subsequently, a stronger government-citizen cohesion is bred.
· More solid impact
With online submissions, the public can view the responses and comments in real-time. As more people take note of the general reaction to a project, they can easily be triggered to start sharing them on social networking platforms. This effort will yield more public participation and outreach. The more the awareness of the project, the more varied the input hence better project outcomes.
Why does electronic public feedback matter?
Collecting public or customer feedback through digital commenting systems provides agencies and organizations with a faster route to engage their audience. In equal measure, it also affords their audience a more elaborate path to air their grievances or pitch their suggestions.
This mutual exchange has the potential to unmask pitfalls, pain points, and blind spots an agency or company didn’t know existed. This input is crucial in making the right people-driven policy or product changes.
Public feedback integration is also an amicable way of averting public backlash. For example, an organization intending to set up rental apartments in a beachfront or an environmentally protected zone might find a digital commenting system helpful. If working with stricter project timelines, the organization may need a faster and all-inclusive way to reach the entire beachfront community to sample their feedback.
In such a case, a paper-based commenting system would not suffice. However, an electronic commenting platform will yield faster input from the public. Integrating this input into the organization’s project plan will paint a clearer picture for them and help them steer clear of any future conflicts.
As local governments and regulatory agencies migrate toward more citizen-inclusive administration policies, working with the right tools can produce the desired effects much faster. Supplementing their manual operations with timely and relevant digital solutions will not only help them serve their citizens better but also save them significant chunks of budget money by going completely paperless.
Opting for and implementing digital public commenting systems can be a great starting point toward this forward-looking milestone.