Today, almost all the tasks and processes performed by most government agencies have become automated. Based on the results recorded by these agencies, automation appears to have paid off.
As has happened with sectors that have reaped the benefits of digitizing their processes, the regulatory sector tasked with handling public engagement can also benefit from it. There’re instances when the comment process may end up receiving thousands of comments.
Subsequently, it would prove challenging for the personnel in these organizations to manually sift through the comments submitted during the public comment period. They need access to a digital public comment processing tool to help them save time and analyze all these comments.
Why Governments Need to Digitize the Public Engagement Period
Digital technologies make it easier for governments to boost public service delivery, public engagement, and public accountability. For example, the results of one analysis suggest that complete government digitization can free up to $1 trillion each year.
The money freed up each year in global economic value applies not only to countries with advanced economies but also to developing nations. But as is the case in many countries, digital public comment tools often fail to deliver the expected results.
There’re also instances where these systems don’t get implemented. It’s a scenario that results in lost opportunities, and when the digitization projects fail to take off, a lot of resources may go to waste. Although most middle-income countries have made significant strides in leveraging the potential offered by digital technologies, some are still trying to find their way around them.
The Potential Offered by Digitization in the Delivery of Public Services
Proper implementation of digital comment tools can assist in enhancing service delivery in numerous ways. To simplify things, it would be best to look at the improvements from two perspectives: direct and indirect gains.
• Direct Improvements: Digitization of the comment systems can directly enhance efficiency and boost service delivery by reducing the costs needed to offer public commentary services. For example, it can do this by minimizing the expenses linked to rent-seeking opportunities. Other direct improvements include improved coverage and quality of services.
• Indirect Improvements: Implementation of digital technologies can indirectly contribute to improvements in service delivery by improving the flow of feedback from the populace. It can strengthen the amount and nature of information from monitoring agents, service providers, and everyday users. All this can become possible through the use of mobile-based citizen feedback mechanisms. Additionally, the digital comment tools can:
o Assist the citizens in connecting more easily
o Help in fostering the voice and collective action of the ordinary citizen
o Assist in sensitizing governmental agencies on the need to enhance the coverage quality of the services already in place.
Strategies for Successful Community Engagement
If executed properly, having the public comment period completed using digital platforms can offer numerous benefits (more on that later). Below is a look at some of the strategies that can help government agencies make the process a success:
1. Observing Things from the Audiences Lenses
Many public organizations make one mistake when deploying digital platforms—failing to see things from the perspective of their target audience. While public participation is recommended in most cases, the organizations need to encourage the public to participate.
They can encourage the public to take an interest in such matters by tailoring questions in a manner that’s relatable to them or by speaking a language they understand.
2. Eliminating the Participation Barriers
Public organizations need to understand that community members are busy and will quit participating when they encounter a perceived participation barrier. The only way to promote the adoption of digital community engagement is to get rid of all participation barriers.
Organizations and agencies can achieve this feat by doing away with anything that can discourage a person from participating in the process. This includes eliminating long sentences and technical jargon.
3. Making Sure They Select the Best Platform
Public participation aside, the digital platform chosen by an organization also impacts the public comment period. The agencies need to begin by confirming that the selected platform has all the features they need and satisfies all the necessary legal requirements.
4. Involving the Communication Professionals In this Process
Citizens believe that government organizations and agencies only request public participation as a public relations stunt. As a result, the organizations tasked with the implementation of these platforms have to involve communication experts.
The experts will create a communication strategy that can assist the agencies in question in restoring public trust. If not, the implementation plans may fail to take off, regardless of how well planned they are or the strategy employed to implement them.
5. Setting Aside Enough Time for Strategy Development
The goal here is to ensure the agency develops a strategy that can meaningfully impact the community member. Consequently, there’s no need for organizations and agencies to rush through the strategy development stages.
Those in charge need to note that preparing an outreach strategy is as significant as receiving comments from the community.
Benefits Offered by Digital Platforms
Embarking on developing and implementing a digital platform can prove beneficial for any governmental organization. It means that the target audience will benefit from high-quality services, faster innovation, improved reliability, and significantly reduced costs.
Ultimately, the populace will walk away feeling happy and content with the services on offer. However, deploying the platforms isn’t a simple task. Therefore, before an agency can embark on a digitization project, it should start by accessing its benefits.
Considering that the benefits offered by digital platforms are many, it’s best to break them down into sections.
Digital Platforms Allow for Better and Faster Innovation
• They offer access to more business model opportunities. Digital services launched without any hitches enable the agencies to differentiate their business functions from services and utilities.
• Digital platforms allow for faster launch times. Automating and simplifying governance processes means the populace can use its features within a few days of it going live.
• Increased focus on community service problems. By instituting new policies that cut across multiple departments, the public organizations eliminate duplicated or uncoordinated processes. Its personnel gets to focus on providing higher quality services.
• Frequent updates for better service delivery. Ensuring there’s an optimal deployment pipeline means the citizens will get to use new features and updates as they become available.
Reduced Costs for the Government Agencies
• Better economics of scale. Being able to centralize the digital service life cycle of the platform means the government agencies can achieve economies of scale. The platforms make it possible for them to onboard new teams without incurring new build or buy costs.
• Security threats become easier to identify when security specialists are positioned in the digital platforms in use by public organizations. Once identified, the specialists can eliminate them and quickly send out security updates to help in safeguarding the rest of the digital platform.
• Improved cost management. Unifying all the self-service touchpoints used by community members when making public comments enables an organization to visualize its infrastructure costs and closely manage all the costs related to the digital platforms.
Access to the Latest Technology
• Deployment of digital platforms means the organizations have access to the latest and most modern tech infrastructure.
• Zero downtime updates. Merging service runtimes means the digital service teams can continually apply available updates without negatively impacting the performance of the public comments portal.
Digital platforms have a lot to offer to government organizations and agencies. However, the only way to ensure that the target audience (members of the public) enjoy these benefits is to ensure they’re involved in the process.