Public engagement software is intended to enhance and streamline the process of collecting, analyzing and responding to public comments submitted in reference to an issue — often an impactful policy debate, or construction or transportation project.
Public comment software is intended to replace the traditional method of comment collection and analysis, which often consists of manually collecting and organizing submitted comments, and relying on files, spreadsheets and email to ensure they are accounted for and properly answered by the appropriate agency specialist.
The most common clients for public comment software include government agencies, engineering or construction firms, or public-outreach organizations who feel that a software-based solution ensures transparency in the public engagement process and maximizes efficiency in their response and comment-analysis efforts.
Just as tax-preparation software aims to simplify the process of navigating ever-changing federal and state tax codes, public comment software is intended to make sense of the sea of different voices and opinions that are an inherent part of any public comment period.
While options differ depending on the product and project, public comment software is often employed with the backing of a technology-support team so it can act as a true “nerve center” of the public engagement. A kickoff session with the project team establishes usage and design options specific to the project needs. Software representatives will also attend public hearings, often providing computers and support for members of the public interested in submitting comments. Once comments are submitted, they are stored in a secure database, to be managed by pre-determined members of project team.