By Jessica Schieder, Center for Effective Government
Under a new agreement with Yelp— a website that allows people to locate and review local businesses— federal agencies will now be able to claim existing Yelp pages that already bear their name or create new pages. Since Yelp already maintained pages on federal agencies where citizens could rate them, this change will allow federal agencies to respond to citizen queries and complaints and engage with people across the country.
Enabling agencies to accept and respond to feedback via Yelp— a platform visited by 83 million visitors on average every month—will open yet another channel for citizens to connect with government. The easier it is for people to provide feedback, the more diverse the perspectives and opinions submitted are likely to be. This is one more step forward in the federal government using online tools to gather information about how to more effectively serve the public.
We hope this will give public servants and citizens a new mechanism through which to have a dialogue. For example, it could allow agency staff to explain that wait times have increased because of budget cuts and staffing declines.
Separately, we can also imagine improvements to agency webpages to make it easier for citizens to provide suggestions about more effective ways to share data, find responses to frequently asked questions, and post useful information in a citizen-friendly way.
While this is a great step in the right direction, federal agencies will have to do more targeted outreach to reach the widest audience of constituents. More still needs to be done to ensure that people without internet access can also engage with government. By opening the lines of communication , we hope individual citizens will be inspired to engage with federal agencies and that agency staff will be encouraged to think about how they can be more responsive to the citizens they serve.