Today, governments are pushing to create openness and transparency to establish trust amongst their citizens. According to opengovpartnership.org, a transparent government is a key focus for over 85 countries to develop ways in which they can be more open with their citizens. One of the crucial steps for an open government initiative is collecting feedback.
Collecting feedback from a broad range of citizens that includes youth, minorities and people with disabilities is crucial to reducing noise from clutter and polarized views that may be seen in social media and polls. This is where digital research and specifically Voice of the Citizen analytics can be used as an integral tool in collecting a wide spectrum of feedback about policies, initiatives and programs in real time.
Voice of the Citizen Digital Research is the journey towards improving the citizen experience both online and offline. This starts with understanding who they are, the interactions that they have and their needs, preferences, expectations and satisfaction levels across those interactions. This, in and of itself, can be a major challenge and hurdle that needs to be overcome; with many minorities living in some of the more remote areas of the country; for people with a disability needing special accessibility options and lastly, with youth who look to interact with engaging and meaningful content that is relevant to their lives.
In this post, we explore the drivers to connecting with different types of citizen demographics and how to encourage adoption and completion of Voice of Citizen Digital Research to collect meaningful feedback.
Let’s start with the basics – Internet connection
Right off the bat, for any digital research program to be successful, your citizen’s internet connection and the relative education of your target population need to be considered.
If you live in an urban setting of a large city, an internet connection should be readily available – it almost seems silly to talk about it because everyone should have access, right? But, for a lot of people, including some minority groups who live in rural or remote areas, or citizens that live in countries that have not yet developed a strong telecommunications system, internet may be non-existent or very hard to come by.
A study conducted by the University of Missouri indicated that having internet connection gave governments the opportunity to be more transparent with its citizens. The conclusion here is that internet access provides governments with the ability to connect with their citizens and gather feedback about their experiences dealing with various levels of government.
So when conducting your research with minority groups, you should consider breaking up your digital research into rural and urban strategies based on internet connection.
For remote populations, consider incorporating community orientated ‘grass-roots’ research approaches. For example, targeting care-givers or community group influencers to assist with research collection. Results could still be collected in real-time by asking survey collectors to use electronic devices to collect survey information, which can then be compiled when internet access becomes available.
For urban communities, make sure you are using the latest proven technologies and strategies to engage your target markets. Finally, build in a program that continually listens to the citizen to measure satisfaction and feedback about government programs on an ongoing basis. This will allow for benchmarks to be created, which can then be used to improve performance of government services and programs.
Education levels impact on citizen engagement
The same study found that, “If a highly educated population in an urban area has low Internet access, then improving that access may improve citizens' abilities to seek government information online. However, in a rural community education and income initiatives need to be supported.”
As countries evolve their communication infrastructure and modernize their education programs there should be an increase in the ability to connect with a more diverse range of citizens. That’s why governments need to investigate reliable digital research solutions to ensure that the exploration of target markets such as youth, minorities and those with disabilities can be explored with confidence and accuracy. Also when you are ready to collect feedback, irrespective of the demographic group, it is essential that the research is reflective of the education levels of your target audience, by using language and themes that are relevant to them.
Accessibility options: making it easier to make a connection
According to a study by Pew Research, 92 percent of teens report going online daily — including 24 percent who say they go online ‘almost constantly’. Interestingly, all teens’ preferred method of access was mobile, where African Americans teens had greatest access to a mobile compared to any other group. Therefore, making sure e-government incorporates responsive web design and utilizes apps that are compatible with a variety of mobile devices becomes a crucial part of the strategy.
Another important accessibility topic to explore are citizens with disabilities. Government websites need to make sure that they incorporate W3C web coding frameworks, meet AA – accessibility options and WCAG 2.0, Section 508 compliance. Websites and associated services that are designed to meet these standards help users with disabilities interact with a website and allow them to provide feedback to any digital research that may target them.
Make sure your site has responsive design and consider developing apps for your government service/s, if youth and other minority groups are going online with mobile devices. Specifically, your site and app must respond to screen size and the type of devices your target market is using.
Furthermore, make sure your site, app and other digital engagements meet AA accessibility standards so those with disabilities can access your digital content.
Relevant and engaging content is the key
The big challenge for governments is to create relevant and engaging content for all their stakeholders. The reason that this is so challenging for some government departments is due to diversity among site visitors, such as community role, different content needs, service requirements and education levels. If one of the audiences you are trying to target includes young people, minorities or people with disabilities, site owners need to ask the question, “Does your site content attract and engage them?”
For example, a government’s site may have content topics that are relevant to the needs of their target audience but this does not necessarily mean that citizens will find or even use it. Especially, if it is written using public service jargon– (language that is not used by these target groups) or if the site does not provide easy to use navigation options.
A great example of relevant and engaging content that speaks to the youth market is the, “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign. The Dumb Ways to Die is an Australian public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, to promote rail safety. The campaign video went viral through sharing and social media starting in November 2012. With more than 59.9 Million YouTube Views and 3.94 Million social shares this campaign had the effect of reducing accidents and deaths by 21 percent. The success of this campaign can be attributed to the fact that Metro Trains understood how to communicate to their target audience with a mundane message of train safety and train awareness.
If you suspect that your content needs a revamp or your site navigation is cumbersome - conducting Voice of the Citizen research can quickly identify problematic areas. As this form of digital research can identify visitor segments and ask them questions about content depth and their ability to navigate the site.
How to conduct digital research for youth, minorities and people with a disability
Some things to keep in mind when conducting this digital research is to ensure that:
- You follow your countries legislation for interacting with youth, minorities and those with disabilities
- Use of Voice of Citizen tools such as skip logic and/or branching to create different research based on age or other factors and only expose questions to respondents that is relevant to their situation
- Your research includes a step to ask for parent or care-giver support to complete the survey
- Your research tool is designed to optimize completion rates by ensuring it includes an auto-progression process built into to the survey – making surveys quick and easy to complete
- Your survey content is short, concise and speaks the language of your target audience.
For governments, Voice of the Citizen research is a great way to improve the way you interact and provide services to your citizens. iperceptions has found that sites can get standard industry collection rates and quality feedback if they take the time to really understand the target market and ensure they meet the needs of their target demographic. Clients that target that youth, minorities and people with disabilities get standard industry collection because they understand the importance of listening to their target market and look to create an open dialogue with these markets.