I believe that in the vast majority of public institutions, there is lack of a formal feedback loop from citizens to drive accountability and drive change when it is needed. This can lead to unneeded bureaucracy, subpar quality of service, increased likelihood of corruption and so on. Govpinion aims to address this void by leveraging technology to create a neutral and independent environment for citizens to share that feedback publicly. Ultimately, Govpinion is a tool in the hands of citizens to aggregate their voices in a structured manner to drive change. I am hoping that public officials will see that as a beneficial outlet to hear feedback from citizens directly and hopefully start using it to address any concerns raised and therefore improving the quality of public services.
First, there are many organizations and even governments themselves that are trying to address this but their approach tend to be more traditional and it is often not scalable and not effective in delivering results. When it comes to other sites that are trying to accomplish this, they tend to be structured as general forums of discussion and tend to be limited in scope. In reality, the majority of the chatter around the topic tends to be very disconnected and unstructured through different blogs and social media sites including various threads in Youtube video comments, disconnected Facebook conversations happening in silos and so on.
Govpinion's approach is unique in the sense that it is trying to aggregate all these conversations together in one location and create enough structure to make an effective tool to ensure that all these voices are being heard. Govpinion is taking a model that has worked well for the private sector such as for hotels through websites such as tripadvisor.com or for restaurants through websites such as yelp.com and applying it to the public sector.
3. When a public official or an employee exposes questionable practices at his or her place of work by using the site for "whistle blowing" ie exposing malpractice for the public good can they really be protected from the consequences of their action?
I expect that the feedback shared on the site will happen mostly from outside these institutions from citizens who are being served by them. Now I can also foresee individuals within organizations wanting to share their input about a certain institution or public official based on their internal perspective. In either case, when users SET up an account on the site, they have the option to choose a pseudonym if they do not wish to use their real name publicly. Govpinion does not intend to share the real identity of users if they wish to keep it private. Also, hosting the website instance of each country and all its databases in a safe environment outside of that country is a critical step being taken as an added measure toward the protection of the identity of users.
4. Using Facebook you say that anonymity can be ensured but can it really?
5. Young people in Morocco are condemning corruption and inefficiency but will the older generation which is more conservative be as ready to use Govpinion ?
I do expect that users of Govpinion will naturally belong to a younger age group given their higher likelihood to be comfortable with expressing their opinions online and the higher penetration of internet use in that segment. I do agree that it will be more challenging to drive the desired behavior amongst an older generally more conservative generation and I frankly do not have a clear strategy on how to address that yet. A similar challenge is true when it comes to finding a solution for citizens who might not have access to an internet connection. In both cases, it is going to be important to conduct some user research and talk with members of both groups to understand how to establish the right processes to make sure that their voices get heard. I do believe though that the mission of Govpinion is universal and that there would be broad support for it regardless of age.
6. Your ambition to expand Govpinion worldwide is ambitious and using 3 languages certainly helps but what will happen with say, China for example?
I like to think about Govpinion empowering citizens in all corners of the world, as being the long term vision. I will be the first to admit that we are nowhere close to that but I believe that with the right execution, there is a path to making that vision a reality. I am not suggesting that it will be an easy road without any hurdles along the way but I believe that it is possible. At this stage, the first goal is to evolve Govpinion and iterate through it and make it successful in Morocco. If it is, then the next step will be to deploy it to additional countries starting with the Middle East and the rest of North Africa. I expect that each country will have its own challenges in terms of understanding the sociopolitical dynamics of the country and understanding the best way to make Govpinion useful for its citizens. I expect those hurdles along the way to come in all forms and shapes: sometimes the challenge might be to localize the site in the appropriate language, other times it might about partnering or hiring the right people locally to drive the Govpinion mission, and other times it might be around overcoming limitations put in place by governments restricting citizens to express themselves. It is an ambitious goal but an exciting one in terms of the social impact it can have on humanity as a whole. It just makes it even more exciting for me to attempt to make it a reality.