Last month the Obama administration rolled out something called the federal feedback button. Officials describe it as a Yelp-like way for people to give feedback on the service they get, including online. That is all well and good. People visiting federal websites should have a good experience, easy to navigate and returning the results they seek. I think for the most part they do. Still, you can never have too much feedback. Sites vary. Some are still tough to navigate. Others are right up there with the best of them. Some adapt perfectly to mobile devices, others have yet to be redone with responsive, mobile-aware coding. But on the whole, people responsible for federal websites care a lot about their work. One goal of the federal feedback button puts a little too much on the shoulders of Web managers. Specifically, the notion that better digital service and gimmicks like a website button can help restore faith in government. A lousy Web experience might reinforce the notion that government is incompetent if a visitor is inclined to think that way. Most people take a poor Web experience for what it is — a poor Web experience. To make an analogy, I’m highly loyal to the brand of car I drive. The company’s website is over-engineered and precious to the point of being annoying and hard to figure out. But that shakes my faith in its Web people, not in the car. Distrust of government stems from problems way deeper than digital service. All you have to do is scan the last few weeks’ headlines to see examples of what makes government sink in citizens’ estimation. None of these sources of mistrust will be remedied with the federal feedback button. Nor will they be fixed with simple- minded assertions about the efficiency or motivation of the federal workforce. Good people working in bad systems will produce bad results. The way to better, more trustworthy government is through fixing the systems and processes, and funding them adequately. Then you’ve got the tools necessary to hold people accountable. Here are my five picks for systems that need fixed to restore faith in government.
The administration favors challenges and crowdsourcing ideas. Here are five persistent problems that, if rectified, would significantly increase faith in the competence of the government, and by extension, the people who work for it. These conditions persist not because government employees are bad or don’t care. It’s because they work in a culture that avoids risk and makes it easier to say “no” to an idea than to push it through to completion.