Online Official Comment System

An online official comment system provides citizens with a portal to comment on, complain about,  and oppose a planning project. Government can allow citizens to make comments/complaints via existing planning forum or via digitally signed emails. Identity authentication is usually required while a citizen want to make an official comment. This system is not necessarily map-based.

Basic Information on the Method
Mode of communication
Group size
31 and more
Geographical scale
Public space, Neighbourhood, City, Region
Skills required
Basic, Average, Advanced
Resources needed
Low, Medium
Level of Involvement
Level of involvement
Involve, Collaborate, Empower
Type of knowledge enabled
Divergence (Broad public), Convergence - Small groups
Additional Criteria
Planning phase
Planning & Design
Methodological approach
Diagnostic, Organisational, Political

How to use the method

This method is usually used by government, who is responsible for drafting and approving a planning proposal. An official comment portal should be available before the project implementation.

Portal establish

An official comment portal does not necessary be a stand-alone platform. It can be intergrated in a planning forum, a project display platform, or an official website of government/project. It can also be a dedicated email address. Supportive guideline demonstrating how to make an official comment/complaint should be found through the portal.

Project display

A project proposal should be drafted and displayed before collecting public’s opinions. The display period should be long enough (usually it is regulated by law, e.g. four weeks or one month in Latvia and Estonia, 30 or 14 days in Finland depending on the scale of the project) for the public to acknowledge the proposal.

Public opinion collection

During the proposal’s publicity period, the online comment system should be opened to the public. It is optional to provide a background map for participants to locate the proposed project or the issues they want to comment on. This system should allows eligible citizens to submit a complaint to the proposed project. To ensure the eligibility of the participants, identity authentication is usually required.


After collecting the citizens’ complaints/opinions, feedbacks about whether the complaint is solved or not, whether the suggestion is accepted or not, should be given to the commenter. The feedbacks should be targeted and avoid a bureaucratic tone.

What are the outcomes

  • Public’s opinion of the upcoming project
  • Improve the public’s trust in government
  • Improvement of project proposal before its approval and implementation

Skills required

Skills: basic, average, advance

  • Basic skills to send an email or leave a comment
  • It requires more when one wants to submit a detailed and elaborated complaint containing alternative proposal

Resources needed

Resources: low, medium

  • Resources to process and reply the collected comments/complaints

Strengths and weaknesses

  • Empowering the public in decision-making process. An individual with appropriate content-related justification can stop the entire plan from happening.
  • Participants need advanced skill to make a proper official complaint, even though it only requires basic skill to show attitude to the proposal.
  • Citizens may complaint because of the attitude of “not in my backyard (NIMBY)” or “yes in my backyard (YIMBY)”.
  • Potential to damage public’s trust to government if public’s complaint is neglected or denied.
  • It allows only little room for changing the plan, since all key decisions are made before the public display.

Use cases

Espoo, FInland

The Cit of Espoo in Finland provides an online feedback service for citizens to give feedback and ask questions about the city’s services, operations, and decisions. Citizens can select the specific topics they want to comment about, and add locations and attachements with the comments. Citizens can also see others’ feedbacks (if set public) on the service.


Latvia government has launched an online map-based platform called GeoLatvia which receive proposals and comments from citizens. The public can easily search for and recieve textual/graphical information of planning projects on this platform.

Tallinn, Estonia

In 2015, the City of Tallinn established the Tallina Planeeringute Register (TPR) online system that provide detialed information of planning projects to citizens. The registered citizens can comment on the publicizing projects in this system. The completed projects can also be found in its archive.

Try one of these tools & resources

  1. PRILENSKA, V. (2020). Games for Enhancing Stakeholder Participation in Spatial Planning–The Cases of Riga and Tallinn.
  2. City of Helsinki
  3. City of Tallinn