At the end of January, the Kyiv Digital city app turned two years old. Since it first debuted, over two million people have downloaded the app. During that same time, the app rolled out traffic, air quality monitoring, and parking payment services, among other things.
What has Kyiv Digital achieved in two years?
Our team decided to create a platform that would ensure the digitalization of life in the city and simplify the lives of Kyiv residents when communicating with various city services. That involves housing and communal services and all service sectors in general. It is an ecosystem and a digital services platform that collects first-hand data on the ground that comes from those who provide services and those who receive them.
We communicate with small and medium-sized businesses. For example, during the full-scale war, we established communication with pharmacy chains to provide up-to-date information on their working hours and the availability of medicines. Google blocked transportation routes during the war as part of its national security policy. So we moved them to Kyiv Digital. However, they still need to reflect the traffic flow, which is not dangerous.
Kyiv is a large modern city, and smartphone uses in everyday life, even among older generations, is quite high, topping 85%. But we understand that there are people who may not use smartphones, which is why we have administrative service centers.
When we introduced e-tickets for public transportation, some thought conductors would lose their jobs. That would be nearly 2000 people left unemployed. But instead, we actually created new jobs. The introduction of the digital e-ticket platform has simplified the mechanisms for accounting and optimizing maintenance costs. This made it possible to employ retrained people in other positions, such as conductors.
Kyiv Digital notifies Kyiv residents when air-raid alerts start and end. How did this service come to be?
We realized that the more truthful information we provide, the more lives we save in both the civilian and military realms. The first task was to create an information system. Initially, there were few sirens, and they overheated after a few minutes of operation, so they couldn’t work all the time. Now the systems are being restored, and our municipal security department is working with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES) on this.
But there’s also an alternative tool: the Kyiv Digital alert system. It has more than two million users. We once spoke with a mobile operator about the possibility of distributing alerts. The classic method of distributing SMS messages to two million people takes about four days. With Kyiv Digital, that process takes just 30–40 seconds.
This feature was developed in a day. Later, it turned out that only the ‘alarm’ feature was available, but no ‘alarm cancel’ feature. So my colleagues from the relevant services and I developed an algorithm and implemented this feature.
We have a digital alert system that works well even during blackouts. We’ve learned that it’s actually much easier for us, both in economic and technical terms, to support the central communication nodes of LTE base stations in cooperation with operators than to provide power for all sirens.
How was the map of bomb shelters created? How long did it take, and is there still room for improvement?
At first, we would inform people about missile strikes. Later, we realized that people need to know where to take cover. We contacted the relevant services that had verified official data, digitized it, put it on maps, and received instructions on bomb shelters. We keep these maps up to date.
Then the question arose: how do we provide medicine, food, and water? After the first massive bombardment, people practically lived in bomb shelters during the first month of the full-scale invasion. But you have to eat. People run out of medicine, and some people have chronic diseases and begin to feel bad. So we started adding unique reference resources in the app.
We established communication with small- and medium-sized businesses. Owners of pharmacies, shops, and cafés began to provide us with real-time information: what time they open, how long they operate, and what they have in stock. The same was true of medicines with a list of where and what you could buy.
But bomb shelters are underground. There was no signal, and people began to get nervous because they didn’t know when they could leave. So we launched a project to equip bomb shelters with Wi-Fi in collaboration with landline operators and Internet providers. A great many people responded to our requests.
What percentage of bomb shelters are now equipped with Internet and mobile communications?
We put out a request for those who need these resources in their bomb shelter to please apply because we also needed to understand how well-equipped each bomb shelter was. Some shelters were fully equipped, such as semi-basements and parking lots, — because they were converted by the owners. On the other hand, some shelters had nothing. So we, as a digital company, were responsible for providing quality communication, timely information, and accurate data on behalf of the city. More than 1000 applications were submitted to our platform, and more than 800 bomb shelters are now equipped with Internet connections.
Tell us about petitions and polls done through Kyiv Digital.
We have an e-democracy tool that we’re very proud of. Unfortunately, because petitions have existed for a long time, it just wasn’t convenient to access these e-democracy tools. City authorities’ job is not just to hold a petition; it’s to understand public sentiment. We need either to change the situation or to explain why it couldn’t be that way, all of which require two-way communication. Our task is to respond to the problem, find specialists, and present it to people. Petitions are a tool for citizens to communicate with the authorities, but we realized that we need to improve city authorities’ abilities to reach the citizenry.
Chief Digital Transformation Officer of Kyiv,