Kyiv Digital: The Power of Innovation

Extreme times, such as the war in Ukraine, generate stories every day. Most are grim and with more to come it’s hard to find the pluses. But this invasion has also been a springboard for out-of-the-box thinking.

Anyone able to load this blog has access to the world online and already knows what is happening in Ukraine. As we write, no-one is sure how, where, and when this will end. At Purple Crane, we put people before any technology and our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine. We hope for a swift end to these distressing events. 

On the back foot

Putin’s sudden aggression has forced many western European governments to act, and the beleaguered citizens of eastern Ukraine to react, often overnight. It’s a disaster for people, but some organizations have taken the challenge as an opportunity. Take Kiev Digital.

Run a quick search on Google Play for Kiev Digital and you’ll see this app. Originally created by the Municipal Main Information and Computing Center as a visitor navigation app, it had the benign purpose of helping tourists on city breaks find their way round a strange city. But since 24 February, visitors have had a very different agenda. So, the developers also pivoted. 

Helped by Petro Olenych, Kyiv’s deputy mayor and the country’s chief digital transformation officer (CDTO), within 24 hours a leisure-focused and tourist-friendly app became a life-saving essential for 3 million Kyiv residents. 

From ‘nice to have’ to ‘can’t live without’

Now, Kiev Digital warns of air raids and directs people to the nearest bomb shelter. It has already issued thousands of warnings and alerts and shared directions to functioning pharmacies and garages with petrol. There are guides on how to support the army, and links to official sources to combat the Kremlin’s disinformation initiatives. 

And as the conflict grinds on from one desperate phase to the next, the devs are constantly updating their app with the ongoing functionality needed. Kyiv residents now use it to find blood donation centres, and upload evidence of suspected Russian war crimes. “Our team is working 24/7. War has no weekends,” a CDTO spokesperson told Euronews Next.

Ukraine: IT on the domestic frontline 

Stories of nice-to-have consumer goods becoming lifesavers are growing, as are stories of resilience within the domestic IT industry. Because this is no overnight success. The Ukraine administration, at the time of writing, is now reaping the fruit of a 2019, $17m seed fund for early-stage startups. 

Beyond the obvious benefit of the 4% contribution IT makes to annual Ukraine GDP, as an unexpected return on that investment some of the Ukraine’s brightest talents have joined Ukraine’s volunteer cyber army to protect a motherland responsible for half the world’s neon gas. This is a key part of the global production of semiconductors, so that’s yet another IT touchpoint on the current Ukraine narrative. 

Ongoing evolution

Whatever the ultimate outcome in Ukraine, the current situation has proved, once again, the limitless possibilities we have in tech, and the endless power of innovation under pressure to solve evolving challenges.

As developers of Kiev Digital have proved, software isn’t a statue. What you create today to simply keep up with the new normal may need to be amazing tomorrow.  But software is ‘soft’ and should be adaptable and built to evolve with changes in the outside world.

Photo by cottonbro via Pexels.

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