In the midst of war, Ukraine is exporting its know-how in govtech

Diia, Ukraine’s public services smartphone app, has been so successful that other countries want the technology behind it.

It’s rare that Estonia needs to take lessons in digitalisation from anywhere else – indeed, it exports its know how to places as far and wide as Mongolia – but it was revealed this week that the world’s most digital state would be trialing an app originating in Ukraine. 

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Luukas Kristjan, part of Estonia’s digital development team, unveiled mRiik, the country’s latest digital tool, built with much of the code utilised in Ukraine’s enormously successful Diia app. 

According to Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov, the Diia team shared its application code and approaches to UX/UI design with their Estonian counterparts.  

“One of the most digital countries in the world is adopting Ukrainian technologies and experience,” says Fedorov. “With a unified national mobile platform, Estonia will be able to save on development costs in the future,” he adds. 

While Estonia has long been a leader in digital government, with more than 99 per cent of public services available online (it’s often said that the only things you can’t do in Estonia online are marry and get divorced), its citizens have for some time been grumbling that the vast majority of these services require a laptop or desktop computer. Few can be carried out on smartphones. 

In its initial trial phase, mRiik will allow Estonians to store key documents such as ID cards, passports and driving licenses digitally, as well as access some public services. 

The success of the Diia app in Ukraine has been recognised as a key part of the country’s resilience ever since Russia invaded the country in February last year. 

Launched in 2020, Diia (which in Ukrainian means “action”) acts as a one-stop shop for public services and a wallet for digital versions of official documents: digital passports and driving licences stored in the app have the same legal status as their paper originals. 

According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, more than 18.5 million people – around half of the country’s adult population – now use the app.  

Importantly – in the context of the Russian invasion and the large numbers of internally displaced people – Ukrainians can also use the app to change their registered address, apply for and receive social support and access aid and other crucial services. A simplified war-time digital ID has also been created, available to all Diia users and recognised by local law enforcement.  

Ukraine has also secured agreements with neighbouring countries to accept the digital ID in lieu of paper documents – invaluable for refugees who might have been unable to gather paper documents during hurried evacuations. 

The first collaboration of many 

Ukraine’s collaboration with Estonia might be the first of many, as other countries tap into its digital know-how. 

Also at Davos this week, USAID Administrator Samantha Power met with Fedorov to discuss the next phase of the organisation’s collaboration with Ukraine to advance digital transformation and help partner countries adopt platforms that better connect citizens with their government. 

As part of USAID’s commitment to collaborating with Ukraine to bring its digital successes to other partner countries, Power confirmed that USAID, working with the US Congress, plans to provide at least 650,000 US dollars to help jumpstart the adoption of Diia-like systems and the digital technology services that underpin them.  

“USAID will also work to catalyse additional resources and technical assistance from the private sector to help facilitate the adoption of e-government tools like Diia that enhance transparency, citizen engagement, and economic growth,” says Power. 

Unlike many news and information platforms, Emerging Europe is free to read, and always will be. There is no paywall here. We are independent, not affiliated with nor representing any political party or business organisation. We want the very best for emerging Europe, nothing more, nothing less. Your support will help us continue to spread the word about this amazing region.

You can contribute here. Thank you.

emerging europe support independent journalism