Voister: How Ukraine is building digital services during the war
It has been almost a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. Just a couple of weeks after the invasion, Alex Iefremov, the general director of the IT company Kitsoft, was approached by the government of Ukraine regarding the creation of digital services that were needed in the new conditions. For the Swedish publication Voister, he talks about the important principles for the development of such services, about the work on the Diia portal, and how he and his colleagues coped with the invasion.
“Just a couple of weeks after the Russian invasion, we were contacted by the government to start work on new services that have been needed during the war. For example, services for citizens who want to register for various social welfare payments, which are especially important for people to get by during the war,” says Alex Iefremov, CEO of the Kitsoft IT company, which, among other things, developed the Diia portal — a Ukrainian platform for public digital services. We believe in working hard to help our government with various digitization projects,” — said Alex Iefremov, CEO of Kitsoft.
Public sector platform
The point of Diia is that you, as a citizen, should be just a couple of clicks away from important documents and have access to them from your smartphone. Already in 2020, the government of Ukraine could, for example, issue passports and ID cards via the platform.
Kitsoft specializes in the development of services for the public sector, and they have created more than 100 different services on the Diia portal. What they all have in common is that they must be secure and easy to maintain, scale, and replicate. The services are partly aimed at private individuals, and partly at companies and organizations.
“We can talk about the ability to register your business in ten clicks. But we have also facilitated the process of, for example, drawing up alimony documents. We see Diia as a kind of omnichannel, where we can connect many different services that must be accessed from the Internet, computer, or phone. Even if you lost everything during the war, there is a chance that at least you have a smartphone and can access the services.”
Safety is extremely important
The expanded access to various programs and compensations for people unable to work due to the war is also a good example of services developed by Kitsoft.
“Security of services is extremely important. We are in a state of war, which also means that we are at a cyber war, where we are subjected to many phishing attempts, among other things. Security means everything to us, from zero-trust features to know what to do if a computer is stolen from the user with the highest access to our systems.”
In the future, Alex Iefremov and his colleagues are considering implementing AI in their products: partly for development purposes, to make it easier to code new services, and partly for users, to make the services even easier to use.
“We believe in working hard to help our government with various digitization projects, so that in this way we may be of assistance in this fight.”
What can others learn from your work?
“My most important piece of advice is that you should always build services that are scalable and always consider the fact that you have to build multiple services at the same time. If you create one service, you should think about how it can become ten services. And if you create ten services, think about how they can turn into 100 services and so on. Often it is not just one problem you have to solve; the problem you're solving here and now can usually come back in new forms, and thus the solution can have several different uses. Create appropriate means and conditions for this. Cities and communities grow and change every day, for better or worse. The more flexibly you can configure the service, the better.”
Today, Kitsoft has about 80 employees, 20 of whom work in other cities and countries in Europe, partly because of the war. Oleksii Yefremov describes the challenges of suddenly waking up on the morning of February 24, 2022, and realizing that the country was under attack.
“The most difficult was definitely the first day. Not because the risks were the greatest then, but because of the psychological shock. The first week was dedicated to finding safe accommodation and helping our employees who were in the occupied territory.”
Proud of his co-workers
Every week Alex Iefremov and many others with him noticed how work became a way to focus on something else, a way to escape from war and stress. At first, they had daily meetings to see how everyone was doing, and now they still have these checks every few weeks.
In addition, Alex Iefremov portrays a culture where you can always turn to your colleagues for help and support. In particular, he describes the feeling of being part of a team and considers the fact that he managed to keep his employees as his biggest success for the past year.
“We kept our team and even managed to grow, and, since the pandemic, we have learned to work effectively remotely. I am proud that we have proven that we can create new in-demand services at lightning speed. We believe in working hard to assist our government in various digitization projects to help in the war, with the hope that everything will be fine in the end.”