Spurred on by the pandemic and the strict public health measures that resulted from it, Ukraine is speeding into the digital future
2020 will go down in history as the year when we were forced to recognize the value of contact-free living, whether we liked it or not. During the strict quarantine and the uncertain months that followed, it became urgent for us all to find ways of going about our everyday activities whilst limiting physical interaction as much as possible. While habits and technological innovations usually take time to catch on, Covid-19 is proving to be an accelerator for change.
Progress in Ukraine has been particularly rapid thanks to the proliferation of several apps and online services that have enabled major breakthroughs in the everyday lives of Ukrainians. As well as saving us a great deal of time and effort, these innovations may also signal even better things to come.
1) Monobank: banking at your fingertips
At the outset, Monobank advertised itself as an entire banking system inside your pocket. This promise initially sounded like an exaggeration, but Monobank has turned out to be one of the most user-friendly banks out there. The wide range of options give you a great deal of control over your banking operations: you can use a fingerprint instead of a pin code, and block or unblock your card at the push of a button. Add to this various cashback perks, an option to donate to charities, and good currency exchange rates, and you have the number one choice for many Ukrainians. It is a drastic change from what we’re used to: queuing for our most basic financial needs, losing hours of precious time. With Monobank, you can forget queuing: everything is right there on your smartphone.
2) Bolt: scoot about with ease
One of the most pressing issues brought to light during lockdown was the lack of safe means to get around Kyiv. The metro and bus systems do not exactly provide ideal conditions for social distancing, and as for marshrutkas, let’s not even go there. Without a car, public transport is pretty much your only option, making it almost impossible to stick to the government recommendation to avoid crowds. Now, with Bolt, locals can zap across the city with comfort and ease on brand-new electric scooters. The process is simple and clean: you find a scooter nearby, open the Bolt app, unblock the scooter through a quick payment method, and then you’re ready to conquer the concrete jungle. Don’t lose sight of safety measures, however: a helmet is a must, and it’s always worth taking your time to choose the safest route. You should also be aware that there are limits regarding where you can and can’t leave your scooter: check the map in the app first.
3) Дія: digitising bureaucracy
It’s painful to even imagine the hassle of losing or misplacing your driver’s license, passport, or any other form of ID. It follows that one might wonder whether there might be a way to store those vital documents on your phone. Incredibly, the Ukrainian government is already on it (despite some blunders along the way). Thanks to the app Diia (‘action’), many Ukrainians are now able to store their IDs in the form of bits and bytes. The system is far from perfect – there can be some accessibility issues that are slow to resolve – but even so, the mere existence of a functioning app shows that great things are in store. For example, it was recently announced that the app would soon be able to support electronic signatures. This improvement alone will save users so much valuable time.
These three services are just a few signs of Ukraine’s progress into a hi-tech future. It is amazing how quickly apps become indispensable, especially in fields like banking, micromobility, and taxi services.
Indeed, digital transformation can be a double-edged sword: first, there is the risk of excluding those who are less digitally literate. It is imperative that older customers, or those with limited internet access, are not forgotten. At the other end of the scale, there is the risk of becoming too dependent. Yet, as long as we treat technological innovations like an extension of our existing capabilities (rather than a replacement for them), we can allow apps like Monobank, Bolt, and Diia to enhance our lives in a healthy and sustainable way, and look forward to more innovations to come.
1) The Monobank app has a discreet yet vital feature: a reward system. The power of praise has been proven to be very effective in ensuring that a user will continue using any given service. Monobank’s mascot is a cute white cartoon cat – your personal coach, if you will – who praises you each time you make a big step.
2) Bolt launched its electric scooter rental service in Kyiv in August 2020. The scooters are usually found near metro stations, parks, and other popular spots. It costs 29 UAH to unlock a scooter; after that, the rate is just under 5 UAH per minute. A whole-day rental will set you back 600 UAH.
3) Diia was introduced in February 2020. By 2024, the Ukrainian government plans to digitise all public services via the app. To ensure a smooth transition to online services, especially online voting, the Ministry of Digital Transformation plans to teach digital literacy to at least six million Ukrainians over the next three years.