Before the war, it was the city’s official app for buying transport tickets and paying parking or utility bills in the Ukrainian capital.
Today, Kyiv Digital has been transformed into a rescue tool that warns of air raids and directs people to the nearest bomb shelter or garage with gas supplies.
With the help of the country’s Director of Digital Transformation (CDTO) – Deputy Mayor of Kyiv Petro Olenych – the app’s focus was changed in just 24 hours when Russia invaded.
It has already issued thousands of warnings and alerts, shared maps of bomb shelters, disseminated information on how to support the army and provided links to official information sources.
According to a CDTO spokesperson, the app now has 1.5 million users and is one of the best free apps in the Ukrainian App Store.
“kyiv Digital has become the indispensable tool for warnings and alarms in the city. New features include a map of bomb shelters, a map of available pharmacies and insulin access, a map of grocery stores, a map of points with free water and bread, pet stores, neighborhoods humanitarian generals, etc. “said the spokesperson.
“The app has been around for a while and I’ve found it very useful [before] because you could pay to park on it and buy tickets for buses and trolleybuses,” said Denys Malakhatka, a scientific university researcher.
“Since the start of the war, they have changed the application. They now send you alerts on when to take cover and I also really like that they let you know when the potential attack is over,” Malakhatka said.
“I think it’s good that they tell you when it’s over and you can relax,” he said.
In peacetime, the metro service was used by around 1 million people a day; now the stations serve as emergency shelters for around 15,000 Kyiv residents, who bed down on the platforms and in the hallways once the city’s curfew begins at 7 p.m.
The subway runs on one track every 90 minutes while the opposite platform has parked cars for people to wait, sit or sleep.
As part of the support for digital warfare, the government has also strengthened wi-fi access across the city, providing internet links to more than 200 bomb shelters to maintain emergency information links and allow people to stay in touch with loved ones.
“We have to adapt our services and we have done so. Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities are working more cohesively and productively than ever. The reason is obvious. We defend our country, our cities, our people, our parents, our children and our future. This is our home, so we will fight until the end,” Olencyh said in a statement.
Google has also rolled out Early Air Warning systems for Android phones in Ukraine at the request of the Ukrainian government. “This work complements the country’s existing air raid warning systems and is based on alerts already issued by the Ukrainian government,” he said on a company blog.
Not everyone appreciates the change in focus of their phone apps to conflict.
“There are eight to 10 alarms a day – and when I’m sleeping I don’t want to hear them either,” said Kyle Kondratiev, a lighting designer turned humanitarian volunteer.
But for many other Kyivans, the app has become essential, especially because it includes a map of service stations in operation. With very limited public transport and many gas stations closed, drivers without an app can face long queues or long searches for fuel.