A Citizen-like chatbot allows Ukrainians to report to the government when they spot Russian troops — here's how it works
- Before the war the Ukrainian government launched an app to connect citizens with public services.
- Now that app has a chatbot that lets citizens inform the military of Russian troop in their area.
In February of 2020, the Ukrainian government released a new app that would make good on President Zelensky's key campaign promise: to root out bureaucracy and digitize key parts of the government. In peacetime, the app Diia, was meant to be a central hub for citizens' interactions with their government, allowing someone to access their identity cards, pay their taxes, and receive public services.
Now, during wartime, the country's Ministry of Digital Transformation has launched a new feature called E-Enemy, over Diia allowing any Ukrainian citizen to inform the army when they spot Russian troops and infantry. "Anyone can help our army locate Russian troops," an update on March 10th by the ministry. "Use our chat bot to inform the Armed Forces," it said.
As footage of the invasion flooded social media and
Diia, according to the Ministry of Digital Transformation, changes that by requiring users to login and authenticate themselves via the e-passport system. "We know for sure it's a real person sending the info and not a Russian bot," Banik told Insider.
While users login to E-Enemy through Diia, they are then redirected to a Telegram chatbot that handles that asks users if they are the primary source for the intelligence, alongside basic information about the types of troops, whether they were moving on foot or in vehicles, the number of troops, and the time of contact. According to the ministry, over 260,000 people have used the app since it launched last month.
Sofiya Danylova, an editor at a local Kyiv publication, used the earlier version of the app before it was linked to the Diia platform. Russian troops were entering through Chernihiv, a city close to
Slava Churpita, a bar owner in the country's capital, had a similar experience. She was asked to use the bot by a neighbor, who had just seen possible Russian drones flying over her area. Churpita sent the information provided by the witness, making sure to credit that it was second hand information. But she said, she was ultimately unsure of how useful the information might have been.
Ukrainian officials are also hoping the app will be a resource to document war crimes occurring in the country. After Russian soldiers reportedly massacred 400 civilians in Bucha, Ukraine's head of the Ministry of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov encouraged witnesses or sources that knew information about the perpetrators of the massacre or other possible war crimes to use the app to report on it.
"We're confident [the app] is doing its job," Banik said.
For now, Diia's Fedorov sees the app as an essential tool to allow everyday Ukrainians to participate in the war effort.
"We will find every single one of them," he said on his public Telegram channel. "Technology will help."
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