Before the war, it was the official city app to buy public transport tickets and pay parking or electricity bills in the Ukrainian capital.
Now Kyiv Digital has been turned into a life-saving tool that warns of air raids and guides people to the nearest air raid shelter or gas station with gas supplies.
With the help of the country’s Chief Digital Transformation Officer (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 alerts and warnings, shared maps of air raid shelters, disseminated information on how to support the army and provided links to official information sources.
According to a CDTO spokesman, the app now has 1.5 million users and is one of the best free apps on the Ukrainian app store.
“Kyiv Digital has become the essential tool for city alerts and alarms. The novelties include a map of bomb shelters, a map of available pharmacies and access to insulin, a map of grocery stores, a map of points with free water and bread, pet shops, humanitarian headquarters and more,” the spokesman said.
“The app has been around for a while and I’ve found it very useful [before] because you could pay for parking there and buy tickets for buses and trolleybuses,” said Denys Malakhatka, a scientific academic researcher.
“Since the start of the war they have changed the app. They’re now sending you notifications about when to take shelter, and I also like the fact that they let you know when the potential attack has ended,” Malakhatka said.
“I love that they tell you when it’s over and you can relax,” he said.
In peacetime, the subway was used by about 1 million people daily; Now the stations serve as emergency shelters for an estimated 15,000 Kiev residents, who will settle on platforms and in corridors once the city’s 7 p.m. curfew begins.
The metro runs on one platform every 90 minutes, while cars are parked on the opposite platform to wait, sit or sleep.
As part of digital warfare support, the government has also increased Wi-Fi access across the city and provided internet connections to more than 200 air raid shelters to maintain emergency information and allow people to keep in touch with relatives.
“We need to adapt our services and we have done so. Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities are working together more coherently and productively than ever. The reason is obvious. We defend our country, our cities, our citizens, our parents, our children and our future. This is our home, so we will fight to the last,” Olencyh said in a statement.
At the request of the Ukrainian government, Google has also launched rapid airborne warning systems for Android phones in Ukraine. “This work is complementary to the country’s existing air raid warning systems and is based on alerts already submitted by the Ukrainian government,” a company blog said.
Not everyone appreciates their phone apps’ focus on the conflict.
“There are eight to 10 alarms a day — and I don’t want to hear them when I’m sleeping,” said Kyle Kondratiev, a lighting designer-turned-humanitarian.
But for many other Kievans, the app has become indispensable, not least because it includes a map of working gas stations. Since local public transport is severely restricted and many gas stations are closed, drivers without the app must expect long queues or tedious searches for gas stations.