09 April 2024

Democracy Technologies: Can you explain the basic idea of Condominium E-Voting?

Kateryna Mohylnytska: As you know, we have a digital app called Kyiv Digital. Through this platform, we have managed to engage 2.6 million Kyivans, more than 83% of the city’s population. Condominium E-Voting was introduced due to the need for a more specialized tool for communities to directly participate in decision-making processes.

This became important for two main reasons. First, when the war started, it allowed us to send notifications to our citizens in case of a missile attack, a blackout, or any type of a threat. And second, it’s an important functionality for each individual, allowing them to vote and deliberate on issues that relate specifically to each community anywhere and anytime.

DT: How does it work?

Mohylnytska: During the war, many Ukrainians have fled to safe countries. This means they are physically unable to solve issues of housing improvement, sign papers, and attend meetings. As a city council, we wanted to find a way of allowing those citizens to remain involved in city life. Additionally, for those who stayed, gathering a lot of people at one place is always a great danger. It means putting lots of lives at risk, making them a big target for missiles, which can hit anytime. 

With the Kyiv Digital app, we firstly granted safety to our citizens, and secondly provided them with all the needed data in a comfortable digital format. Residents of an apartment building can now view all the documentation within their condominium online, receive notifications and reminders about meetings with agendas, participate in votes, sign surveys through the platform, and review the voting results after their completion. From now on, issues like changing an internet provider, repairing the roof, or buying a generator can be resolved online in a couple of taps. And it can all be done from outside of Kyiv, or from the safety of your own apartment.

DT: What were some key challenges in developing this project and how did you overcome them?

Mohylnytska: The main challenge, of course, has been the war. It is difficult because every day, we have to deal with attacks and threats. The other challenge has been to consolidate all the parts of the puzzle into one ecosystem. There are no similar projects in Ukraine, so there was no example to follow. We hope that in the future, this technology could be replicated in other cities in Ukraine.

We also had to find a way of getting Kyivans to understand how helpful the Condominium tool could be to them. Not everyone was ready to use this new technology, so we had to figure out how to make it part of everyday life.

DT: And how did you do that?

Mohylnytska: We held a meeting where we presented all the functionality and talked to the heads of condominiums in person. Based on the results of the test period, we received feedback on areas of difficulty and key useful services, such as online surveys. Over the course of around 6 to 9 months, we involved the citizens in the development process, so we could get feedback on what they needed and they could understand how to use the tool.

DT: And how many participants do you think you have reached? How diverse is the user group?

Mohylnytska: Our data shows that we have involved almost 500,000 people in various votings per month. With each month, we see an increase in citizens’ engagement in this process.

In terms of reaching a diverse audience, we know that for elderly people, for example, it is harder to participate. However, most people have a smartphone now, so we provided courses and involved heads of condominiums so they could learn how the app works and teach the others. It wasn’t as much of a challenge as you might think. Everyone was interested and, more than that, they helped each other understand.

DT: What kind of feedback did you get from citizens, from users, from people in the apartment buildings?

Mohylnytska: In the beginning, the condominium voting functionality had some bugs. So it was crucial to get as much feedback as possible from our citizens. We ran several tests in which citizens gave us their feedback and we implemented it. In the end, the tool is a communication bridge between the Kyiv City Council and each citizen. So it is important to constantly improve the service, make it easier, more efficient, and more comfortable.

DT: What do you see as the long-term impact of your project?

Mohylnytska: First and foremost, we would like to reach more citizens, and right now we are continuing to involve a wider and wider population. The Kyiv City Council believes that it is a very efficient way to resolve citizens’ issues and participate all together in changing the City of Kyiv for the better. Beyond this, it would be great to provide this service to other cities who are facing similar challenges.

DT: What would you recommend for a city that is considering implementing something like this?

Mohylnytska: The main recommendation is that the authorities have to listen to their citizens, to each individual. The main goal should be to build a user-centric city, and provide people with a human-centric tool. Authorities and governments need to understand their citizens and improve the city according to their needs.

In the Kyiv Digital app, we use polls where we consult our citizens on the matters that concern them. For example, recently, we have been addressing the issue of the large number of streets with Soviet names. We are trying to change them back to their historical names. So we gave our citizens the relevant information on the subject, the historical background, and let them vote. And they ultimately decide whether to change the name or not.

Another example is community-led initiatives. Every citizen of Kyiv who has an ID and is at least 18 years old can propose an issue that they deem important, and ask other citizens to support it. If they gain at least 3,000 votes, then the issue is taken up to the council.

The problem with this is that many issues only affect a small community, so getting 3,000 votes isn’t always possible. That was one of the reasons why we decided to create Condominium E-Voting because it gave small communities the opportunity to deliberate on issues that pertain to them. In turn, it allows us, the city council, to develop a more tailored approach to community change based on innovative digital tools.

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