In Ukraine, people are dissatisfied with the quality of the public services provided by local authorities.
The difficulties faced when accessing public services are many: complicated procedures, long queues, inconvenient office hours, and lack of comprehensive and relevant information, to name just a few.
A major issue is also corruption.
Ukraine ranked 144 out of 177 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2013.
According to a recent survey, only 4.1 percent of citizens who faced corruption made any effort to report or appeal it.
As such, we’ve identified the strengthening of transparency and engagement in public decision-making as a concrete pathway to preventing corruption when it comes to service delivery in Ukraine.
In 2013, the city council initiated a project for the creation of a mobile app to improve service delivery and expand opportunities for collecting the public’s feedback. The project was supported by our regional anti-corruption project.
Containing information about the city, its executive authorities, and a useful telephone directory of 500 contacts of relevant public authorities, the app also provides easy access to municipal emergency services.
Crucially, it also allows citizens to report cases of corruption via 14 different anti-corruption hotlines at local, regional, and national levels. The claims and petitions filed will be addressed within the legally established timeframe of 30-45 days.
The mobile app has the potential to become a game-changer for local residents and, eventually, beyond: Fourteen percent of mobile subscribers in Ukraine own smart phones and an estimated 36 percent of Ukraine’s urban population access the Internet via mobile or smartphones.
In Ivano-Frankivsk, there are 243,000 citizens and approximately 80,000 devices where the app can be used. During the first month of the launch, with no promotional campaign, over 50 people downloaded the app and many left positive feedback.
An awareness campaign was subsequently initiated by the city council in March to popularize the app among local residents. By the end of 2014, the municipality plans to engage ten percent of the potential users through the outreach campaign.
The app will be maintained and regularly updated by the municipality. In addition, the city council plans to add an option for paying public utility fees and an option to make appointments online to visit the Centre for Administrative Services Provision.
The municipality is also conducting surveys to get feedback from citizens on the app’s efficacy and accessibility.
Deputy Mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ruslan Panaisuk can already see the change on the ground:
“Mobile Ivano-Frankivsk” is a decisive step for establishing transparency and ways of communication between the local authorities and citizens. This project is destined to succeed, because it simplifies access to crucial information in such a simple and innovative way.”
Some tips and recommendations
One of the important elements for success is involvement of potential users from the very beginning. This helps to avoid introducing changes at later stages and reach maximum effectiveness of the product
During focus group discussions, it was discovered that some citizens were not well-acquainted with existing mobile app technologies. It is therefore important to involve experts who can provide comprehensive explanations of the different options.
A complementary promotional campaign for potential users of the app should be planned from the very beginning of the project, in order to ensure buy-in from local citizens.
We’re still looking for feedback and ideas from other innovators:
What are some other ways we can use mobile technology for increased transparency?