Time to Diia

I’ve been in Kyiv for nearly two months now and having a great time. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the 24-hour train ride from Warsaw to Kyiv and the occasional air raid siren, visiting the Ukrainian capital is like visiting any other beautiful European city. Indeed, Kyiv is a vibrant, European city. I’m staying in a funky, design hotel with great coffee, original local art on the walls, and a rocking rooftop bar full of happy hipsters and supermodels. I walk or take Uber around town, the sushi is excellent, and the spicy ramen joint down the street competes with of the best in Vancouver.

However, I’m really impressed by how technologically advanced everyone is, especially the young. As most of you know, digital identity is my thing, and Ukraine is leading the pack with their national digital identity platform, Diia. Diia, which means ‘action’ in English, is a phenomenal example of the power of digital identity and how it can be used to simplify your life by carrying digital versions of your driver’s license, passport and credit card. 

Like most things in Ukraine, Diia is so much more than it seems, and that’s a testament to the creativity and capabilities of the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation – even while they fight a war with a superpower.

One stop shop

Diia is not just a digital identity mobile application or ‘wallet’ for your identity, it is a portal for a myriad of government services. Need a grant to start a business? Complete the form on Diiaand apply with a single click. Want a grant to build a greenhouse? Diia has you covered with one click. Diia can also register your business, track your COVID vaccination status, apply for unemployment insurance, and electronically sign documents.

By combining all these services into one mobile app, Diia is the most advanced government digital identity application in the world and it’s 100% Ukrainian. 

Diia goes to war

You’d expect such an advanced platform to have taken at least a decade of trial and error to centralise all this incredible convenience, right? Nope, as I have seen first-hand, when Ukrainian people put their minds to something, they get it done, and quickly. Diia was launched on February 6, 2020, and over last two years Diia has been downloaded by 10 million Ukrainians.

Since the February 24, 2022 unjustified invasion by Russia, Diia has become a key tool in the war effort. Has your house been damaged or destroyed? Take a few pictures and file a claim on Diia. Over 13 million people have been displaced by the war and if they need help paying rent for temporary shelter in a safe city, they can apply directly through Diia. Diia has also gone on the offensive by adding the ability to report war crimes and enemy troop movements!

Proceed with caution

Diia is a fantastic example of what digital identity can offer, but there are challenges. To apply for Diia you must have a smartphone, internet access and Ukrainian bank account, things not everyone has – especially in the countryside. Unfortunately, this is the Achilles heel of all digital identity platforms.

Since Diia is a mobile app, one must be careful. People fleeing Russian occupied territory are often subjected to roadside checkpoints. Ukrainians have been detained and even murdered by Russian troops for having evidence of war crimes and enemy locations on their smartphones. If you have Diia and some soldier forces you to unlock you phone, it can literally be the difference between life and death.

Diia is no panacea but it’s a great example of the power of digital identity to transform access to services, bypassing cumbersome paper forms and bureaucracy with a few clicks. The Ukrainian people always find a way to get it done, a lesson they have taught us through their bravery, tenacity and spirit as they fight for freedom. Diia is a shining example of what digital identity can accomplish.