Neogenia, Ltd. and its product Mobilní Rozhlas (to be communicated as “Munipolis” outside of CZ and SK), is one of the most visible Civic Tech companies whose solutions is being used by the Czech municipalities in connection with the current COVID-19 crisis. The company now offers to cities its product free of charge. According to the CEO Ondřej Švrček, around 30 municipalities register daily.
At what pace are you currently working?
We work practically non-stop. Numbers of new accounts for local governments are being opened daily and we have 5 people only working in the office where strict hygienic rules apply. The rest works remotely. It is an absolute commitment for us now, definitely the greatest one since starting our company. A graphic designer creates accounts, marketing staff creates accounts, everyone is involved. When a city approaches us, we try to register citizens in the system within hours.
What is the product based on specifically?
Our tool makes crisis communication easier. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, we now offer a free product – helping local governments to better share information with citizens. It concerns passing government directives and data to the public, for instance, municipalities inform about where are the masks available, we help them to organize the recruitment of volunteers or to run various surveys, etc. It is urgent information of local nature. Local authorities can send text messages, voice messages, messages within the app, or emails. Only mobile text messages are paid.
How much are the local governments and especially citizens interested in the product?
Only yesterday we launched Mobilní Rozhlas in 35 new municipalities and the demand continues to grow every day. We are being contacted by small villages as well as Prague and Brno city districts. In recent days, 600 – 700 thousand text messages are sent through our system on a daily basis. There are countless emails and notifications being sent. Registration of citizens to our app increased to 5 – 7 thousand people a day. Usually, it is around 300 or 400.
Do local governments manage to adapt to this style of communication in your opinion?
Definitely. In effect, authorities now do not deal with anything else. They scoped down usual operations and communication is the imperative now. Before the crisis, officials and politicians had hard time to use civic tech in general. Even though according to our surveys 90% of the citizens say that they would welcome more news from the city. Now it is changing for logical reasons. It should be noted that senior citizens adapt well too – often they are the most grateful group. Smartphones are no longer an obstacle for them. In several cities, we are now importing contacts of this particular group in order to connect with them directly through phones. To put it simply, they want official messages directly from the mayor.
Are you working on any new functionalities as well?
We have now developed a new feature for the city of Most and will offer that to everyone, of course. This will be online communication tool for local governments about the development of the coronavirus. Citizens will have a chance to ask if they can go out, what to do, whether or not public transport is working – all in one public thread. In essence, it’s an online call center.
When are you planning to switch off the free version of your product?
I think we will never turn off that offer again. We decided that if cities will ever need to communicate in times of any crisis again, they will always have it for free.
Do you think that the current situation will change the perception of local governments of digital platforms in the long term?
If I can speak for our field, I am convinced that not only in the Czech Republic but globally the awareness of the necessity to dramatically change the communication with citizens is growing. The form, procedures and tools are changing. I’m glad our system works with no problems. We haven’t seen any upheaval or slowdown in recent weeks, and I’m happy about it. But I am most pleased with the fact that right now we are able to help in a very practical way.