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War in the Internet Era: How Digital Tools are Helping Ukrainians During the Russian Invasion

The Russian-Ukrainian war has revealed not only the extremely brave side of the Ukrainian people, but also the possibilities of waging war with the help of mobile apps.

The war in Ukraine has been going on for more than two months and it is fascinating (and scary) that we can watch it live from basically anywhere in the world. The age of digital technology gives us a constant access to information and keeps us at the center of things, no matter how far away we are from Ukraine.

Nevertheless, technology not only makes it easier for us to follow the news, but also helps Ukrainians in the fight for freedom. How? The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense uses its Twitter account as their main channel of sharing information about the war. The app Kyiv Digital through which Ukrainians used to buy public transport tickets and pay for parking now warns of air raids and directs users to bomb shelters. It also gives directions to working gas stations in the area or available pharmacies.

Help for the residents who haven’t fled the state is also provided by an app called Diia developed under the auspices of the Ministry of Digital Transformation. This app contains remote-job listings for Ukrainians out of work, a portal for cash payouts, and also a set of video-learning lessons for children. 

The usage of the communication app Telegram has also become widespread and is now a platform of choice for Russians seeking to escape Moscow’s propaganda web. As Russia has silenced independent news media and banned social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Telegram is an outlet to go to for unrestricted information on the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Some mobile apps have purely military purposes. IT developers allowed ordinary Ukrainians to report the movement of Russian troops in the occupied territory by sending photos and videos through Diia or the ministry chatbot eVorog. Citizens can also alert “suspicious” individuals through the app to detect potential intruders or saboteurs. Through algorithms, all data is aggregated into a map that is accessible to the Ukrainian Intelligence Agency.

Thus, digital tools that can easily be downloaded on a smartphone provide an opportunity for participatory civic activism even in such difficult times as war. Being a European IT power, Ukraine has been able to make efficient use of its existing resources and turn them into e-participation anti-war platforms. 

Ukraine has shown that Putin has definitely picked the wrong country to mess with. Encouraging the public through effective civic engagement is extremely important. And in times of war it’s all the more necessary.