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A Citizen-like chatbot allows Ukrainians to report to the government when they spot Russian troops — here’s how it works

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In February of 2020, the Ukrainian government released a new app that would make good on President Zelensky’s key campaign promise: to root out bureaucracy and digitize key parts of the government. In peacetime, the app Diia was meant to be a central hub for citizens’ interactions with their government, allowing someone to access their identity cards, pay their taxes, and receive public services.

Now, during wartime, the country’s Ministry of Digital Transformation has launched a new feature called E-Enemy over Diia, allowing any Ukrainian citizen to inform the army when they spot Russian troops and infantry. “Anyone can help our army locate Russian troops,” an update on March 10th by the ministry. “Use our chat bot to inform the Armed Forces,” it said.

The country’s internal affairs ministry even created a preliminary version of the chatbot to source information on Russian troop movements over the app. At least in one instance, the government announced intelligence gathered over Telegram helped Ukrainian troops find and destroy enemy convoys near Kyiv. But, according to Slava Banik, director of E-services development at the Ministry of Digital transformation, verification of intelligence took a long time through the previous version and often Russian bots would flood disinformation onto the platform.

Diia, according to the Ministry of Digital Transformation, changes that by requiring users to login and authenticate themselves via the e-passport system. “We know for sure it’s a real person sending the info and not a Russian bot.”

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