Digital Communities Forum

On 20–21 March, the 2023 Digital Communities Forum took place in Lviv. This was a two-day event that brought together representatives from leading digital communities, regional CDTOs, and internally displaced communities to discuss the results of digital transformation in the field.

The Forum was attended by 105 representatives from target communities in the Vinnytsia, Volyn, Odesa, Chernihiv, Dnipro, and Luhansk Oblasts.

The Forum focused on the key achievements and challenges of digital transformation in Ukraine’s regions during the Great War. On the first day, success cases of regional digitalisation were presented, the importance of having digital leaders in place, and further plans for community digitalisation were discussed.

Having a CDTO in each community is key to transparency and efficiency of the regions’ digital transformation. As noted by Valeriia Ionan, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation for European Integration,

‘Today, digitalisation is a red line that runs through absolutely all areas, from education to the social sector. It is thus important for the nationally initiated digital transformation to continue regionally. To achieve this, we need to promptly implement reforms that would help build the most practical, bureaucracy-, corruption-, and paperless digital state in the world. We need people in the field who would take on digital transformation and fully implement it. If your community still lacks such a digital leader, we would strongly advise to appoint one.’

‘Creating the CDTO institution in Ukraine represents an important aspect. Indeed, digital leaders make a huge contribution to the overall success of the state’s digitalisation. CDTOs are drivers behind digital transformation. They inspire, give instructions, or simply help. In any case, it is very cool to have a person in the oblast who knows exactly which way to go and who can always be approached,’ said Serhii Hunko, EGAP’s Coordinator for Regional Digitalisation.

In the course of the ‘Wartime Digitalisation’ panel discussion, e-tools as a way of communicating with the public in the conditions of martial law were considered. In particular, Oksana Pitsyk, Chair of the Smidyn Community, shared a story of how SVOI chatbot had been fighting disinformation in the village early in the full-scale invasion and how adding push notifications to the bot had helped replace church bells during air raids when no apps were available.

Olesia Zhylko, Head of the Regional Development, Investment and Project Activity Sector of the Liubeshiv Village Council, spoke about the participatory practice and the experience of residents’ involvement in voting for public budget projects:

‘Digitalisation is about trust in people. This is why raising the level of digital literacy is critical, whether it is a city or a village. Our citizens mostly live in rural areas. They are very hard-working and wise in their respective field but, unlike big-city residents, using e-tools doesn’t come easy for them. With the help from the project developers, we teach the community how to vote online. Having cast ballots, they are no longer wary of downloading the Diia app or generating any certificate.’

On the second day of the Forum, its participants presented digital spaces for IDPs, learned about digital security, and shared their experience in implementing e-services in communities.

At the end of the Forum, awards were given to leading digital communities, and thanks were extended to community representatives for implementing successfully EGAP Programme’s boilerplate projects.

The 2023 Digital Communities Forum was held under the Swiss-Ukrainian EGAP Programme implemented by East Europe Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine.