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How to profit from open data - 5 cases of Ukrainian startups

In Ukraine, the national open data strategy strongly focuses on the acceleration of the new product and services development which have a positive impact on the citizens’ lives. For four years, our project together with the Ministry of Digital Transformation ran Open Data Challenge, the biggest national competition to tap into Ukraine’s Open Data and innovation potential by supporting products and services that use Open Data. A six-month programme provides full-scale incubation for the start-ups and donors’ financial support for winners. Since 2017, we have received over 700 submissions from applicants interested to participate in the Open Data Challenge; 40 projects have passed through the incubation program and 14 teams have already received a total of UAH 6.5 M/approximately $237,000 as a prize. The fourth cycle of the contest will finish in the middle of September; therefore, more teams-winners will receive financial support to further develop and expand their innovative services. 

In addition, the Ministry of Digital Transformation recently launched the Open Data for Business course located on a national digital platform for education. Showcasing success stories of how Ukrainian and international businesses use open data today, the course designed to help businesses understand and put this public resource to good use. In Ukraine, open data is aggregated and analysed to make informed decisions, converted into added value for existing products or services, or used to launch an altogether new product for a specific market segment. How do Ukrainian entrepreneurs’ profit from open data? We collected 5 cases of teams that competed in the Open Data Challenge and showcase them below.

Monitor.Estate is a Kyiv-based start-up that looks for and analyses legal risks in the primary real estate market with the use of open data. Because of corruption, Ukraine has many problematic new construction projects. Even apparently legitimate condominiums can turn out to be unreliable, entangled in litigation or built on land officially designated for other uses. Meanwhile, developers with a solid record can go bankrupt all of a sudden. Therefore, citizens face a risk to buy illegal property. Monitor.Estate can mitigate some of these risks using open data. The project currently lets users run a background check on 1,100 properties in 7 Ukrainian cities, specifically in Kyiv and Kyiv Region and in such major cities as Lviv and Odessa. While in 2017 this service was used by 100 people a month on average, this number is currently up to 4,000 users. Monitor.Estate has monetised the analysis of seven state registers, including the register of the State Architecture and Construction Inspectorate, the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs, the Uniform State Judicial Register, the Register of Debtors and others. A basic or advanced evaluation and various additional legal services are available to users. A basic background check costs UAH 450 (approximately $16), which is a small price to pay compared to the risks that buyers of housing face when they choose to give a developer the benefit of the doubt. The new housing construction background check functionality of Monitor.Estate is currently integrated into major housing search services the likes of Dom.ria. The project also teamed up with the Nerukhomi online service, which offers information about developers and provides legal services in this field. Monitor.Estate is promoting a YouTube channel that has already received almost 600,000 views and is regularly cooperating with the mass media in exposing unlawful new housing construction projects.

Sud na Doloni, literally meaning “a court in the palm of your hand”, is a Dnipro-based start-up that has launched an analytical service that lets users search, review and visualise court decisions. The service allows users to search among over 17 million court decisions owing to the opening of data of the Uniform State Register of Court Rulings since 2018 and their integration with information from other 14 open state registers. This number is constantly rising, as 20 to 60 thousand new court rulings are added to the service on a daily basis. Registers often contain errors or typos that complicate a manual search of the register. Court on the Palm aggregates and refines such data, thereby offering a convenient and quick search capability. Users can access the service under free or professional fee-based subscription. The service currently has over 200,000 users. Sud na Doloni is actively involved in development of the open data industry by offering journalists free access to the service. Project data are used in numerous services such as the Clarity Project, Nora, Prozorro BI, to name just a few. Court on the Palm is currently one of the best-known start-ups in the Ukrainian legal tech sector.

Shtrafy UA, literally meaning “Fines UA”, is an Odesa-based start-up that has launched a mobile application service that lets users check the status of their traffic tickets and pay them. Launched in 2016, the start-up originally allowed users to only pay traffic tickets without the capability to check their status. Citizens are often unaware that they have an unpaid traffic ticket. According to the project team, 40% to 50% of queries they receive on a daily basis involve checking the status of payment of a traffic ticket. Some motorists have been forced to pay one and the same traffic ticket several times due to procedural errors. In 2020, following the cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs on sharing the data of the Register of Registered Road Traffic Violations, supplemented the service with functionality that enables users to receive information about a traffic ticket and monitor its payment in the police database. This service has become all the more relevant now that the government has launched the automatic system for photo and video recording of traffic violations. The app is highly popular with close to 1 million downloads, since it is the first service in Ukraine to use data on road traffic violations. Shtrafy UA repeatedly made it to the top ranking of App Store downloads in Ukraine. The project is monetised by charging a 5% commission on fines paid, which enables the team to develop its functionality actively.

Nazar City Bot is a Mariupol-based start-up that creates open data-based services for local government agencies. Every city in Ukraine faces the problem of an overloaded municipal call centre that gets flooded with questions relating to the housing and utility infrastructure. For this exact reason the local authorities of Mariupol reached out to the IT company Open Data Lab requesting a creation of the product that would improve the process of keeping local residents informed about utility plans and emergency repairs resumption time frames without expanding the staff of call centre operators or increasing the number of lines. This led to the creation of the Nazar city bot in Mariupol in 2018. It enables local residents to receive automatic notices about scheduled or emergency service disruptions at a specific address and keep track of the progress of repairs. Such queries accounted for close to 80% of all calls to the Mariupol municipal call centre. During the first 9 months, the city bot helped ease the workload of call centre operators by 50%. The quality and speed of resident communications also improved, with the audience covered by the city bot increasing 7-fold to 100,000 residents. The city bot has currently expanded to include 7 more cities on a contract basis toward the end of the year. Over the course of a month, users access the bot to create 2,500 applications, make 30,000 official queries, and receive almost 100,000 notices about scheduled or emergency service disruptions. The Nazar city bot shows that services can be created using open data where not just citizens or businesses, but also local authorities can become a client, whereas citizens gain positive social effects from this.

PravoSud is a Kyiv-based start-up that has launched a platform that lets users prepare for litigation - a one-stop online environment for a lawyer. Using open data and machine learning algorithms, a legal professional can analyse legal precedents, search for normative legal acts, analyse a judge's approach to examining a specific category of cases, run a background check on an opponent or contracting party in the context of current or past court cases, monitor judicial proceedings and legal precedents. The project was launched by lawyers who, back in 2017 when data from the Uniform State Judicial Register became openly available, came up with the idea to create a service for finding and analysing court decisions. The highlight of the service - statistics on the performance of a particular judge - has made the service popular among legal practitioners and law firms. Automation of the analysis of court records is a global trend, which is why such services as PravoSud are no longer a novelty but more like an essential tool in the toolkit of lawyers. In 2019, the team won the international competition EuroAsian Startup Awards as best Big Data start-up. The project currently has 6,500 users, and this number is constantly rising. PravoSud offers different rate plans - from daily to professional - which is why the client base of the service includes not just individual lawyers but also the corporate sector: agribusiness companies, banks, flagship law firms, associations of lawyers, etc. The project recently accepted a cooperation offer from the department of legal sciences at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, where all students and professors at the department have unlimited access to the system and use it as part of their study process. This means that the project will have a great social impact on the promotion of the culture of digital technology usage in day-to-day work of legal practitioners.

More and more Ukrainian start-ups are using open data to create services used by millions of Ukrainians. These projects create both economic growth and stimulate innovation and have a tremendous social impact. Still, Ukrainian start-ups based on open data face not just the common for all start-ups challenges but also the problems concerning the quality and availability of open data needed to create and improve their projects. The competitions, like Open Data Challenge, and support from the Ministry of Digital Transformation help them to mitigate risks and create new opportunities for growth and development. 

This article was written by Kateryna Onyiliogwu, the Open Data Team Lead for the USAID / UK aid Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services / TAPAS Project.