More than 20 years ago, the world encountered its first semblance of a mobile app – the well-loved ‘Snake’ game. A few years later, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs envisioned a digital store that would allow software to be downloaded over phone lines, none other than the App Store.

Apps have become integral to our daily lives, with countries quickly building contact tracing apps to contain the spread of Covid-19. Moscow’s centralised services app, My Moscow, ensured citizens still had access to crucial services during the pandemic.

Eduard Lysenko, Head of Moscow’s Department of Information Technologies, shares how the app centralises citizen services, and his digitalisation plans for the future.

Reaching more citizens in a time of need

“It is important to us that residents have convenient access to all city services at any time, from anywhere in the world, and from any device,” says Lysenko. Moscow has developed a mobile app to help citizens access its integrated government services portal, mos.ru.

The My Moscow app enabled citizens to access essential government services during the pandemic. Through the mobile app, citizens were able to sign up for free Covid-19 tests to determine current or past infections.

Citizens can also access other services available on the mos.ru portal – such as pay bills, submit electricity readings, keep track of their children’s progress at school, and more. Moscow is piloting a voice assistant to guide users through some of these services, Lysenko says.

The app has been downloaded approximately 2 million times and provides citizens with an average of more than 120,000 services every week, according to the Department of Information Technologies.

Centralising public services

Moscow aims to move towards predictive services with the help of its mos.ru portal. Citizens can currently pay bills, make doctors’ appointments and more by accessing the over 380 services available, Lysenko says.

Next, it aims to unite relevant services for different life events into a “superservice”. When a child is born, for instance, the system will offer to enroll him in kindergarten and join a children’s clinic. Parents will also be informed of relevant payments and benefits, Lysenko explains.

Other countries have embarked on similar initiatives. Singapore’s LifeSG mobile application suggests relevant citizen services for life events such as the birth of a new child, or buying a new home. New Zealand’s SmartStart supports expecting parents by integrating information across different agencies, allowing them to apply for birth certificates with their phones.

Moscow already has a similar “superservice” for its renovation programme, Lyseko says. It provides personalised instructions to citizens moving into new houses, and provides links to relevant services that may be required.

AI and telemedicine to combat Covid-19

Telemedicine and AI have been crucial in Moscow’s Covid-19 fight. The nation experienced a spike in Covid-19 cases in April, reported The Straits Times.

It launched a telemedicine centre last year to allow patients to receive healthcare “at any time of the day or night”, he says. Patients could consult doctors without having to travel to a clinic and risk being exposed to the virus.

AI has also helped doctors analyse CT lung scans and spot anomalies quickly, Lysenko says. The pandemic has revealed the importance of AI, he adds. Moscow developed a new legal framework last July to trial the use of AI and monitor possible legal issues over a five-year period.

The nation consolidated Covid-19 case data into a central registry to help it monitor patients at all stages of treatment, Lysenko says. This data was obtained from the Unified Medical Information and Analysis System, a central system for managing appointments and health records.

Moscow also referenced Singapore’s and South Korea’s contact tracing app when it was building its own, Lysenko says. Such “exchange of experiences” is crucial in helping cities develop effective tools to battle the virus, he believes.

Its government portal and mobile app has proved useful during the pandemic. The nation’s efforts to deliver predictive, centralised services will help it serve citizens better and weather the challenges of tomorrow.