On May 11th, 2017, Ukrainian citizens finally received the long awaited travel visa liberalisation to the European Union for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Although there is now a green light to enter EU, travellers need to be in possession of new biometric passports to avoid inconveniences at the border. Naturally, this new opportunity has urged those wanting to travel visa-free to the EU this summer, to start actively applying for their new travel identity document. This created significant backlogs and an increase in wait times at the passport issuing institutions.
Anton Biblya, a local IT-developer, has created a chat-bot that monitors and checks the availability of the online queue in the migration service offices around the country every three minutes. eGovernance Digest invited Mr. Biblya to share his thoughts about this new project called iGovBot.
What was your motivation to create iGovBot?
Recently, I personally faced the problem of waiting queues during registration of my new passport. I noticed that some of my friends were experiencing the same issue. So, I decided that it would be helpful to create a bot, which would check and monitor the online queues and provide information to users once a free spot is available at the migration service office. Once the notification of a free spot is received by the user, it can be easily booked online.
How does the iGovBot take information from the Migration Service offices?
It’s quite simple actually. The information comes from the electronic state service portal iGov in real time. The iGov portal is integrated with the Migration Service of Ukraine registries and iGovBot takes this information from iGov.
Is that true that iGovBot was created in 4 hours? What was needed for this task?
Yes, the first version was launched just in 4 hours. Later, there were a few minor improvements done in terms of making the service look more esthetically interactive and user-friendly. In order to complete such a task, one would require a programming language such as Python, PHP or maybe even Bash. As a platform for this bot, I have chosen Telegram messenger since it has relatively clean and simple API. This is one of the reasons why many people start designing chat-bots from Telegram.
Do you have any prior experience designing similar type of projects?
Yes, one year ago, I launched a RailwayBot that helps search for train tickets in Ukraine. The idea behind it is that it can get quite difficult to find a train ticket online, especially during prominent holidays or last minute travel arrangements. For this reason, this bot uses customer’s search settings and frequently checks for their availability. Instead of the individual manually going to the state railway website to check for a ticket every few minutes, RailwayBot does this automatically and informs the user when a ticket is available for purchase.
Why did you give the iGovBot project such a general name and how do you see its future? Do you have any other plans in the field the of e-Government?
The name was chosen with certain consideration to expand the number of public services using the bot software in the future. I believe that the first upcoming services will be based on Open Data. Later on, I will try to focus on services that would require authorization though our bot, but this task would require solving some legal and personal data security issues.