#CloseUp: VVTAT x Vistalworks
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
GovTech Challenge Series goes international!
Today we are talking with two excellent people - Greta and Vicky. Greta Pušneraitytė is a Chief Specialist at the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority of Lithuania (VVTAT) and they have submitted a challenge that aims to automatically detect unsafe online products. Our other interviewee, Vicky Brock, is a Founder of a Scottish startup Vistalworks - they have created a brilliant solution tailored for this specific challenge. Let's read more about their collaboration!
Tell us more about your submitted challenge for GovTech Challenge Series 2.0 and why is it important to solve it?
Greta: Searching for goods/products in online stores and platforms is an important part of market surveillance inspections (checks) that specialists are doing every day. The traceability of such products and the identification of economic operators are particularly important, because a lot of economic operators outside the EU are selling their goods online. Other thing, some products are sold directly to EU consumers/end-users, making it difficult to ensure that they comply with the legislation.
Currently, the detection of unsafe products on websites is done manually: entering the relevant search criteria (unique name, brand, article, barcode, photos, etc.) into search engines. This search method is not efficient enough and, due to the large amount of information available on unsafe products, is one-time thing rather than periodical (unsafe goods are mostly only checked at the time of publication, so these kinds of goods can be placed on a market later and may go unnoticed and continue to be distributed to the consumers).
It is also difficult, if I can say it in this way, for consumers who purchase goods online more and more, especially in now ongoing situation. As much as this tool would help us make sure we are doing the best work we can for consumers, ensuring their safety, it would be also a really big step for people. By that I mean, they can get involved into this process. Consumers are our end-users, we are trying our best to make sure they will only get safe products, but with this tool people can be more aware about what is really going on in our (and other countries, of course) market and how some products that they wouldn’t think can be unsafe, might truly be.
Why is it important to look for innovative solutions that could be applied for the public sector use?
Greta: In any case, talking about our Authority (VVTAT) or not, I think we need to look for more solutions like this. As much as we can. In our job we are trying to help people every day, but it is hard even if you are giving your best. Innovative solutions, if they get needed attention, care, and time, of course, would increase the productivity of public sector, ease the day-to-day duties of employees, and improve the quality of work. Which again, in our situation, would make sure even safer environment for consumers. So, the main points are surely about productivity and quality of work, but the end result for every institution would be different, hopefully, more bright, successful, and less stressful.
Innovative solutions, if they get needed attention, care, and time, of course, would increase the productivity of public sector, ease the day-to-day duties of employees, and improve the quality of work.
Do you have any tips for other institutions who want to work with startups and apply innovations?
Greta: Well, firstly, I think you really need to make your idea as clear as possible to help others understand it. It doesn’t mean that you need to know everything and be ‘I’m the smartest’ kind of person. No. Just think about what would help you do your daily tasks, what are the main points that this innovation could change in you work routine. Yes, it can be as simple as that, but believe me, it’s going to become something even bigger than you could have imagined. I know, sometimes, we really want to just think about how we can get rid of some work (we all do that, no worries), but what was the most important thing for me – the end result. By that I mean, what can I achieve, besides being forced to manually open tab after tab day by day. Is that going to be it? Less tabs opened in my computer? Again, no. The end result is safer market. For everyone.
Great solutions start like a simple thought most of the time.
So, briefly, get your idea together, think of how it is going to help you, think about what more you can achieve. Great solutions start like a simple thought most of the time. Don’t be afraid to try. Only when we are trying, we can find the best solutions that later can be evolving into something bigger!
Tell us more about your submitted solution for GovTech Challenge Series 2.0 and how could it solve a social or public sector problem? Vicky: Vistalworks protects citizens and businesses from harmful online products and sellers, using targeted intelligence software that helps enforcement agencies focus their efforts and web tools that support consumer protection. The solution we have developed in response to the challenge set by VVTAT will help them and consumer protection agencies across the EU increase their impact in protecting citizens from dangerous products onsale online by automatically finding products that have been alerted as high risk that are onsale by web-sellers in their jurisdiction. This will save time, resources and effort, and let them deliver on their primary mission more effectively.
Why is it important to create innovative solutions that could be applied in the public sector? Vicky: We believe governments should be empowered to lead the way in digital innovation, and the enforcement of a rule of law and regulations in the new digital environment businesses and citizens increasingly operate in. Cyber crime is the most prevalent form of crime individuals now face - with trading crime at the forefront of that. Often bad players (criminal and state) have led the way in cyber innovation, while governments and regulators try to catch up after the harm is done. Embracing appropriate innovative solutions allows an exchange of know-how between government and business that keeps citizens and economies safe, underpins the fundamental cyber security and digital health of the nation and means that when government agencies have to take the fight to the bad players, they are properly equipped to do so.
Embracing appropriate innovative solutions allows an exchange of know-how between government and business.
Do you have any tips for other creators who want to work with the public sector?
Vicky: Working with an institution in this challenge format is an incredible opportunity to build a fit for purpose solution - it is a rare chance to have your end user involved from the beginning. Really focus on what success means for them, and how you can help them shine.