These Parents Built a School App. Then the City Called the Cops

Christian Landgren's patience was wearing thin. The separated father of three wasted precious time trying get the City of Stockholm's official school system, Skolplattform to work correctly every day. Landgren would go through endless menus trying to figure out the school activities of his children. It was difficult enough to find out what his children needed in the gym kit, but it was much more complicated to figure out how to report them sick. The Skolplattform was a constant problem for thousands of parents in Stockholm two years after it was launched in August 2018. Landgren says that parents and users were both angry.
This was not the intention of Skolplattform. The Skolplattform was created in 2013 to ease the lives of around 500,000 children, parents, and teachers in Stockholm. It acts as the technical backbone of all things education, from the registration of attendance to the keeping of records of grades. It is composed of three parts and 18 modules. Five external companies maintain the platform. The system is used daily by 600 preschools and schools and 177 schools. Each teacher, student and parent has their own login. Problem is? It doesn't work.

Skolplattform has not achieved its original ambitions. It has cost over 1 billion Swedish Krona (SEK) ($117 million). Teachers and parents have voiced concerns about the complexity of this system. There have been reports that the project was not launched on time. Reports have also been made of mismanagement and the system has been called an IT disaster. On average, the Android app gets 1.2 stars.

On October 23, 2020, Landgren, a developer and the CEO of Swedish innovation consulting firm Iteam, tweeted a hat design emblazoned with the words Skrota Skolplattformenloosely translated as trash the school platform. He joked he should wear the hat when he picks his children up from school. He decided to make his own decisions a few weeks later while wearing the same hat. Landgren says that it was out of frustration that he created his own app.

He wrote to the city asking for access to the Skolplattforms API documents. He logged in to his account while he waited for a reply and attempted to figure out if the system could possibly be reverse-engineered. He had created something that worked in just a few hours. He said that I could see information from the school platform on my screen. Then I began to build an API from scratch on top of their poor API.

The work began at the end of November 2020. This was just days after the 4 million SEK GDPR penalty was imposed on Stockholms Board of Education for serious deficiencies in the Skolplattform. Integritetsskyddsmyndigheten, Swedens data regulator, had found serious flaws in the platform that had exposed the data of hundreds of thousands of parents, children, and teachers. Google searches could have led to the access of personal information in some cases. (The flaws were corrected and the fine was reduced upon appeal.