With Ukraine’s economy in decline due to the weakening of the country's health system (recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic), food and fuel shortages and overall weakened infrastructure, the country faces ongoing destruction.
As the invasion continues, civilians are evacuating their homes in search of refuge - which has now reached the number of 31 million refugees around the globe. The International Rescue Committee are “extremely concerned about the rising humanitarian needs in the country. Thousands of people who have fled their homes are currently without basic necessities including shelter and food”.
The impact on the tech community
The initial attack started with cyberattacks, targeting departments within the Ukrainian government leading to outages, data wiping malware, internet traffic, and ground, sea and air incursion. The Ukrainian government drew to the conclusion that the cyberattacks are “unambiguously linked” to Moscow.
To take preventative measures, Ukraine has urged IT services of organisations to:
Isolate all workstations and servers that are not related to critical functions in the interests of citizens, businesses and the state.
Update the system and software of operating systems to the latest version.
Immediately back up critical information resources to external storage.
Ukraine's technology sector is aiming to become the ‘Tech Hub’ of Europe. In the past year, Ukraine’s tech industry grew by 36 per cent whilst setting new tech records with its startups exceeding a valuation of 10 billion dollars.
The Ukrainian spirit is very strong. The tech Community… is one of the pillars of Ukraine’s resistance.” - Nataly Veremeeva, Director of TechUkarine
With public and private Ukrainian infrastructure on the verge of collapse, the impacts of the invasion have undoubtedly spread through the tech ecosystem. Affecting not only startup and growing organisations but also research and development offices for some of the world's largest brands.
Impact on Ukrainian Startups
Ukraine's tech prowess has made it a breeding ground for startup activity with an estimate of just over 4,000 startups in the country. Mostly accommodating the Artificial Intelligence sector and deep tech, since the Ukrainian Startup Fund was launched in 2019 which provides grants and investments to early-stage companies. Various venture capitalists who make investments in Ukraine explain that global investors play a huge part in helping Ukraine gain traction.
Cristobal Alonso, CEO of Startup Wise Guy, said that his team members have left Ukraine forgoing evacuation. However, “A number of employees are going to fight and they want to go to the front, and of course, we have to respect that”. The effects of the invasion have hence brought a significant halt to those who work at startups and various investments made by foreign investors.
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Tech companies responding to the invasion
Conflicts unfold across the tech and startup community and companies are retracting any connection with the country to send the message that enough is enough.
Uber, the taxi and online delivery platform, has been said to pause operations in Ukraine and is offering its Kyiv-based employees and families temporary relocation to parts of Ukraine and other countries.
The multinational technology company, Apple, are expressing their deep concerns for Ukraine with their CEO, Tim Cook, saying “we are doing all we can for our teams there and will be supporting local humanitarian efforts”. Since the invasion, Apple has paused all product sales in Russia, limiting Apple pay services and removing the Russian apps, RT and Sputnik, from the app store.
Russia’s military has been accused of altering the perception of reality in enemy ranks in order to foster confusion which is being implemented via social media. Websites that were posing as independent news pages with misinformation were shared on fake accounts via Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Meta, the multinational technology company, announced their efforts to take down the misinformation operation flooding their social networking platforms.
Meta has experienced backfire for their response, claiming that they aren't doing enough to fight the misinformed data. With a recent study coming to light, 91% of Russian propaganda has been failing to be labelled.
Microsoft, a multinational tech corporation, has been working with the Ukrainian authorities closely with the intention of preventing and detecting cyber attacks. Prior to the initial attacks on Ukraine, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) detected a new round of offensive and destructive cyberattacks. Efforts to ban the state broadcaster, Russia Today, from the Windows App store have come into play.
In efforts to aid Ukraine, Google has reacted to the turmoil by disconnecting Russia and Ukraine map technology. The purpose has been to stop movement tracking since Twitter users made it clear that they were able to track the invasion of Ukraine through Google Maps. The disabling of such tools have helped the safety of the local Ukrainian communities. In addition to this, Kremlin-backed media companies cannot earn advertising revenue through subsidiary YouTube due to steps taken by Google.
Readdle, the Ukrainian PDF and productivity tool company, have expressed their stance on how they are operating in their country during such dire times. Managing Director, Denys Zhadanov, says “ All Readdle products and services at Readdle are up and running, and there’s no evacuation for the team [being undertaken] at this point.” expressing that leaving the country is exactly what the Russian Government intended for them to do.
“We’re not going to flee and run away. Their job is safe and secure. We are committed to Ukraine” – Andy Kurtzig, Readdle CEO.
The 1.6 billion dollar Ukrainian born startup, Grammarly, is a platform that supplies writing tools. Grammarly also has offices in the United States which are committed to the safety of their Ukrainian colleagues. Grammarly was prepared for the disruption by keeping their data exclusively in the states so that Ukrainian families were able to focus on their immediate safety.
CEO, Brad Hoover, said “In times like these, and always, we prioritize the safety and well-being of our team members. While we hope for the best, we have also prepared for the worst,” he wrote. “That includes having contingency plans for various scenarios, along with financial and logistical assistance to better support our team members and their families in getting to safety. It also includes business continuity plans to ensure Grammarly’s services will not be disrupted.”
Other companies that are responding to the invasion
Airbnb: Hosting 100,000 Ukrainians that are forced to flee their homes
Netflix: Suspending their services in Russia
Snapchat: Stopped all running advertising in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus
Tiktok: Suspending all live streaming and video content from Russia
Starlink internet: Elon Musk has made his low-Earth orbit internet service available to Ukraine
Etsy: Wavering all outstanding fees owed by Ukrainian citizens
Sony: Suspending sales of PlayStation software and hardware in Russia
Hilton: Donates up to 1 Million room nights to support Ukrainian Refugees
Amazon: Suspends shipment of retail products to Russia
Papa Johns: Ceases all Business in Russia
McDonalds: Closes all stores in Russia
Shell: Stops purchase of Russian oil and natural gas
The response to the Ukraine invasion from tech companies has been astronomical. With that being said, more should be done. Tech companies have used different formalities to boycott their usage in Russian territory which are creating big impacts for their country.
For information on how you can help in supporting those who have been forced to flee their homes because of the invasion, please visit the Government website.
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