April 13, 2023
White House Correspondent and Senior National Editor, Gray Television
Digital connectivity and access are indispensable for Ukraine's economic and social progress. With the expansion of digital ecosystems, innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive, and access to services and information can be increased. Additionally, by digitizing government and administrative processes, transparency and good governance can be improved, which can pave the way for more efficient and effective public services.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Ukraine Partnership Forum, leaders discussed how embracing digitization can help Ukraine transform its economy and society, opening up new opportunities for its citizens and businesses.
Ukraine Emerges as an Underdog Tech Powerhouse
When Russia declared war against Ukraine, many around the world feared for the fate of the significantly smaller country. But Ukraine proved to be incredibly resilient and resourceful, especially in the technology sector. According to Oleksandr Bornyakov, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, the IT sector actually grew 7% during the war — the only sector to do so.
Ukraine has also taken significant steps to ensure its businesses were working with the same playbook as American entrepreneurs. Bornyakov shared that tech leaders began introducing new concepts and terminology that would entice Americans to invest in Ukraine, a step which has helped tremendously to fight off a financial crisis.
“We wanted to make Ukraine a destination where any [American], Canadian, or European investor can come and [they] hear familiar things, [and] the playbook which [they] use to invest is the same as in the United States,” explained Bornyakov.
Import-export banks have played a prominent role in facilitating that capital, too.
“EXIM bank wanted to use any financing tools that we had, such as our loans, our guarantees, and our insurance, to be there when the time is right for the support of rebuilding and reconstruction of Ukraine,” said Reta Jo Lewis of Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM).
Top Tech Companies Have Stepped Up to Support Ukraine
Major tech companies stepped up to help support Ukraine, such as Google, Uber, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), a decision that leaders from all three businesses said was easy. The three tech giants all helped Ukranians in unique ways that played to each company’s skill set.
AWS focused on helping Ukrainians have access to educational tools during the war.
“As the war broke out, we worked with one of [Ukraine’s] largest educational institutions, Optima, and we took Optima schools online on the cloud initially with 9,000 students, growing within one month to over 80,000 students,” said Max Peterson from AWS.
Google tackled the spread of misinformation and made sure Ukranians had access to Gmail.
“We saw Ukrainian civil servants whose email accounts were under attack by the Russians,” Ilya Bourtman from Google explained. “Their work email – their government-issued email accounts – stopped working. We saw many of them migrating to their personal Gmail accounts. So we quickly worked with the Ukrainian government to provide 50,000 licenses to our Google Enterprise workspace accounts. So all of them are now working in a fully secure Google-provided enterprise software on the cloud.”
As for Uber’s role, Matthew Devlin explained how the business helped provide jobs and secure transportation for refugees.
“More than 25,000 drivers have been able to maintain a source of earning income for their families during the simultaneous economic challenges that Ukraine is facing,” Devlin said. “We [give] free rides to displaced families, moving them to safety, for doctors, moving them to hospitals, [moving] teachers to schools.”
The company also donated 500 truckloads of emergency supplies and ambulances.
Collaboration Is Needed with the Public and Private Sectors to Rebuild
Moving forward, all panelists agreed that change would be most effective through partnerships with the private sector.
“Being able to support the private sector as [Ukraine] rebuilds is something that is core to AWS's business around the world,” Peterson said. “Startups, enterprises, the public sector — all of them are gonna be key to the rebuilding effort in Ukraine.”
Lewis echoed the sentiment: “We want to work very collaboratively with the private sector, and it is going to be very important as we go forward. We look forward to working with every member of Congress in this effort.”