Americans have notoriously short attention spans. After six months of unrelenting war as Russia occupies parts of Ukraine and attacks the rest, Americans seem to want steadily more distance from the war and its casualties.
“Don’t forget about Ukraine,” warned President Volodymyr Zelensky during an interview with CBS way back in April. The sentiment was prescient. Each day the battle continues, our hopes for improving the outcome diminish and worldwide impatience about a protracted battle grows.
About a month ago, I met a vivacious young Ukrainian woman, Inna Kosianets. She’s beautiful, brilliant, and exhilarated about the power of tech to solve real-world problems. By day Kosianets is a Senior VP at an NYC-based investment firm. After hours she and other activists, many of them part of the Ukrainian diaspora, are working feverishly to coordinate a hackathon that they believe can help address some of Ukraine’s most pressing wartime problems. The event is called Kyiv Tech Summit and will run from September 6th to 9th. It will be live. Only local Kyiv residents will be able to attend in person, and the location is undisclosed for safety reasons. The event will also be streamed online. Kyiv Tech Summit’s mission is to engage the local blockchain community, programmers, designers, and innovators as well as others across the globe to build technology that will “make war-time life easier for Ukrainians and the world.”
The hackathon’s focus is on solutions that include:
- Resisting disinformation and information manipulation.
- Supporting access and communication.
- Helping displaced people.
- Collecting donations and coordination of humanitarian aid.
- Reconstruction of the economy of Ukraine.
Learn more about each area of the hackathon.
“Kyiv, and Ukraine, in general, have an enormous amount of tech talent,” Ms. Kosianets reminded me. Recent statistics show that there are about 300,000 IT professionals, about 285,000 of them developers. “The Ukrainian IT sector has shown unprecedented resilience, flexibility, and ability to withstand conditions and keep “coding as usual” during these months of the war,” she added.
I asked Kosianets how tech event programming could possibly continue under the present conditions. “It depends where you are in Ukraine,” she answered, pointing me to this Wall Street Journal article. “One thing is certain – you are not safe anywhere and any city can be shelled by the Russians. No matter if it’s a school, supermarket, residential area, public park,” she added, sadly.
Being in Kyiv now almost feels like normal, she said, except for air sirens going off every now and then and the still-lingering fear of being bombed. “But, if you look at my hometown Kherson,” she continued, “it is now called ‘a place of quiet terror.’” The city has been occupied by Russians from the early days of the war. Life there, Ms. Kosianets reiterated, is miserable. Food and medicine are in short supply, as are other basic supplies. People are being tortured and kidnapped by Russians just for being pro-Ukrainian. She told me about a close friend of hers who was taken from her home on her birthday in May. Her whereabouts are still unknown. Kosianets herself said she just got permission to relocate her family members to the U.S.
The core team behind the Kyiv Tech Summit hackathon is diverse. Four members are Ukrainians. The two other key organizers are from England and the U.S. All either have friends or family still in Ukraine. Other active organizers include Rev Miller of Unchain Fund; CJ Hetherington, a co-founder of the metaverse Atlantis World; Alona Shevchenko a co-founder of Ukraine DAO; Tyler Morrey, co-founder of pieFi; and Nadiia Yakubets, head of communications at Unchain Fund. Links to the team as well as the event’s sponsors can be found on its website.
The organizers report that 140+ hackers have already signed up. Sponsoring organizations include NEAR, Aurora, Celo, Aragon, Consensys Academy, NYM, Aave Grants DAO, ZKX, Coindesk, Incrypted, Cointelegraph, ForkLog, and the Blockchain Association of Ukraine. Organizers are also working with media and documentary filmmakers to document this historic hackathon, which whould cement Ukraine’s potential in the Web3 world. (Netflix and ETH film crews both are planning to film the event!)
Ukraine is Rich in Tech
Ukraine stands 4th among the most educated nations in the world. Over 99.7% of Ukrainians are literate. Today in Ukraine there are 198 universities, 62 academies, 83 institutes, 245 colleges, 97 technical schools, 117 specialized schools, and 1 conservatory. Six Ukrainian universities are listed in the international ranking “QS World University Rankings”. Russia also enjoys a high quality of education, though many studies find Russia falls short in innovation and modernization.
Ukraine also has its fair share of successful startups. Each year Ukrainians patent somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 inventions and ideas. Founders of such companies as PayPal (Max Levchin) and WhatsApp (Jan Koum) were born and raised in Ukraine. Zelensky himself has appeared at events as a hologram, emphasizing the importance of tech in getting out information from Ukraine.
How can we help? Spread the news about The Kyiv Tech Summit. There are still opportunities for sponsorships and collaborations. Partner with them as media or tech partners. Mentor the hackathon entrants. Offer to judge the events. Whatever you can contribute. It all starts with this form. And hackers can still register. The event comes right after Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day August 24th. There’s something appropriate about that.