In December 2023, I made my first trip to Ukraine since Russia’s full scale invasion of the country in February 2022. It was, for all intents and purposes, a recce.
It is hard to even begin to think about participating in Ukraine’s fight for freedom, without first understanding the context. There was no better way to do this than going there for myself.
Spending time with Ukrainians working on winning the war, protecting human life, their unique culture and vibrant economy, provided a vital introduction. It also led me to the conclusion that Ukraine is most certainly open for business. Globally, the tech sector needs to be more open to doing business in Ukraine. It is after all defending our freedoms, our way of life and our economies.
Nurturing digital opportunities for success
Ukraine is a country at war but it is also a country that is creating the conditions for success. Not only on the battlefield, but in businesses and institutions as well. Before my visit to Ukraine, I anticipated a need for pro bono strategies that tackle urgent and non-funded causes in Ukraine. Whilst there is certainly room for this, Ukraine is also in need of well structured and reliable business.
Whilst funding streams are understandably atypical at this time, this phase of the war requires a more long term approach, with more secure and committed partners. Digital technology companies should be front and centre of those discussions.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, regular UK tech businesses such as Infinite Lambda can do business in a war zone. They can greatly contribute in Ukraine, through both business and philanthropic mechanisms. If you are reading this out of interest, but perhaps not with serious consideration for your own business involvement in Ukraine, then please reconsider that thought.
The case for security when doing business in Ukraine
One factor overwhelms the discussions in the tech sector with regards to doing business in Ukraine. That is, of course, the security threat. However, like all risks, it can be managed.
Ukraine has created the conditions for businesses to succeed in a non-permissive environment. Particularly for tech companies. Innovative technologies, such as the air alert apps, support citizens in a way that facilitates as close to “business as usual” as possible.
Businesses with personnel who have the experience to enter these environments should be facilitated to do so. “Cornerstone” entrants can facilitate the proliferation of the global technology business community to support Ukraine now and in the long term.
How tech companies can support Ukraine in the long run
The recommendations below place an emphasis on technology companies and national governments of NATO member states working in lockstep:
- Expand international collaboration: Encourage global technology businesses to collaborate with Ukrainian organisations. This could include partnerships with government-backed groups like the Ukrainian Startup Fund (USF) and UNITED24 for targeted assistance and strategic focus.
- Establish on-ground presence: Promote the establishment of physical entities within Ukraine by leveraging local incentives and digital frameworks, such as those offered by Diia.City. This recommendation is especially relevant for organisations seeking to provide direct support and integrate closely with local initiatives.
- Adapt services to war context: Tailor technology services and products to meet the unique challenges posed by the war environment, focusing on collaborations that directly or indirectly bolster the war effort and contribute to Ukraine’s resilience.
- Facilitate pathways for involvement: Act as facilitators for international entities looking to engage in Ukraine, especially those unfamiliar with the local context. This involves providing guidance on entry strategies, local partnerships and compliance with Ukrainian laws and regulations.
- Promote awareness and urgency: Use various communication channels to highlight the critical need for international involvement in Ukraine. This entails educating potential global partners about the situation in Ukraine and the importance of their contributions. There is a tragic reality that winning a war is largely a branding exercise.
- Leverage technology and innovation: Encourage the sharing of expertise in high-skill areas like data analysis, AI, MedTech, cybersecurity, robotics and climate technology. This approach can help support Ukraine’s ambitions to be a leading digital nation and rebuild its infrastructure.
- Support Ukraine’s digital transformation: Acknowledge and support initiatives like the Diia app and other digital innovations that have emerged during the war. This can involve providing technical assistance, funding, or expertise to enhance these platforms. Educational programmes are the most sustainable way of doing this.
- Focus on sustainable, long-term partnerships: Advocate for long-term commitments rather than short-term aid, ensuring that support provided is sustainable and aligned with Ukraine’s long-term goals and recovery plans. Consult UNITED24 and other government backed initiatives for guidance on priorities.
- Advocate for governmental support: Urge NATO member states to play a proactive role in supporting the country by supporting business activity in Ukraine. By enabling and encouraging private enterprise, Ukraine can maintain its knowledge economy and vastly reduce the cost and effort of rebuilding.
- Define and offer pro bono support: Establish clear criteria for pro bono assistance that is separate from regular business or organisational operations. This includes identifying specific needs where such support can make a significant impact. EU and US funding is fragile and there are large gaps in specific areas of need.
Endurance events require a special kind of character. As Ukraine moves into a difficult and prolonged period of the war, it needs international technology leaders with the values, resilience and vision to fight this horrific war. Many of these leaders have companies with more resources than nations. However, smaller businesses can play a significant role too. In 2024, they need to make Ukraine part of their growth strategy.
If you are looking to partner with leading organisations to do business in Ukraine and deliver tangible impact, get in touch now.
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