The past few years have been a roller coaster of global instability. While the pandemic is slowly dying down, the Russian-Ukrainian war is scaling up. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has started the largest war in Europe since World War II, and as a result, we are seeing disruptions across global markets affecting the price of food, energy, and other commodities.
It is no great secret that wars drive rapid change. But unlike many other previous wars, this one is taking a big toll on the global technology landscape. For large tech companies like Google, Apple, and Twitter, it has been a challenging few months trying to stay out of the Russia–Ukraine conflict and avoid violating sanctions. Many platforms like TikTok and Facebook have been banned from Russia, and with that, a lot of questions have arisen about the ongoing effects of the war on the world of technology and the Internet.
Ukraine is a global leader in IT — in 2020 the value of its tech industry exceeded US$5b, 20% above that of 2019. Highly respected around the world, Ukrainian software engineers have founded or co-founded large companies like PayPal, WhatsApp, Grammarly, and open-source coding platform GitLab. With little to no preparation for such an event, the ongoing impact could span decades, especially for technology personnel within Ukraine.
Tech companies responded rapidly to the war in a range of ways. Wix and Fiverr started to relocate employees from their offices in Ukraine before the Russian attack began. Other companies responded by paying full salaries to employees who joined the Ukrainian armed forces, or transferring bonuses ahead of time. Lemon.io set up a safe house in Western Ukraine to help protect employees who might need accommodation or operational assistance in the case of a loss of Internet and phone access. Internet access in Ukraine has already been badly harmed as a result of the Russian invasion, notably in the country’s southern and eastern regions, and Elon Musk’s Starlink has been providing emergency Internet access via its satellite network.
Within days of the invasion, large multinational tech companies implemented sanctions on Russia. Facebook and Google banned Russian state media from running ads or monetizing content, while Apple Pay suspended its service in Russia completely. With such sanctions put in place, tech companies are hoping to end the conflict sooner by fully isolating Russia from the world. In addition, successful international companies with a large Russian presence have gone into panic mode fearing the sanctions, and with emergency meetings in place, some have begun relocating their headquarters from Russia to Europe and the U.S.
For tech workers themselves, there seems to be an appetite for banding together and helping their countrymen, with some organizing donation drives and supporting their peers who join the armed forces. Global tech freelancing platforms have rallied to support both Ukrainian freelancers who are losing livelihoods, and provided ways for freelancers outside the Ukraine to help tech workers in the country.
As for individuals, some ways to lend a helping hand to Ukraine include expressing support on social media, amplifying initiatives, and verifying information before sharing controversial articles.