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Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine

With Russian bombs raining down on his citizens, on March 14, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said:

“As long as the state is at war, as long as the people are defending themselves, the economy must be preserved and restored. As much as possible in the current difficult conditions.

Life must appear on the streets of the cities. Where security allows. Where people can provide it. Pharmacies, trade, any business that can work. For the country to live. For the restoration of Ukraine to already begin. And it depends on each of us, on each of us who is able to work.

Economic suppression of Ukraine is one of the tasks of the war against us. And we have to fight back from that as well. Save our economy. Save our people.

Therefore, the government has received a clear instruction–to return small and medium-sized businesses. Remove any obstacles. Reduce taxes as much as possible, remove all difficulties, absolutely all. So that the system does not press, so that people know that they can work the way they can. Where they can.”

Subsequently, the Ukrainian government cut taxes on small and medium businesses to a single simple scheme: 2% of sales–and, interestingly, it is voluntary: if a business cannot pay, they will be excused. In addition, excise duty on all imported goods has been cut to zero. 

With industries that deal with physical products being severely affected by the infrastructure challenges, there are high hopes for the third largest sector, tech and IT, to keep going despite the devastation being caused in the country by the Russian invasion. We focused on the impact of the war on a single tech business as a running case study and barometer, talked to their key executives in the country and tracked how their work is being affected as the war progresses. 

We spoke with Sergiy Fitsak, Managing Director of Softjourn in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, and Lyubomyr Nykyforuk, Solutions Architect for Softjourn in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. Their company Softjourn is a global technology services provider and they work in the areas of fintech, cards and media, and entertainment digital products.

The conversation will be shared in the form of short video episodes. The initial episodes are below. Please check back as new episodes will be added over time.

Conversations with Industry Leaders

Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine: In Conversation with Nikama GmbH - Episode 7

April 26, 2022

In Episode 7 of Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Chair, Digital Planet is in conversation with Dr. Mads Kyed, Chairman of the Board, Nikama GmbH. As clients of Ukrainian software developers, Dr. Kyed elaborates on how digital infrastructure in Ukraine has supported business continuity with minimal disruption in Nikama’s software development processes–despite the difficult situation in Ukraine. At the same time, Dr. Kyed also highlights the risks associated with Russia’s invasion including the personal safety of developers in Ukraine, its own business interests, and the impact of war on digital infrastructure. Commending the work ethic and attitudes of the Ukrainian workforce, Dr. Kyed also shares his experience working with software developers in Ukraine who possess unparalleled talent in understanding client needs.

Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine: In Conversation with Languametrics - Episode 6

April 25, 2022

In Episode 6 of Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Chair, Digital Planet, interviews Kenneth Spiegel, the CEO of Languametrics, which is based in Tampa, Florida, and has partnered with Ukrainian software development company VIMAS Technologies. Spiegel explains how Russia’s war against Ukraine has adversely disrupted his company’s business relationships and R&D operations in Ukraine. They discuss how Languametrics and VIMAS Technologies are navigating their deliverables and projects across borders. Learn more from Kenneth about Ukraine’s impeccable talent, dedication, and fortitude that has helped business continuity even amidst a tragic war. 

Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine: In Conversation with VIMAS Technologies - Episode 5

April 22, 2022

This is the fifth episode of Digital Planet’s Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine series. Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at the Fletcher School talks to Andrew Maksakov, President, and Igor Guryanov, Chief Technology Officer, both of VIMAS Technologies, which is based out of Kyiv, Ukraine. Andrew and Igor talk about deciding to stay in Kyiv to keep the company going. In fact, Igor has even moved into the company premises, both to keep his family safe, but also to be able to control the computers and equipment in the aftermath of Russian missile attacks. Andrew and Igor also talk about the resilience of the Ukrainian tech industry and the IT workers, many of whom have already moved back to Kyiv after the Russian troops were ousted. Igor goes on to explain how remote work, as well as good infrastructure over the past two years, has tremendously helped the IT business, which they were able to leverage to ensure uninterrupted services to big customers like Amazon, the British Council, and several US-based Fortune 500 companies. They also emphasize the role played by the Ukrainian IT army, not only in helping citizens stay safe but in also supporting DDOS attacks and targeting Russian digital infrastructure. The IT army has also provided support for building military applications and translated and transcribed online resources to English, in order to get support from the English-speaking world. Andrew and Igor conclude by asking people to continue to do business with Ukrainian tech companies, for both financial and moral reasons.

Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine: In Conversation with Softjourn - Episode 4

April 12, 2022

In this latest episode of Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine, Bhaskar Chakravorti talks with Kateryna (Kate) Ryzha, a Project Manager, and the head of PMO at Softjourn. They discuss the contingency measures that Softjourn had in place to ensure its workers were safe, while still continuing ongoing projects without too many disruptions. Kate also talks about the resiliency of Ukrainians during the trying situation—IT workers continue working to contribute to the Ukrainian economy, in fact, many of them have also begun helping government institutes move their services into the cloud. Kate herself worked as a volunteer in Western Ukraine, trying to secure resources for those who need it. She concludes on a positive note, wishing the war to end soon, and hopes that their experience working in difficult situations together will make them stronger.

Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine: In Conversation with Softjourn - Episode 3

April 06, 2022

In conversation with Sergiy Fitsak and Lyubomyr Nykyforuk of Softjourn, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Chair, Digital Planet raises critical questions about how the Ukrainian government is supporting the tech industry through tax reforms amidst war, the digital public infrastructure and what it will mean to resurrect the digital economy in a post-war Ukraine. Sergiy and Lyubomyr share their experiences in continuing to work from Ukraine, staying connected with loved ones who have fled across the border, and leveraging digital tools to keep their business operations up and running. They see themselves as an “IT army”; tech professionals in Ukraine are participating in a cyber war as well. They are also taking steps to prevent the risks of Russian cyber counter attacks.

Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine: In Conversation with Softjourn - Episode 2

March 23, 2022

Bhaskar Chakravorti speaks with Sergiy Fitsak and Lyubomyr Nykyforuk of Softjourn, a global technology services provider with offices in California, Ukraine, and Poland. They discuss how the tech industry, also called the IT Army, is battling the crisis on the economic end, especially with tech-driven relief processes, and how the world can help them put up a stronger front.

Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine: In Conversation with Softjourn - Episode 1

March 23, 2022

Bhaskar Chakravorti speaks with Sergiy Fitsak and Lyubomyr Nykyforuk of Softjourn, a global technology services provider with offices in California, Ukraine, and Poland. They discuss the changes in the tech industry with the Russian invasion, shedding light on how employees are being supported, what contingency plans are in place with backup technology support, and how the government is supporting them through this crisis.

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