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How Ukraine is using tech to fight back

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Ukraine // Illustration by Kate Walker

How Ukraine using tech to fight back

The Future. As the Russian invasion carries on, Ukrainians are turning toward privacy-focused and offline-capable apps to communicate and move throughout the country, while the government has adopted cryptocurrencies to fund the defense effort… showing how Silicon Valley may be inadvertently creating the new tools for wartime survival.

21st century comms
Ukrainians are recruiting apps for the fight against Russia.

  • The top ten apps in the country’s iOS App Store include Signal, Telegram, Twitter, offline messaging apps Bridgefy and Zello, WhatsApp, offline map tool Map.Me, and Starlink.
  • To show how monumental the jump in downloads is:
    • Telegram had 54,200 new installs last weekend (iOS and Android combined) — a 25% increase from last month.
    • Bridgefy (which lets users send messages over Bluetooth) saw a download increase of 4,730.8% month-over-month.
    • Streaming radio apps such as Radios Ukraine and Simple Radio are now as high as Facebook on the App Store list.

One app that Ukrainians will probably download less is Google Maps, which disabled live traffic data after open-source investigators used it to track military movements in the country. Google said the decision to disable the feature was to protect civilians.

Additionally, in Russia, which has cut off access to social platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook, VPN apps shot up in downloads. VPNs provide “an encrypted tunnel through which to access the internet.”

Crypto opens its wallet
The government of Ukraine is also turning to cryptocurrencies to help fund the fight. The country’s official Twitter account posted: “Stand with the people of Ukraine. Now accepting cryptocurrency donations. Bitcoin, Ethereum and USDT.” Others in the crypto community have started their own fundraising efforts as well.

As of yesterday, the government-backed Bitcoin wallet received over 7,000 transactions totaling $6.29 million while its Ethereum wallet received over 6,800 transactions totalling $6.27 million. Kyiv-based exchange Kuna is helping the government transfer and cash out the Ethereum transactions.