The Washington Post: Instead of consumer software, Ukraine’s tech workers build apps of war

Developers are making apps, bots and online tools for front-line combat and life under siege. One app allows Ukrainians to report Russian troop movements to the military.

In peacetime, the programmers of Ukraine’s tech scene crafted the consumer software that powered homegrown start-ups and some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names.

Now, they build apps of war — an unprecedented digital infrastructure designed for both front-line combat and the realities of life under siege.

There are glossy online tools for rallying anti-Kremlin protests and documenting war crimes. There are apps for coordinating supply deliveries, finding evacuation routes and contributing to cyberattacks against Russian military websites.

There’s even an app people can use to report the movements of Russian troops, sending location-tagged videos directly to Ukrainian intelligence. The country’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, told The Washington Post they’re getting tens of thousands of reports a day.

Ukrainians have skillfully used social media to neutralize propaganda in Russia, rally spirits at home and mobilize antiwar sentiment around the world.

But the apps show how the invaded country has weaponized the Internet’s power in a subtler way, expanding the reach of strained civilian resources and crowdsourcing the nation’s urban defense.

The displaced Ukrainians who built the apps said they’re realistic about the impact they’ll have in a devastating war. But they said they are pouring their lives into the tools on the chance they could help stop the carnage, working even as they stock up on body armor, uproot their families and dig in for the battles ahead.

The developers say Ukraine was primed for this kind of resistance. Boosted by project-outsourcing budgets from the West, the country’s tech sector has become a digital juggernaut, with thousands working for homegrown start-ups and American tech giants including Google, Oracle, Snap and Amazon’s Ring.

Many of the software designers, engineers and hackers who called Ukraine home have seen their traditional work disrupted and been thrown into lives of uncertainty, fear and national pride. Nearly all of them still have functioning Internet.

Read more via The Washington Post

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