It’s been more than a month now since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. An estimated 3.9m people have left the country, while an estimated 6.5m people have been displaced within Ukraine. As soon as the attack became apparent on the 24th of February, many tech initiatives from various organizations and individuals emerged, from NGOs to startups to simple social media groups, which focused and dedicated their efforts and actions not only to facilitating the outflow of refugees, but also to provide direct solutions for sheltering, accommodation and jobs, and also give the ability to communicate with their loved ones.
Tech to the Rescue is a Poland-based organization that matches NGOs with IT companies in order to digitize their infrastructure so they can better coordinate humanitarian aid. Since the invasion began, the foundation shifted all its focus on the needs of the Ukrainian refugees, in order to develop digital solutions that aim to overcome the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis, in areas such as resource distribution, and secure messaging.
RemoteUkraine is an initiative that aims to put Ukraine’s highly skilled workforce to good use, and it encourages businesses to post job listings that can be filled directly for refugees.
Techfugees is a company that provides digital skills training and access to work opportunities to displaced people since 2018, by orchestrating inclusion programs. When the war in Ukraine started, they launched 30 action groups for European countries across WhatsApp and Slack, in which important information regarding safe routes and supplies was shared with displaced people and those stuck in Ukraine.
The We Help Ukraine platform, which was founded by a diverse group of organizations from tech companies to charities to ad agencies, helps displaced Ukrainians find financial, medical, and psychological support, acquire refugee status, find jobs and take local language classes.
Commerce4good, a charity founded by the teams of startups Viceroy Group and Popup, has established a network of suppliers and on-the-ground volunteers in Ukraine to provide essential needs quickly — things like food for the elderly, radio equipment to civilians, and fabrics to producers.
There are also many initiatives that provide housing support, such as EU4UA, which was formed by the co-founders of Paris-based HRTech startup Jobgether as a platform that matches refugees with people who can offer shelter.
Those are just very few of the examples of various organizations and digital platforms that have focused their resources on the aid of refugees from Ukraine, but there are also many, many initiatives from individuals. From the first day of the war, at least 100.000 people signed up to various groups on Facebook and other social media platforms, offering their homes, money, and carpools to Ukrainians escaping the Russian invasion, and many more followed, such as the Facebook “Support group for Ukrainian Refugees and Breeders” which counts more than 47,000 members and “Accommodation, Help & Shelter for Ukraine” with 85 thousand, among countless others. Last but not least, we should not forget the infrastructure that was established by governments all over Europe in order to accommodate the Ukrainian refugees and aid any individual or organization that wishes to offer anything that could help. For example, The Ministry of Migration & Asylum in Greece created a specialized website, which includes an interest form that can be filled out digitally by any individual, private or public institution, or NGO who wishes to contribute in any way possible to the relief of the Ukrainian refugees and war victims, by providing clothing, accommodation, basic necessity items and even services such as psychological support, translators and interpreters, etc., and following the examples of countries such as Poland, for Ukrainian refugees who have already arrived in Greece or are on their way there, there is a digital platform in both English and Ukrainian, where they can look for various jobs uploaded by businesses and can apply for jobs there.
For most people around the world, this war, this latest tragedy that hit this part of Europe, especially just as the world was beginning to recover from the 2-year struggle of the Covid 19 outbreak, came as a total surprise. However, if anything, it also caused some equally surprising (and swift) positive reactions, which really proves that something good can come even out of the most horrible situations: it ignited a new level of awareness in the European societies about how a refugee crisis should be handled, among other things, and jump-started the bureaucratic procedures of the measures that have to be taken not only for the safety of the refugees but also for their meaningful inclusion and integration, all of which was greatly facilitated by the effective use of social media and a quick and reactive digital network infrastructure.
This article has been written by George Marandianos from the National Technical University of Athens.