Many global citizens are opting to fight for Ukrainians using digital means. Instead of going through aid organisations, people are funnelling money to Ukrainians through digital platforms. More than 61,000 nights were booked in Ukraine using Airbnb over the course of 48 hours. Guests are using this as a means to donate directly to owners, and as a way of expressing solidarity with besieged citizens. Similarly, on Etsy, users are buying digital products from artisans to send money to Ukrainians. It should be noted though that critics argue that these two kinds of donations are not going to those most in need. Those receiving the money are typically richer and living in urban areas. People wanting to help are also turning to ride-sharing apps such as BlaBlaCar and Uber to help transport refugees. According to a Ukrainian cyber security official, more than 400,000 people from around the world have volunteered to disrupt Russian web services. They seek to use digital means to target Russian government and military entities.
Why is it important
This speaks to a broader shift away from governmental and non-governmental organisations towards platforms and direct interventions during a time of crisis. “People are much more motivated when they know who is getting the money, that they’re getting all of it,” said Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business whose research focuses on the sharing economy. People are drawn to this transparency. It’s a way to personalise donating and it’s hoped these innovations could be extended and scaled up to support citizens in places like Syria and Yemen, whose conflicts are arguably neglected by people in the West. In terms of disruption, hackers are able to use their expertise to remotely influence the outcomes of the war.
What can businesses do about it?
This is the first time there has been widespread outreach to citizens of a country at war to offer direct aid. Aside from businesses imposing sanctions on Russia, they could find creative ways to offer assistance in this war effort. If they’re operating in nearby countries, they could offer refugees free use of facilities or services. Brands could donate a percentage of sales to
Ukrainian businesses to bolster the financial impact that this war is having on their livelihoods. One way of doing this would be through cryptocurrencies as the Ukrainian government itself has done. Posting appeals on social media for donations, Kyiv raised cryptocurrency worth almost $13 million in a weekend, supplying digital wallet addresses on Twitter to facilitate transactions. Companies could also encourage staff to donate directly to Ukrainian citizens using platforms such as Airbnb and Etsy.
By Faeeza Khan
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Image credit: Alex Ware