How Ukraine and U.S. tech firms build for the future
Ukrainian officials, both in and out of government, rely on U.S. technology to defend their country and rebuild from Russia’s ruthless attacks. U.S. businesses that specialize in artificial intelligence and satellite imagery are among many tech firms that began partnering with Ukraine shortly after Russia launched its full-scale February 2022 invasion. Since then, U.S. tech firms have contributed “tens of millions of dollars” in humanitarian and in-kind aid while leveraging their expertise to support Ukraine, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center said. Some U.S. firms have donated their technology to the Ukrainian government while others provided it free to the media. Here are a few examples.
Telling the story
Shortly after Russia’s 2022 invasion began, Maxar Technologies, of Westminster, Colorado, captured satellite imagery of a 64-kilometer convoy of Russian vehicles heading to Kyiv. Over the past year, Maxar said it provided imagery of more than 200 news events to journalists around the world. By doing so, the company said it helped to “tell a more accurate story of the war” and combat disinformation.
Maxar’s information has included:
- Satellite images that disproved Russia’s claims that killings in Bucha were staged.
- Damage to Ukraine’s agricultural output caused by Russia’s war.
- Images of schools and apartments that Russia bombed in Bakhmut.
- Flooding in cities along the Dnieper River after the Kakhovka Dam collapse.
Recording building damage
Scale AI, based in San Francisco, began collecting images in March 2022 of Ukrainian cities targeted by bombing.
Drawing on information from commercial satellite imagery, Scale AI was able to set up a system that automatically detected new damage to individual buildings. The company gave its datasets free to authorities in Ukraine.
The company’s daily updates of building damage allowed humanitarian and medical emergency response teams to assist areas with the greatest needs.
The company said it provides AI-ready datasets directly to partners in Ukraine because the company believes “in using AI in support of democratic values.”
Prosecuting war crimes
Investigators reviewing evidence of potential war crimes have a trove of data. Palantir Technologies, headquartered in Denver, is working with the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine to help catalog and manage the various sources of information.
The company said its software will help investigators “share, integrate, and process all key data” pertaining to nearly 80,000 war crimes Russia has potentially committed in Ukraine. This includes killing, destruction and rapes in Bucha, Irpin, Izium, the Kharkiv region and elsewhere.
The software collects data from satellite images, intelligence and other sources, including photos Ukrainians and others have uploaded on social media. Analyzing this amount of evidence would be “virtually impossible without modern IT solutions,” Andriy Kostin, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said in a Palantir statement.
Maintaining food security
Planet Labs of San Francisco and NASA Harvest (a consortium of researchers studying food security) have worked with Ukraine’s agriculture ministry since February 2022 to analyze the nation’s farmland. Ukrainian officials can use satellite data to monitor the harvest, predict crop yields and detect nitrogen content.
In April, Ukrainian First Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Taras Vysotskyi hailed the cooperation of the Ukrainian ministry with NASA Harvest. Vysotskyi said working together “improves the ability to estimate Ukraine’s agricultural production in time of war.” Planet Labs also provides satellite imagery to humanitarian agencies working on evacuation of residents, mine removal and building damage assessment.
Disrupting disinformation, cyberattacks
Other early examples of U.S. technical support to Ukraine include:
- Google blocked YouTube channels connected to Russian state media, such as RT and Sputnik, across Europe.
- Facebook restricted access to RT and Sputnik across the European Union and the United Kingdom.
- Microsoft, Amazon and Google all partnered with Ukrainian IT organizations to fend off cyberattacks.
In 2022, the government of Ukraine awarded Google, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services “peace prizes.” The prizes came from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for these companies’ efforts in providing critical technology support.