In a surprise appearance at Web Summit, a major tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska asked the tech community for help and support the country during the ongoing invasion by Russia.
“Your chosen profession – your field of expertise – is now a battlefield in Russia’s war against Ukraine,” Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said.
To be clear, she’s not asking specifically for the tech community to send weapons. Rather, she asked for help with technology that saves lives: humanitarian aid, educational assistance, and medical support.
“I believe that technology should be used to create, and to save and help people, not to destroy. I believe that such technology is the future. If it’s not, there simply won’t be a future to look forward to,” Zelenska added.
While Ukraine’s first lady asked for aide for Ukraine, the conference’s co-founder and CEO Paddy Cosgrave took the conference opening session as an opportunity to call out his native country Ireland — originally where Web Summit was held — for what he said was “seeking exemptions for those targeted” by US and EU sanctions on Russian business and political leaders. That allows, Cosgrave says, dark money to operate in Ireland’s hidden banking sectors.
Zelenska was a late-breaking addition to the conference opening and was not announced in advance for security reasons.
While Zelenska’s husband often focuses his international interviews on calls for the world to help strengthen Ukraine’s military, she asked for something a little different: moral support, but also technology assistance in rebuilding Ukraine and meeting its citizens’ needs.
“You are the force that moves the world,” Zelenska said. “You have a potential and technologies that can help, but not destroy. I am certain that, by helping Ukraine, you can move the world in the right direction. So I invite you to do so.”
Zelenska highlighted how technology has been used for destruction, as Russian drones and missiles hit the country’s infrastructure and kill its citizens.
According to recent reports, 40% of all Ukrainian energy infrastructure has been damaged as a result of Russian attacks. According to reports as of October 31, 80% of the residents of Kyiv have no water supply and 350,000 apartments have no power.