Ukraine needs to embrace innovation enthusiastically

KyivPost 2

Key message: Many in Ukraine are still not adapting to the latest technologies. Many of them have potential to transform the way Ukraine governs itself and organizes its society and economy.

Ukraine as a nation is distrustful of innovation, and is afraid of adapting modern technologies to its existing systems.

That was the stark conclusion reached by Evgeni Utkin, the CEO of hi-tech holding KM Core Ukraine, speaking at the Kyiv Post’s Tiger Conference on Dec. 5 during the panel on innovations.

This is the reason why the country has outdated basic services and infrastructure such as railways, roads, and utilities, according to Utkin.

“For 26 years (since independence), we have been trying to build a country with good railways, roads and government services. It is still not a reality though,” he said.

All the same, tech entrepreneur Utkin thinks that many of the new technologies have been already developed abroad and could be easily adapted here to fix this – if Ukraine can overcome its fears.

Dmytro Krepak, Visa country manager for Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia, agreed. He said innovations could make financial operations for Ukrainians easier and speedy, and thus bring in more foreign investment.

“And when investment comes, a country moves further in terms of economic development,” Krepak said.

Entrepreneurial freedom

Krepak believes Ukraine’s tech industry is promising and can compete worldwide. The roll-out of Google’s contactless payment service for smartphones Android Pay in Ukraine – in 15th country where it is available – speaks volumes, according to him.

“It means Ukraine is into innovations today, not lagging behind,” he said.

All the country needs to do to foster the progress, according to the Visa executive, is to unleash people’s hands by giving them more entrepreneurial freedom.

In countries in which economies are free, “if something is not explicitly prohibited, it is allowed,” which brings good results, he said.

“Unfortunately nothing like this works in Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries,” the executive said, adding that it might be connected with the oppressed mentality.

Kyivstar B2B Hub Leader Evgeniy Krazhan, in turn, described innovations as “successful inventions.” But while Kazhan thinks Ukrainians are extremely talented inventors, they still lack the entrepreneurial spirit to become the world’s leading innovators. More freedom can help develop this spirit, Krazhan agrees.

Untouched by tech

Nevertheless, Valery Krasovsky, the CEO of IT consultancy firm Sigma Software, said he believes the Ukrainian information technology ecosystem is full of good products, and software companies that have achieved good results. And given that Ukraine, in parts, hasn’t been using tech solutions at all, IT companies have a good chance to really change what’s going on in the country.

“Ukraine can really easily incorporate innovations, because, in certain areas, there’s nothing at all,” Krasovsky said.

The problem with Ukrainian startups, however, is that the money they earn doesn’t come back to Ukraine, he said. Due to the country’s courts and law enforcement agencies being corrupt, young companies tend to register legal entities abroad.

Government innovation

Ivar Tallo, a former Estonian member of parliament who took part in writing laws to introduce e-governance in the Baltic country, said innovations could help change attitudes to government in Ukraine, as they did in his native Estonia, where all the citizens have electronic ID cards and interact with the government via the internet.

“New technologies allowed us to change society,” Tallo said. He thinks that the more governments computerize their institutions – more transparent and thus closer to people those governments can be.

According to him, the private sector was quicker on the uptake.

“Computers long ago changed people’s workplaces in the private sector. Governments, however, are still trying to use them properly.”

And while this is still happening worldwide, Tallo says, Ukraine has a chance to catch up.

However, Ukraine does not need to do everything by itself, he said.

“It should buy products from countries that create good products; bring in ideas from people abroad. That’s normal.”

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Sigma Software CEO Valery Krasovsky

“One of the best innovations for me is iPhone by Apple. Steve Jobs has changed the world.”

“Nowadays, we use many devices. We use cameras all around, we download smartphone applications. This becomes unsafe. So I think that cybersecurity is the next big thing.”

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Visa country manager for Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia Dmytro Krepak

“There’s a bank that is a symbol of innovations in Ukraine for me. I can’t say its name, but it’s the largest and it’s green. You can like or dislike its previous shareholders, but it is (the most innovative Ukrainian company). Inside the bank there’s a separate IT company. Some solutions they launched in Ukraine had not been anywhere else in the world.” (apparently, he is talking about PrivatBank)

“Non-cashless means transparency. Countries that are dominated by cash are pretty corrupt and its businesses are in the shadows.”

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E-Governance Academy Founder Ivar Tallo

“Innovation does not have to be technology-related, it can be government-related. Technologies can be just a trigger mechanism.”

“Computers changed workplaces in the private sector in the 1980s. But they haven’t changed the way most of the governments operate. It is to happen. And Ukraine has not missed the boat – you are just there. And by trying to create a new image of a government, Ukraine may come up with something brand new, that none of us can envision.”

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Kyivstar B2B Hub Leader Evgeniy Krazhan

“Ukraine has a lot of inventions around that fly to nowhere. But what is the difference between inventions and innovations? Innovations are client-related inventions, something that changes a client’s life. Ukraine just needs to keep on inventing, (keeping that in mind).”

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KM Core CEO Evgeni Utkin

“For 26 years (since independence), we have been trying to build a country with good railways, roads and government services. It is still not a reality, though.”

“The third technological revolution will be not just about devices, e-commerce or marketplaces, it will be more about social dynamics and about people. And new technologies that are to come can be very-very dangerous.”

“If you want to succeed, you need to speak to people who are under 35. They are the future.”

“Ukraine can surprise itself and can surprise the world if it teaches its population to think as free people.”

The Kyiv Post’s IT coverage is sponsored by Ciklum. The content is independent of the donors.

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