Ex-Google CEO Says Ukraine Is Proving Computing’s Worth In Wartime

Washington (AFP) – Ukraine has been a highly effective testing ground for the use of contemporary information technology in wartime, from satellite dishes to smartphone apps, Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google, said Monday.

Schmidt, now a US government consultant on artificial intelligence, told reporters after a 36-hour visit to the country that the civilian tech sector was crucial to kyiv’s defense.

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The proof came the day after the invasion of Russian troops on February 24.

After a long deadlock, Ukraine’s legislature has come together to agree on a crucial step to protect all government data from hackers and Russian strikes.

“In one day they had a parliament meeting and changed this law…they moved all their data from the government servers in Kyiv to the cloud,” Schmidt said.

“The war gave everyone a political excuse to do the right thing,” he said.

The second crucial decision came with US tech billionaire Elon Musk’s gift of access to his Starlink satellite broadband system, effectively isolating the Ukrainian public and military from a Russian attack on telecommunications.

Musk and the donors sent some 20,000 ground terminals with small satellite dishes that enabled daily transmissions and helped fighters target the data. This blocked a key objective of the Russian attackers.

“Elon Musk is truly a hero here,” Schmidt said. “This allowed the opposition’s Internet shutdown strategy to fail. »

Field intelligence from citizen applications

Two apps, meanwhile, directly engaged citizens, Schmidt said.

A feature called “E-Enemy” was added to the popular Diia app used for government services that allowed people to report things such as bombing damage or sightings of Russian troops.

And an encrypted Swiss chat service called Threema allowed users to send such data to the military without exposing their identity.

The military would receive thousands of such reports every day, Schmidt said, and filter them with artificial intelligence programs.

“They would reduce them to targets using computer intelligence and human intelligence and eventually go after them,” he said.

“So if you think about it, here’s what they had: they had an internet that stayed up, they had their government data protected,” and a way for citizens to give them intelligence information, he said. he declares.

Ukraine, long an incubator for programming as well as illegal hacking skills, has a deep IT workforce that has been able to launch cyberattacks against Russia, breaking into their communications.

The country has also skillfully used biometrics and facial recognition techniques to identify Russian troops involved in atrocities, such as the Bucha massacre early in the war.

Also, Ukrainian programmers have been adept at making drones useful in warfare.

“I can just say that based on my small amount of data, the Ukrainian tech industry has really contributed to the front,” Schmidt said.

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