Ukrainian business continues to show support for Euromaidan. Some IT specialists have put up their own tent on Kyiv’s Independence Square on the initiative of Yurii Chaika, founder of the MoneXy payment system. “Let us pitch an IT tent on the Maidan – we will thus have a place to come together and get warm,” he wrote in his Facebook page on December 12.
The tent was out up the very next evening. The IT tent houses 10 up-to-date tablets hooked with the Internet and some IT volunteers who help and advise Euromaidan protesters, for example, on cell phone maintenance, social networking sites and email account opening, and Web connections. The initiators also have a Facebook page, where one can read the news and come to know about the IT tent’s requirements.
The Day has visited the IT tent and spoken to its main coordinator Maksym PLAKHTII, founder of Front Manager:
“At first we just wanted to furnish people with basic necessities, such as free cell phone recharging and access to Wi-Fi. It is a mobile Internet cafe of sorts, where you can take a cup of tea, warm yourself, and visit the Web. The other objective was to offer any IT consultation. Many people on the Maidan have problems with cell phones, so they can come to us for some advice. Many people are also coming to ask to adjust their computer.
“We are now drawing up a list of IT volunteers who can offer any help on the Maidan. For example, we are forming small teams of system administrators.
“There is also another interesting initiative that came up a bit later. People visit our Facebook page and come to the tent, suggesting all kinds of ideas. So we decided to find out what IT people can help the public with. For example, an individual came to us. He said he was a physics teacher, had a good schoolbook, and asked us help him make it interactive. And we began to work on this small project. It is quite possible that somebody will do this as his or her student project.
“In general, speaking about the way we gathered, it is a unique thing. People rallied together on their own, without trade union, without a command ‘from the top.’ Twenty four hours after we had hit upon the idea, we had everything prepared – we found the money, the tent and the equipment, and printed leaflets. You know, IT people are used to doing things very fast, but this is the fastest startup in my lifetime.”
How did you find the equipment for your IT tent?
“IT managers gave a certain amount, and we bought 10 tablets. Incidentally, we were given a good discount for the purchases. And in the case of Wi-Fi connection, some people just came and fixed it. They did not even reveal their names. A guy just came, set up the equipment, and went. And he didn’t ask for any money.”
How many volunteers are working now in the tent?
“About a hundred. They have a duty schedule. All the volunteers are IT specialists. We do not accept non-IT people. Moreover, it is very easy to check whether or not one is an IT person.”
How many people have already turned to you for help?
“More than a hundred. I mean those who needed some concrete help. And there were much more of those who came to have a cell charged or to visit the Internet. Sometimes about 50 people were in the tent at a time, but, on the average, there are 10 to 20 in here. We also keep two units always open for journalists.”
What are your personal impressions of Euromaidan?
“IT people are modern-minded. Ours is a very democratic community. We work in an information space that has no boundaries. For this reason, we naturally support Ukraine’s integration into Europe.
“We have coined such a term as ‘IT-cracy.’ The approach was as follows: if we have 10 ‘like’ mouse clicks, we’ll elect a coordinator, if there are 500 ‘likes,’ we’ll put up a tent. We are now converting concrete like options into concrete – unbiased and personalized – decisions. We can also draw up, for example, ‘like’-based budget distribution programs. In other words, decisions are made by society, not by just one person. This IT-cracy is a new information society. It is very important.
“In general, protest rallies were organized owing to IT. We can see superfast communications, when people read and relay the news by cell phones and the Internet. All this is possible because IT is integrated into society, which we can clearly see. And the Maidan has further integrated IT. Look: an old man from Volyn, about 70, came to us yesterday. He brought over his smart phone and asked how he could watch the news. So even the people who have not used the Web before wish to learn how to do this.”
Are you planning any projects as part of the IT tent arrangement? How long do you intend to stay here?
“The IT tent will exist as long as Euromaidan will do. And initiatives come up in the course of events. We can see that the situation in society and the state is changing very fast. We are so far not planning to organize something special. We have done what we are supposed to – we came to help people. A million people have taken to the streets, and they need IT support.”