Ukraine’s vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov received a standing ovation at the Web Summit on Thursday following a plea for help for his nation’s war effort to an audience made up of many of the world’s technology leaders.
“This war is completely different from any that has ever existed,” said Mr Fedorov, who, aged 31, is also Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation. “It is the most technologically advanced [war] the world has ever seen.”
A new generation is defending Ukraine, he said, one which is technologically savvy, something, he said, was evidenced by the fact that so much war footage is being posted by them on TikTok and Instagram.
The fact that this is a technology war was also seen, he said, by the fact that when he asked commanders on the front line what they needed most, they said a 3D printer.
This was so they could continue to create new drones that have been crucial to the war.
The day had started well for the strong Ukrainian delegation, which also featured the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, who spoke on the opening night, with Microsoft pledging additional financial support for Ukraine.
“We have seen a digital alliance of countries and companies and non-profit standing together to support Ukraine,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith, sitting beside Mr Fedorov at a packed press conference
“As we look to 2023, this digital alliance needs to stand strong, and that’s why we at Microsoft are now bringing out total commitment to support Ukraine to more than $400 million [€410 million],” said Mr Smith.
The fresh $100 million in Microsoft support announced at the summit will flow to non-profit organisations, companies and international bodies that are monitoring and documenting war crimes, Smith said.
Mr Fedorov said artificial intelligence was an important technology in the war and was being used to identify war criminals from online images and videos.
He heralded the importance of the Starlink satellites, provided by Elon Musk, which allow for critical internet coverage.
He said he was not worried about Mr Musk stopping Ukraine’s Starlink connection, even though the billionaire appeared to publicly suggest he might do so in the media recently.
Meanwhile, Web Summit chief executive Paddy Cosgrave, in a separate press conference, said Portugal was fast becoming “the California of Europe” – while Dublin, where Web Summit has its head office, was forcing entrepreneurs out.
“At a certain point, Dublin was one of the lowest-cost cities in Europe to live in; now it is the single most expensive city in the entire history of the euro zone,” Cosgrave claimed.
“Unfortunately, most of the Irish-founded start-ups – I think it is a ratio of about three to one – are being built outside of Ireland,” he added. “Sometimes I think that’s fantastic, and other times I lament the fact that many of our most talented entrepreneurs feel compelled to leave Ireland.”
Cosgrave said there had been “incredible numbers” of delegates at the summit this year and while the venue was stretched, it would remain in Lisbon until 2028, and possibly beyond.
Andy Brown, chief executive of sustainable energy company Galp and a former Shell executive, told the event that gas supplies in Europe were vulnerable. “We have to be concerned about energy infrastructure going into this winter and particularly when it gets very cold,” he said.
“This is a vulnerable infrastructure – 100 BCM [billion cubic metres] of gas comes from Norway into the UK and continental Europe. If you take [out] that capacity, then I think there is real distress in the European gas markets.”
Brown said the transition to renewable energy needed to happen at least 11 times more quickly if climate disaster was to be avoided, adding that the most promising of all the non-fossil fuel energy types was hydrogen, which is set to transform the aviation industry in particular.