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Opinion

Information technology in Ukraine invasion

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

As of January 2021, more than 15 billion cellphones have been sold, and 6.3 billion are smartphones that are currently in use. Since the world population was 7.9 billion in 2021, and some may have more than one phone, 78% of the world’s population have smartphones. Also, as of January 2021, there are 2,224 communication satellites circling the earth, 1.2 million kilometers of undersea cables, and more than five million cell towers. All this information technologies transmit audio, video, and data to everyone who has a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, and a cellphone. The people in the world are now digitally interconnected and this has affected our lives and deaths. The current Russian invasion of Ukraine is a good illustration.

The Ukraine invasion, which is now on its eleventh day, is having real-time coverage that is being beamed to the main and social media and to the rest of the world 24/7. It has been giving lessons in Eastern European history and geography in the shortest time, and the destruction of the Ukrainian cities and people’s lives are daily fare in your phones, computers, TVs, radios, and newspapers. Major media networks are on the ground covering the war and reporting live, with CNN being the most extensive and nearest to the frontlines. There is also an ongoing cyberwar among the protagonists and sympathizers with fake news and propaganda overlapping the factual news. Hacking and hijacking of information is prevalent with Russia restricting their own citizens and their ally’s population from accessing Facebook, Google, and other websites.

This information explosion about the invasion has generated enormous sympathy for the Ukrainians from most of the world. The United Nations censured Russia on a vote of 142 for, five against, and 36 abstentions, even as Russia vetoed a UN Security council resolution. The agony, anguish, and defiance of the Ukrainians are generating sympathy that the US, the EU, and non-aligned countries have poured into Ukraine military and economic aid to help the resistance and alleviate the shelters and evacuations. All the major economically-advanced countries have also imposed economic sanctions on Russia, on Russian corporations, and the Russian oligarchs who are crippling the Russian economy. The ruble has devalued 20% in a week and Russian stocks listed in major stock exchanges have declined by 90%. Russian banks have even been excluded from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications), which makes it very difficult for Russia to transmit/accept payments from the rest of the world. All major athletic and entertainment events to be held in Russia have been cancelled, and Putin has been stripped of his chairmanship of the World Judo Federation. Dissent within Russia is also growing even with the information restriction, that more than 7,000 citizens have been arrested and detained for demonstrating against the invasion.

With their superior military forces, and the restricted military assistance from the NATO and US forces, Russia is gaining ground in the invasion. More economic sanctions, fierce resistance by the Ukrainians, and the sympathy of the world may or may not deter Putin from his objective. But he has lost the information and communication war and this has long-term implications. The EU/NATO alliance and the rest of the democratic world will ensure that this will not happen again by strengthening their military/economic capabilities and alliances.

Historically, technological advances favor democracy rather than autocracy because it provides more information to the people, and that makes governments/leaders more accountable. More information brings out the truth and leads to justice. This is why tyrants and autocrats restrict their people from accessing information. But the rush of the information technology is unstoppable, so the freedom-loving Ukrainians and the rest of the world will eventually win.

WAR

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