How Microsoft is helping Ukrainian government and academia with IT amid political and business instability

In October 2014 Nadiya Vasylieva was appointed the new head of Microsoft’s Ukrainian division, while Dmitry Shimkiv, who had served as Microsoft’s Ukraine chief since 2009, joined the presidential administration to carry out reforms.

In an interview with The Kiyv Post and Ukraine Digital News, Ms. Vasylieva commented on the group’s situation in Ukraine, its cooperation with the government and current business prospects.

Protecting government data

Since 2003, when Microsoft opened its office in Ukraine, the company has actively cooperated with the government and with the private sector. Its strategy has not changed since Shimkiv left, with the war in eastern Ukraine and the need for more secure internal infrastructure bringing the government and Microsoft even closer together.

Under the Government Security Program signed in December 2014, Microsoft partners with the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, and the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection.

The Program is only the second of its kind for Microsoft in Europe. Besides data security, it manages communications between state bodies.

Cooperation was extended in early April 2015, when the Interior ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft regarding cooperation in the areas of data protection as well as information and cyber security.

Under these agreements, Vasylieva says, the Ukrainian authorities benefit from a certain level of technical transparency, making sure that the company does not collect any significant information of state importance.

Microsoft is also helping law enforcement officials identify and combat threats to information security. Thus the December 2014 agreement has provided the Ukrainian authorities with access to the Microsoft Security Response Center in the US. This center collects information about cyber attacks worldwide 24/7.

“While we sleep, the USA and Japan work. Other parts of the world are not asleep as well, so if, for instance, an attack is approaching from Vladivostok, we can help by identifying the threat immediately,” Vasylieva says.

Microsoft offers consultations to the employees of Ukraine’s security services on how to manage the flow of security-related information.

Under the April 2015 memorandum, the role of Microsoft is to help build integrated infrastructure within the ministry, Vasylieva underlines.

“The 350,000 employees and the systems they report to internally are disconnected from each other,” she explains. “That’s what we want to help them with – centralize the system, unite the infrastructure, make information closed to third parties and secure within the ministry.”

Microsoft does not provide software, but consults with employees and helps with system integration.

Ms. Vasylieva’s speech drew much attention in October last year at the Kharkiv (Kharkov) International Economic Forum

Helping academia’s digital transition

Microsoft also actively cooperates with Ukrainian universities. So far no fewer than 35,000 students have taken Microsoft IT Academy courses, while the YouthSpark Live program has offered online mentorship to 150 selected young leaders.

According to a survey published last year, the US firm – along with Google – was judged by Ukrainian students the most attractive IT employer, and held the lead in the Business/Commerce and Engineering/Natural Science rankings.

In addition to recruiting fresh tech talents, Microsoft helps several major universities switch from offline to online processing and document storage.

The universities get initial help from Microsoft without charge. When they request advancements and new features for their systems, Microsoft applies fees for the additional work, notes Vasylieva.

The US company is paying special attention to cooperation with the Oleksandr Bohomolets National Medical University in Kyiv. According to Vasylieva, several new solutions will be tested at the university before being made available on the Ukrainian market.

Business in wartime conditions

Under conditions of war, Microsoft’s cooperation with universities has taken unusual forms. When a university in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, had to move its staff and students to Vinnytsia, a quiet city in the center-west of the country, Microsoft helped the school reorganize a number of operations, switching them to online processing and storage.

The war’s impact on the IT industry has been heavy, since it has made business forecasts and investment profitability assessment difficult, Vasylieva adds.

But the war may also have unexpected business consequences. “It is also boosting the development of cloud technologies in the country,” she believes.

Microsoft’s Ukrainian division is aiming to position itself as a service company with a focus on software and cloud applications. It now ranks third after Cisco and HP among public cloud solution providers.

Still, the losses from the war and political instability outweigh the benefits. “Ukraine is not going to lose its IT industry because of the current situation, but greater stability is definitely needed,” Vasylieva concludes.

Interview for The Kiyv Post by Bozhena Sheremeta

Topics: International, People, Policy making, Software, Ukraine-USA
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