Andrei Kirilenko: The Ukrainian IT industry had consistently grown in economic size, expertise, and importance irrespective of the revolutions, crises and wars


 One of the world's first computers Small Electronic Computing Machine was built in Feofaniya, near Kyiv 
Andrei Kirilenko, Professor of Finance at University of Cambridge, shares the story of creating Awesome Digital Ukraine.
 
 
 

After getting my PhD in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. I joined the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC. I spent twelve years doing my bit helping countries around the world get out of crises, mostly of a financial nature. When the global financial crisis hit the US, I joined the US government and helped there as well. During this time, I noticed that in countries with vibrant financial markets, people had much better opportunities to get educated, start new companies, buy homes, and live well into old age. So, the big question for me was why financial markets work in some countries, but not in others.

 

 

To go about this scientifically, I left the crisis fighting to others and in 2012 went back to academia. But late in 2013, crisis came back to Ukraine with a vengeance. This time people died trying to do what I was lucky to have managed a couple of decades earlier - leave the Soviet past behind in pursuit of something better. So, I went back and studied Ukraine again. To me the economic path of Ukraine looked like the paths of so many stuck in limbo countries that I’d seen around the world. One IMF program after another, one lackluster government after another, one boom and bust after another. By then I I’ve also realized that there is no evolutionary way out of a bad economic predicament. The past keeps pulling you back. There is only one way out – to rise to the challenge and make a bold move.

 

 

Initially, I wanted to write a book about the economic history of independent Ukraine, so that someone in the future could read it and help the country make the bold move it needs. Like the famously important and equally famously boring book about the monetary history of the United States after the Great Depression. But, I realized that I have neither the expertise nor the talent to write such a book.

Yet, as I was researching the economic performance of Ukraine over the last 25 years, I kept noticing the same thing over and over again. Ukraine did not have a vibrant financial market, but it had a very vibrant information technology (IT) industry. In fact, the Ukrainian IT industry had consistently grown in economic size, expertise, and importance irrespective of the revolutions, crises and even wars happening around it. It had quickly become globally integrated, sophisticated, and very competitive. It developed in many cities around the country simultaneously, not just in one dominant cluster. It has been gathering strength for all these years.
 

 

So, I studied it some more and learned incredibly interesting things. With the help of Tetyana Tyschyuk from the Kyiv School of Economics, we organized these ‘interesting things’ in the Awesome format developed by Dana Pavlychko and her team at Osnovy. Hope you find them as interesting as we do. I certainly believe that people who have contributed so much to global civilization in the digital realm can rise to the challenges, take bold actions, and find ways to prosper and live well. In fact, I am now certain of it!
 
 
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