Interview: Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Innovation – crypto amid the war


The cryptocurrency space is full of interesting projects. The below is one that I found particularly captivating – the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Innovation.

At the onset of the tragic war in Ukraine, headlines were made when the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, and Minister of Digital Transformation, put out the below appeal on Twitter.

In a worldwide show of support, millions of dollars soon began flowing into the account. It was an innovative move from Ukraine, a symbol of their strength, and it was heart-warming to see the crypto community come behind them.

We had the chance this week to interview Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Innovation on what exactly the department does, how crypto can help Ukraine amid the ongoing heartbreak, and what future plans Ukraine has for crypto. We also discuss the enduring longevity of the blockchain, and how it can be sued to preserve anything, preventing efforts to erase important events from our history books.

It accompanies a corresponding interview we did with the NFT Museum of War, an NFT museum launched to “preserve the statehood and history of Ukraine”. The Museum chronicles all events of the war, stamped on the blockchain forever. (IZ): What kind of work are you doing?

Valeriia Panina, Invited Expert at Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Innovation (VP): The Ministry of Digital Transformation (DT) was the first informational partner at government-level (now the Ministry of Culture also supports it). Myself, I share two roles here in the project. Firstly, as an invited expert (I’m not a government official) at the Virtual Assets office of DT – I was its first medium with the government – and, secondly, as a core team member of the Museum. As an individual, I’m coordinating with partners regarding areas like development, cybersecurity, design, etc.

IZ: Do you think this work can have a positive impact for Ukraine in the wake of the war?

VP: It has already had a huge impact, and it will have a long-lasting one, too.

Speaking of the status quo, the Museum has already not only raised $800k+, but it has also helped to spread the word among other communities, thus helping to raise awareness. It’s the first part of its mission. Speaking from the future, it will help to preserve the events as is.

It’s no secret that Russians have deliberately been making their best efforts to erase Ukrainian culture, language, history – every Ukrainian thing – for centuries. You can find official proof of that. Ironically, the Valuev Circular of 1863 – one such example – has never been officially called off. Ems Ukaz, Executed Renaissance, and even now in 2022 you can find proof that they are erasing every mention of Ukraine in their history books.

So, one can burn documents and overwrite school books, but no one can change anything in a distributed ledger. And the fact that the Museum is a large collective creation (it’s an umbrella project for a good dozen top partners and hundreds of Ukrainian artists) will give our descendants the necessary proof to see that these are the real events, which we went through as Ukrainians.

IZ: Ukraine’s appeal for crypto donations made a lot of news last month – do you think this avenue has any advantages over traditional (fiat) donations?

VP: Every single kopiika (a 1/100 fraction of a Ukrainian currency) counts, no matter where. The most important thing with different options to donate – be it crypto, fiat, SWIFT, PayPal, Revolut, you name it – is that the more options to donate, the higher the chance of raising more money.  So, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect donation type. Every single kopiika, cent, and penny will make a difference.

But, especially with crypto, there are more ideas to consider. First, crypto is essentially a community-charged phenomenon. That’s why every single transaction not only adds up, but also shows community support, and proves Vitalik’s brilliant tweet: “tech is neutral but people are not”.

Last but not least, if the recipient – say, an entity for which the crypto fund is buying hospital supplies – accepts crypto, it accelerates the speed of transaction, i.e. the speed of lives saved, tremendously.

IZ: Do you have any other plans to innovate within the digital asset space?

VP: The North Star of the Ministry is to make Ukraine a top blockchain hub and one of the best crypto jurisdictions in the world. The goal of my department at the office, as an invited expert, is education; that half of Ukrainians will be crypto literate by 2024.

That’s why, in part, the Ministry supported this initiative so quickly and unanimously, as soon as the idea of the Museum arose (as a member of many NFT communities, I watched and joined the project in its very early days, or even hours, and immediately introduced it to the office)

IZ: What do you think the future holds for cryptocurrency? Do you think more countries will follow El Salvador’s lead and declare Bitcoin legal tender?

VP: Crypto, and blockchain technology at large, are game-changers. One of the underlying features of such a new space, powered by this tech, is transparency and ownership. It means that users no longer need to blindly trust authorities, but instead they can check whatever they want.

And they can really own their digital assets (on the flip side, no one will be able to help them to redeem them if lost, but that is the price to pay). This switch – when people will refuse to blindly trust things which they are told and will instead demand more ownership of their assets – is inevitable.

And I think that those countries that adapt to this new reality as much as they can – provided that a country is basically a centralised institute (a challenge to solve, by the way) – will have a bright future. And I’m extremely happy that our Ukraine chose this path (here we speak about non-custodial services, of course).

Also, when Ukraine establishes the jurisdiction (as a crypto hub), it will play a huge part in rebuilding the economy.

IZ: Has the war changed your view of what benefits cryptocurrency can provide?

VP: For me, it proved the value of crypto that I used to think it had. For example, in order to transfer funds to my Mum, who is a refugee in the UK now, all I had was to pass her a string of 12 words. And I know 100% that this money is hers now, and no entity can block it. Let alone the swiftness of crypto transactions between different parties that I mentioned before.

And more people saw it, too.

Unfortunately, the price was incomparably high.

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