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Ukraine Has Potential in Midst of Chaos

But the East-West Divide May Be Insuperable

Ukraine sits on the precipice of civil war. Beneath the ostensible storyline of protests against the government of Viktor Yanukovych and recent laws it's enacted lies what is likely an insuperable rift between the eastern and western regions of the country.

The east, archetyped by Sovietized industrial places such as Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk, leans toward Russia. This is Yanokovych country. Russia's supreme leader Vladimir Putin lurks in the background of any discussion here.

The west, personified by the tech-savvy city of Lviv, feels close to is Western European neighbors and the United States. This is the realm of Viktor Yusschenko, the former president known for being poisoned, disfigured, and almost killed by his political opponents. It's also the side that the intellectual heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko has chosen.

Kiev, the nation's capital and site of the most visible current protests, sits in West geographically but is a city that has also played an important role in Russian history over the centuries. It straddles the powerful Dnieper River, which runs the course of the country.

This fight does not involve Marquess of Queensberry rules, however. It's loud, chaotic, violent, and becoming lethal. Soon it may become tragic.

The Apolitical Blues
We are apolitical at the Tau Institute and in the research we conduct. Our belief is that technology is a rising tide that lifts all boats, and that the countries with the most dedicated commitment to ICT will be those improve their socio-economic conditions and the lives of their people most dramatically over the long haul.

Ukraine scores very well in our research. Although it finishes only 39th overall among the 102 nations we survey, It's among the world leaders overall, Ukraine is a clear leader within its income tier, and scores among the highest when it comes to raw potential.

(For those uninitiated with our research, we integrate several technology and socio-economic factors into unique algorithms that are adjusted for income levels and cost of living. The result are relative, "pound-for-pound" rankings that give developing nations a playing field that's more equal when being compared to the highly developed nations of the world.)

We also understand that technology can be disruptive. It is glib to characterize any of the civial disturbances and outright revolutions of recent years as being caused by Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. However, ubiquitous smartphones, wireless connections, and the swiftness of social media clearly play a role in most of these struggles.

We've created a "Goldilocks" definition in our raw potential rankings. Ukraine, by finishing near the top of them, is one of the countries that seems to be "too hot." (Other countries fitting this description include Bulgaria, Romania, swathes of Eastern Africa, and Vietnam.)

By counter-example, the USA, Italy, and South Africa are just three countries that seem to running "too cold." Goldilocks Nations include Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Thailand, Malaysia, Ecuador, and a few others.

What Now?
So here we are. Ukraine is being riven by conflict and violence, with the threat of all-out war looming. Its capital city sits at the inflection point of all conflict, reminding one of Bruseels and its eternal balance between Flemish and French. But Ukraine's conflict is not linguistic or particularly ethnic. It doesn't have the well-defined tribal fault line that allowed the Czech Republic and Slovakia to separate peacefully (and to a lesser extent, that allowed Slovenia to slip away from Yugoslavia),

Russia's Putin seems to become more imperial by the hour, doing nothing to earn Russia love or respect. The United States' most recent statement on the matter threatened sanctions and contributed nothing positive to the discussion.

The USA-Russia relationship is highly reminiscent of the USA-Soviet days that we had hoped were in the past. Both countries have seemingly done their best to exacerbate the situation in recent years, the US by being too aggressive in courting Ukraine as a NATO partner, and Putin by just being Putin.

Our research shows Ukraine's potential. Our contacts there have provided us with valuable information in the past about tech development in several regions of the country. People at organizations such as the Ukrainian High-Tech Initiatve are doing great work in working to develop Ukraine as a country with a strong ICT infrastructure, and ultimately, strong society.

We don't make specific, yes-or-no recommendations. But we do see Ukraine's potential, particularly in the West. We hope that the nation can keep itself together in coming days. But if not, we encourage a clear-eyed viewing of the writing on the wall and a national partition that is peaceful and practical.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Studies, (@TauDir), with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is also a writer & editor for SYS-CON Media. He writes for Cloud Computing Journal & Computerworld Philippines. He is Conference Chair of WebRTC Summit and Things Expo. He has a BA from Knox College, Certificate in Tech Writing from UC-Berkeley, and MBA studies at CSU-East Bay. He serves on the board of the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies, and has served as Director, U.S. Coast Guard Aux Int'l Affairs.

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