Virgin boss Richard Branson backs Ukraine's IT industry

Richard Branson backs IT entrepreneurs' plan to grow Ukraine’s economy during and after the nation's showdown with pro-Russian forces

A plan by a group of IT entrepreneurs in Ukraine to help the nation’s economy grow during and after the current political crisis has received backing from Virgin boss Richard Branson.

In March 2014, the Ukrainian IT industry set out a list of actions the new national government should take to protect the sector amid political turmoil.

Torben Majgaard, CEO at IT services firm Ciklum, wrote a letter to Ukraine’s economy minister Pavlo Sheremeta, calling for united action to ensure the IT industry in the country emerges from the turmoil stronger.

In the letter Majgaard said: “Join with our industry in sending a message to the world, a strong message, that Parliament is strongly committed to the growth and further advancement of the IT industry in Ukraine. That Parliament will, together with the IT Industry, invest to make Ukraine stronger, and that companies looking for software development should come here and work with us. 

"This will help improve global market confidence in Ukraine."

The action has morphed into a project  known as the Brain Basket Foundation with the support from the Ukrainian government. It aims to create jobs in the information economy “to help Ukraine get back on its feet”.

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In his blog earlier this month, Richard Branson praised the move. He said: “As well as inspiring words and videos, Ukraine also needs practical steps such as Brain Basket Foundation.

"The foundation is aiming to make IT a driving factor in creating a strong economy, co-ordinating efforts to train 100,000 people and generate $10bn yearly revenues by 2020. By boosting education and creating new jobs, it could help Ukraine get back on its feet.”

Torben Majgaard, CEO at Ukraine based IT services firm Ciklum, said: “It is important to get our message across to influential people around the world, who can help us develop our IT industry, which will spearhead the recovery of the Ukrainian economy."

The foundation already has support from global IT suppliers including Microsoft, Cisco.

Ukraine is an increasingly popular destination for IT services form the UK. It offers highly skilled IT specialists at a low cost for companies looking to develop projects within Europe. 

But political unrest has been a risk in the Ukraine for a number of years. Speaking to Computer Weekly in 2011, Michael Borg-Hansen, Danish Ambassador in the Ukraine at the time, said political change was brewing. 

"I wouldn't exclude the possibility of social unrest, similar to what happened in North Africa and the Middle East - those situations are being watched very carefully by the government here," he said.

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