Ukraine tops Science and Tech Global Index – that should come as no shock
Hosting mammoth enterprise tech businesses and a vibrant startup scene known to attract the likes of Google, Amazon and Samsung, Ukraine is the global champion in “Technology and Science”, according to UK based NGO’s Good Country Index for 2019.
While the recognition is recent, efforts have long been underway and nowhere is this more evident than in the nation’s banking sector. Open and agile, it has not only been quick to embrace disruptive change and transformation from abroad, but in many cases, it has also led the charge regionally and internationally.
Take the cashless norm, for example. Ukraine was among the first countries to adopt Google Pay. Apple Pay followed shortly after. Both are widely adopted not only among millennials (with which they tend to be associated) but also among their senior peers. Once technology is demystified and seen for what it is – a tool that makes life easier – rates of adoption and conversion rocket. Financial services providers in Ukraine have built their innovation plans around this simple but powerful axiom and this applies for users and businesses alike.
Enabled by the use of QR codes, SMEs can now accept contactless payments. There are currently 13,000 QR-enabled points of sale and while most adopter-businesses are based out of Kyiv, technology is known for its infectious quality. We therefore expect the number of QR points to shoot up and the geographical reach to widen as technological contagion sets in and customers come to reduce their reliance on paper money. An additional conduit that could support a range of payment options for SMEs is Instagram. With 10.7 million Instagram users in Ukraine alone, the social media platform exhibits huge potential which we are exploring by developing an Instapaybot to support our SME clients.
When it comes to the adoption and usage of new technology, there are strong grounds for optimism in Ukraine. We are encouraged to see customers up and down the country using their smartphones to source items as diverse as flowers and bus tickets. Ukrainians, we have observed, also favor their smartphones over physical means to sort out their car insurance, donate to charity, top up their phone credit and buy and sell currency.
Platforms can be suited for the purposes of both business and leisure and, importantly, have no geographical restrictions. People living in or passing through areas that were once thought of as remote or disconnected can now gain access to an unequalled selection of goods and services which can be bought and, if needed, delivered quickly and securely.
These are opportunities that we at PrivatBank facilitate and underpin through Privat24. Through further exploring the use of new technologies including machine learning (ML) and biometrics, we are continuously improving our offering. Such technologies can go a long way in helping us track customer experience and drive targeted and more meaningful offers to users, thereby improving their experience.
Technological progress does not, however, occur in a vacuum and Ukraine has done well to open itself to global changes and disruption, adopting and adapting models and technologies that may have originated abroad. Exceptional tertiary education and research infrastructure, a steady pipeline of programmers and engineers and a broadly digital-savvy customer base have all certainly stood the country in good stead. A lingering Soviet emphasis on STEM subjects permeates classrooms and curricula across the country’s schools. STEM-related professions are not only viewed as prestigious but are also well-compensated, a combination that attracts the best and brightest of graduates.
Kyiv’s tech sector also appears to be better at employing women than its Western counterpart, conferring on the industry the well-documented benefits of gender diversity and parity. Those factors, among others, have enabled PrivatBank to attract those who want to work at the forefront of innovation and offer an opportunity to develop the most interesting, cutting edge technology. They have also enabled Ukraine to create its own special blend of disruptive technology as it continues to borrow and learn from eastward and westward influence alike.
More lifestyle ecosystem than market, our platform, for example, relies on a model that is more prevalent in Asia than in Europe. Users in the former tend to favour comprehensive, wide-ranging platforms around which they can, in effect, build their lifestyle including, for example, their commutes, their diets, their work out routines and other daily habits. European users are more familiar with apps that are targeted and specialise in one service, i.e. the so-called “Uber for X” model, as opposed to lumping together disparate ones.
While both conceptions have their own relative merits, customers in Ukraine appear to have taken a part of the Asian model and made it their own. Far from a done deal, this is an iterative, open-ended process, an exchange of lessons and cultures to which we are proud to be contributing. Our aspiration is that our innovative contributions will not only help defend Ukraine’s global title but also continue to create meaningful change for our customers across the country and internationally.
By Petr Krumphanzl, chairman of the board, PrivatBank