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Mobile phones bring direct aid to Ukraine

Mobile phone users are donating to Ukraine via new technologies and changing the way international aid is distributed. Tech solutions like cryptocurrencies, Airbnb, and other methods are being used to send money directly to those affected by the war in Ukraine.

In a Twitter post, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote that 434,000 nights had been booked so far on the platform, which is equivalent to $15 million transferred to hosts in Ukraine. The outpouring of online support for Ukraine demonstrates that the future of international aid may lie in individual donations through software rather than organized charities.

“This all whittles down to the power technology and the companies’ vast networks have to connect consumers to philanthropic causes all over the world,” Molly Trerotola, the head of social impact at ShoppingGives, an eCommerce platform that connects brands and nonprofits, said in an email interview.

Removing the middleman

In the first days of the war, thousands of people booked Airbnb rooms in Ukraine even though they had no intention of staying in the country. The idea was that the hosts in Ukraine would benefit directly from the money. More recently, Airbnb has set up a system where users can offer to host refugees.

“Airbnb.org helps fund the cost of short-term stays, and all service fees are waived, so Airbnb doesn’t make any money on these stays,” the company wrote on its website. “As a host, you can help these funds stretch even further by offering free or discounted stays.”

Brands are going to play a huge role in this by giving consumers the option to vote with their dollars.

Apple is among the companies that have made it simpler to support the citizens of Ukraine. A banner at the top of Apple’s website has a donation button that directs you to the Music or iTunes app. Donations go through your Apple ID, and you’ll use whichever payment method is attached to your account.

Trerotola noted that the future of aid is giving individuals the power to coalesce to do more good and give back through innovative tech. Her company, ShoppingGives, allows companies to integrate a method of donating money to charitable causes into their websites. “Brands are going to play a huge role in this by giving consumers the option to vote with their dollars,” Trerotola added.

Crypto goes to war

Concet art shows the acronym MFT on a dark blue background.
Sergey Shulgin/Getty Images

Crypto users are also supporting the Ukrainian government. Ukraine has received more than $50 million in crypto donations since the war started, according to research from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic.

On February 26, Twitter accounts belonging to the Ukrainian government posted requests for crypto-asset donations. So far, the Bitcoin, Ethereum, TRON, Polkadot, Dogecoin, and Solana addresses listed in the tweets have received donations worth $54.4 million.

But potential donors should beware, Steven Bumbera, the chief operating officer of the cryptocurrency organization Many Worlds Token, said in an email interview.

“There are no apps being used for this and be nearly certain that if someone invites you to download an unknown app for donating crypto to Ukraine, it is likely a scam,” he said.

The only application you need to donate crypto is a wallet such as MetaMask or TrustWallet, Bumbera said. Ukraine put out an official tweet with its wallet address, whichs is like a public-facing accounting/routing number combination that does not need to be secured. To donate crypto to an organization in Ukraine, you need three items. The first is a wallet to store, send, and receive crypto. The second is an exchange such as Coinbase, Crypto.com, or Binance. The third is the wallet address of the person or organization that you want to donate to. Some charities are accepting crypto donations directly, including Come Back Alive, Ukraine DAO, and the Kyiv Independent, an English-language Ukrainian newspaper that has been monitoring the war from the ground.

“Distribution of the aid will be a major challenge during this war in Ukraine and after the war,” Konstantyn Perederiy, a senior vice president at Customertimes, a consulting firm with employees in Ukraine, told Lifewire via email. “Digital infrastructure including the apps and web-based applications will play one of the key roles in this process due to the complexity of aid distribution, which will increase in the future. Aid will include real estate restoration and lots of humanitarian needs.”

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Sascha Brodsky
Sascha Brodsky is a writer who focuses on consumer technologies and privacy issues for a broad range of outlets. He’s been…
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