Ukraine Is Crowdfunding Its Reconstruction

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The new fundraising appeal comes amid a certain “tiredness” from donors, as Ukraine’s finance minister put it. Yaroslava Gres, United24’s main coordinator, says overcoming that fatigue is his mission. “We ask ourselves: What will motivate them to keep standing with Ukraine?” he tells WIRED.

Gres says he hopes that letting prospective donors see the homes they will help rebuild, and hear from the people who want to return home, will inspire the support to keep coming. “Storytelling gives our donors an opportunity to feel complicity with the specific people they support, as well as with the specific targets they help rebuild,” he says.

The 3D renderings come via LUN, a Ukrainian realty website that partnered with United24 for the project. The company dispatched photographers, equipped with drones, to buildings across the country. The footage is used to create a digital replica of a damaged building. From there, its architects plot the reconstruction of the building.

“We have been digitizing the future for years, modeling how cities can develop, and how new buildings can be built,” a LUN spokesperson tells WIRED. “It was difficult to see destruction instead; to look through hundreds of photos of the damage dealt and depict everything as is.”

Video: United24

These 3D renderings will also be made available through augmented reality, letting users picture the buildings through their phone camera or AR headset.

The logistics behind rebuilding Ukraine’s civil infrastructure is going to be enormous and complicated. In a presentation delivered in May, Maksym Smilianets—co-owner of Ukrainian internet service provider Viner—highlighted the magnitude of the problem they face in rebuilding and reconnecting the country. The air strikes and shelling did an enormous amount of damage to the telecommunications infrastructure, he explained. Hundreds of kilometers of fiber-optic cable have already been laid to repair that destruction.

In the areas currently under Russian control, the invading army quickly switched the connection to the Moscow-controlled internet. “They rebuilt the connections and stole our equipment,” Smilianets’ presentation explained. In the liberated parts of Ukraine, repair crews found boobytraps inside the telecommunications infrastructure, he said. “They did everything possible for total disconnection.”

Even as ISPs like Smilianets’ Viner work to rebuild the shared infrastructure of Ukraine, once one of the best-connected countries in Europe, there will be enormous work required to reconnect each damaged home and apartment block across the country. That “last mile” will likely require hundreds of kilometers more fiber-optic cable.

“No one has the power to cleanse the depths of human nature from the evil that sometimes rises to the surface and destroys and kills,” Ukrainian president Voldomyr Zelensky told the Ukraine Recovery Conference held in London this past June. “But you and I, and right now, we are able to protect life and overcome the ruins.”

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