The Communication Revolution Finds a Home in Ukraine

Revolutions past may have been born in print but in the 21st century, shifts in government and politics occur with a huge boost from cyberspace. Despite of lack of access to the Ukrainian mass media, supporters driving the Orange Revolution skillfully used the Internet to recruit volunteers, raise funds, organize campaigns, report breaking news, and garner the sympathy of the global democratic community. Internet use in Ukraine skyrocketed has skyrocketed fivefold or more since 1999 and use alone between 2000 and 2001 jumped an astounding 30 to 40 percent.

In a country where land line phone use is expensive and service intermittent during the best of times, Ukrainians have jumped on the technological bandwagon to change governments and keep in touch with family and friends around the world. Not surprisingly, Internet usage in major cities including the country’s capital, Kyiv, accounts for half of the nation’s Internet activity. The Ukranian city of Lviv garners the lion’s share of usage in the western part of the country. Rural areas and small towns, often suffering from electricity cuts, have a long road to travel; a lack of computers and a flawed telecommunications infrastructure limits access for many.

Afraid of the ways the Internet was becoming a central vehicle for opposing his presidency, Leonid Kuchma issued a series of decrees and statements intended to thwart the Internet’s burgeoning influence. Efforts to restrict access or use failed miserably however, and soon Ukrainians turned their attention to the 2004 election turning a tool of communication into a major political weapon. Today, with over 260 Internet service providers based in Ukraine, the Internet is writing its next chapter in Ukrainian history.