At this year’s Web Summit, the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, called for technology leaders to help Ukraine and, in doing so, help make the world a safer place.
Speaking at the event which kicked off in Lisbon on Tuesday, Ms Zelenska told delegates about the mental health crisis in Ukraine following the war and efforts using technology to train all frontline workers to caring for traumatized people.
Ms Zelenska said technology can be a force for good and described how a girl was given a new bionic arm after being shot by the Russians.
She also spoke of the inspiring impact of scientists like Hugh Herr from MIT in the United States, who worked on robotics and bionics.
A foundation she created worked to provide education and health care to the Ukrainian people, and to provide the means to keep warm as winter approached.
Ms. Zelenska urged delegates to support one of the many technology projects set up to help Ukraine in its fight for freedom and to use innovation to help, not to create terror.
The Russians target schools and hospitals and want to send Ukraine back to the Middle Ages, Ms Zelenska said, but technology can save people and restore what has been destroyed. “Help us prevent the list of victims of terrorism from growing,” she added.
Web Summit co-founder Paddy Cosgrave meanwhile called on Ireland to stop letting money linked to Russian oligarchs flow through the country.
“In times of war, we all have to ask ourselves what we can do to help Ukraine,” Mr Cosgrave said. “As an Irish citizen, I wonder how Ireland can help Ukraine? My response is that Ireland stop funding the Russian oligarchs.
The Irish government, Mr Cosgrave said, must take comprehensive action. “There are many in this audience who are in positions of power and influence who can push for this action,” he said.
Earlier, attendees had to wait longer than expected for the start of this year’s Web Summit in the Altice Arena after equipment attached to the ceiling came loose, causing concern in the seating area below.
The incident came at the start of the event which Mr Cosgrave said had been sold out weeks before, with the largest number of delegates ever arriving at the summit from Brazil and Ukraine. The procedure was delayed approximately 70 minutes due to the issue.
Equipment swayed back and forth, from a single cable, as security cleared the area directly below, and organizers dealt with what they described as a “technical glitch”.
About 40 minutes after the incident, Mr Cosgrave took the stage to announce there would be a further 15 minute delay and told delegates the wait was worth it.
AI and metaverse
Part of the crowd began to move away from the venue, while some of those who remained engaged in the Mexican waves as they waited.
Mr. Cosgrave took the stage a second time to announce that the proceedings were about to resume. There was no other reference to the incident that had occurred.
Mr Cosgrave said people came to the event to talk and meet in a way that was not possible with video conferencing software and to do so amid economic uncertainty in Europe.
It’s been an incredible year of ups and downs, he said, noting that this year’s themes of AI, climate technology and the metaverse were key to this year’s summit.