Staunton, September 11 – Dictators and those who work in the information technology sector seldom get along well. The former need the latter to operate anything approaching a modern economy, but the latter invariably object to the restrictions that IT specialists generally view as depriving them of their rights.
The more repressive the dictators become, the more IT specialists respond with their two most favored weapons: they engage in cyber attacks on the state and they choose to emigrate. The first complicates the lives of the dictators in the short term; the second means that their countries will fall ever further behind in the future.
Both things are now happening to Alyaksandr Lukashenka. “Belarusian cyber partisans have declared war on [his] regime,” the Daily Storm says (dailystorm.ru/obschestvo/belorusskie-kiberpartizany-obyavili-rezhimu-lukashenko-voynu); and ever more IT professionals are now leaving his country (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/09/11/87041-diktator-protiv-ayti).
Ten days ago, the NEXTA telegram channel outlined a plan for opening multiple fronts against the Lukashenka regime, including the Internet networks on which his regime has relied both for control and for economic growth (telegra.ph/PLAN-POBEDY-09-01 and and telegra.ph/HAKERY-PARTIZANY-ZA-SVOBODNUYU-BELARUS-09-03).
Since then, the cyber partisans have taken down the sites of the interior ministry, the interior ministry training academy, the republic’s KGB, and the national lottery. In most cases, the government has not been able to keep them up for long. When the state reopens then, the hackers take them down again.
Even as they are engaged in this war against Lukashenka, many in the IT sector, dozens of individual employees and even entire IT companies have closed shop in Belarus, moving to Lithuania, Poland or further afield. Their departure, activists say will cost the state billions in revenue and keep it from developing.
As the IT specialists have made clear in a series of declarations, they cannot imagine working in Belarus if Lukashenka remains in power. They say that he has shown that “for him, power is now more important than any economic results” and that all the Belarus achieved in this sector in the past is now being sacrificed toward that end.