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Digital Planet podcast

Digital Planet

Technological and digital news from around the world.

Technological and digital news from around the world.

 

#174

Twitter – what next?

What is happening with Twitter and what can we expect? Bill Thompson give us his assessment while Angelica Mari discusses the how the new direction of the platform Pix payments two years on PIX payments have revolutionised how people in Brazil use money – especially the 40 million of the population who are unbanked. We discuss with Fintech expert David Birch why Pix has been so successful and where does it go from here. What’s new in WhatsApp Angelica Mari brings us up to date with WhatsApp’s latest plans for one of its biggest markets. It aims to bring "everything that matters to business and consumers" into its app. WhatsApp is central to people's lives in places like India and Brazil, and the company want to monetise that by taking people of browsers and allowing them to complete transactions from start to finish on the app. Could this signal the end of some apps e.g. food delivery apps? Can video games improve your memory? Parents often worry about the harmful impacts of video games on their children, whether it's staying indoors too much, or the impact of the online world on their mental health. But a large new study in America indicates that there may also be benefits associated with the gaming – although the work does pose many more questions than it answers. Our gaming reporter Chris Berrow has been finding out more. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Image: Twitter logo displayed on a phone screen. Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images Studio Manager: Bob Nettles Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz ... Read more

22 Nov 2022

36 MINS

36:14

22 Nov 2022


#173

The Open Internet for Africa

We hear about a new plan to drive economies and improve lives across Africa – the Open Internet project between the continent and the EU. A report “The Open Internet as Cornerstone of Digitalisation” is funded by the EU and points out in detail what needs to done to secure easy, reliable and cheap online access without which development will simply stall. We speak to two of the report’s authors – one from the EU and the other from Africa. Monitoring Mangroves in the Pakistan Indus Delta Mangrove forests are hugely impacted by climate change and monitoring them from space with satellites doesn’t deliver enough data to know fully how they are being impacted by rising temperatures and sea levels. Now a pilot project in the Indus River Delta, just south of Karachi in Pakistan, has used drones to image the mangroves allowing the researchers to study one of the world’s largest forests. The project’s director Obaid Rehman is on the show to tell us about their work and also how these mangrove forests can be used for carbon capture. He says their work should lead to more plantations of the forest too. The talk at Web Summit 2022 Technology gatherings are back in full swing and Web Summit in Portugal is one of the biggest. This year’s conference was at full capacity and tech reporter Jane Wakefield joined the queues to see what was preoccupying the tech industry as 2022 draws to an end – and the big thing appears to be the Metaverse. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Getty Images) ... Read more

15 Nov 2022

36 MINS

36:47

15 Nov 2022


#172

Controlling protesters in Iran via phones

A new report shows how the authorities in Iran can track and control protestors phones. An investigation by The Intercept news organisation has found that mobile phone coverage is being switched from a healthy 5G or 4G network to slow and clunky 2G coverage when protestors gather. This means they no longer can communicate using encrypted messages or calls on their smartphones and instead have to rely up traditional phone calls or SMS messages which can be intercepted and understood easily. This, according to the report is being done by a web programme. One of reports authors Sam Biddle, a journalist specialising in the misuse of power in technology, is on the programme. Policing the metaverse Imagine being attacked in virtual reality – will the experience be as traumatic as in real life? Perhaps not yet but in the near future if we are living as least part of our live in the Metaverse, crime will also be part of the virtual life. But currently there is little if no protection if a crime committed against our virtual selves. Now Europol – the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation – has published a report into Policing the Metaverse. Journalist Emma Woollacott has been reading the report and she explains the many perils that we could face and also how we need to act now to manage these crimes in the Metaverse. Hollyplus -a digital twin AI that sings anything you want to (even if you can’t!) Imagine being able to sing any song you like – and in any language you choose – even in musical styles that you have never studied? That’s now possible thanks to artist, musician and composer Holly Herndon. She has trained a computer algorithm to sing like her – the cloned voice can sing in any language or style she chooses – even extending her own vocal range. The project is called Hollyplus and the digital twin has just released its version of Dolly Parton’s song Jolene. The real Holly explains how she’s done this. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Sue Maillot Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Protest in Iran. Credit: Getty Images) ... Read more

08 Nov 2022

41 MINS

41:26

08 Nov 2022


#171

The Twitter takeover

Elon Musk completed on a 44-billion-dollar takeover of Twitter last week. He’s expressed the want to restructure the platform and create a digital ‘town square’, a potential space for free speech, growth and learning. But defining freedom of speech is a minefield, and some parties are afraid that Elon’s vision could provide opportunity for greater disinformation and misinformation. Gareth and Becky Hogge speculate as to whether Twitter can ever fulfil the digital idealism that many first dreamt of at the conception of the internet. As social media platforms have become ever more adept at seeking out and closing bots, a thriving underground ecosystem has grown up where people make a living from setting up multiple fake accounts. Clients buy their services through so called ‘click farms’ that sell packages of likes and shares. For a few dollars a celeb, a business or a politician can simply buy a big following, and influence. A new report highlights the stories of the largely exploited gig economy workers behind the clicks. One of the authors is Rafael Grohmann of University of Toronto, Canada. At the Digital Doorstep is a recent report that shines the spotlight on the manner in which novel doorbell cameras alter the behaviour and management of delivery drivers. Harrison Lewis speaks to the authors, Eve Zelickson and Aiha Nguyen from Data and Society, to find out how some of our doorsteps have become a social enigma; where does surveillance belong on private property when that same space also acts as a work place for others? The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: Bob Nettles Producer: Harrison Lewis (Image: Elon Musk 'Chief Twit' Photo Illustration. Credit: Getty Images) ... Read more

01 Nov 2022

40 MINS

40:49

01 Nov 2022


#170

Chip exports and US-China relations

The Biden administration announced a monumental policy shift earlier this month, set to limit and control the exportation of artificial intelligence and semiconductor technologies to China. The restrictions will block leading U.S. chip designers from accessing the Chinese market; selling goods that form the backbone of AI and supercomputing. Gregory Allen from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies explains how these actions could potentially ‘strangle’ large segments of the Chinese technology industry. Whilst access to the World Wide Web becomes ever more integral to modern day life, the digital divide is growing. Those residing in Africa and the Americas appear to have the least affordable, least reliable and slowest internet. Elena Babarskaite at Surfshark, a VPN service company located in the Netherlands, unpicks their latest investigation into our Digital Quality of Life. In one Ghana household, an AI powered chatbot tutor called Rori, developed by Rising Academies, helps its student stay up to date with his favourite subject, maths. Lucinda Rouse hears how this smart teacher, available through Whatsapp, could soon reach 200,000 children across West Africa, bypassing expensive tuition fees. (Image: Semiconductor and circuit board. Credit: Getty Images) The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Harrison Lewis ... Read more

25 Oct 2022

44 MINS

44:01

25 Oct 2022


#169

5bn mobile phones to become waste in 2022

The WEEE forum estimates that of the 16 billion mobile phones in the world about 5.3bn will no longer be in use this year. Despite being packed with precious metals like gold, silver and palladium and other recyclable parts most will not be disposed of properly. This mountain of e-waste (that if piled on top of each other would reach 120 times higher than the International Space Station) is only part of e-waste problem with other small consumer electronics e.g. remotes, headphones, clocks, irons etc., being hoarded in even greater numbers than mobiles. Magdalena Charytanowicz from the WEEE forum is on the show and explains the magnitude of the problem and how it needs to be tackled. 100 years of the BBC As the BBC starts its 100th anniversary celebrations, we have a report from BBC Northampton’s Martin Heath, who is spending the day at the site of the Daventry transmitting station at Borough Hill. Martin tells us about the history of the station (it was initially was used for long wave, and short wave broadcasting and closed in 1992) and we also speak to one of the engineers who worked there about the technology used. The biggest radio telescope in the Northern Hemisphere The NOEMA radio telescope is now the most powerful radio telescope in the northern hemisphere. Twelve antennas in the French Alps will simultaneously detect and measure a large number of signatures of molecules and atoms. More than 5000 scientists from across the world will now be able to observe stars being born, comets, black holes and light from cosmic objects that has been travelling to Earth for more than 13 billion years. We find out about the tech that is making this possible. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Gayl Gordon Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image credit: Getty Images) ... Read more

18 Oct 2022

40 MINS

40:38

18 Oct 2022


#168

Internet under attack in Ukraine

Ukraine has faced internet outages since missile attacks restarted on Monday -a drop of more than 20% was recorded yesterday by The Internet Observatory Netblocks. This loss of connectivity is not thought to be due to cyber attacks but more about physical attacks on power infrastructure. Director of Netblocks, Alp Toker, is on the show to explain what’s happened. The boom in mobile money in Somalia Despite the worst drought in 40 years, Somalians are embracing mobile money to the point that it’s replacing formal currency. Without a central bank following the collapse of the government, the country was flooded with counterfeit money, this led to mobile money becoming popular. Two thirds of payments now being made via mobiles with 73% of the population over the age of 16 using mobile money services. Aid agencies are using the services to get money to remote rural populations in al-Shabab controlled areas impacted by the drought. We speak to Quartz East Africa Correspondent Tom Collins and Dean of Economics at SIMAD University in Mogadishu, Abdinur Ali Mohamed. Pass me that lobster: Conjuring up the metaverse On Tuesday Meta announce their metaverse plans. The sheer volume of images needed to fill the metaverse for it to be a success cannot be left to big tech if the metaverse is going to be a success. The metaverse will also have to rely on the next generation image making tools to fill the space for everyone who wants to use it in the way they want to use it . Bill Thompson explains how we will be able to take a lobster out of our backpack in the VR future. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Michael Millham Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image credit: Getty Images) ... Read more

11 Oct 2022

42 MINS

42:34

11 Oct 2022


#167

Pandemic pushes women online

In 2020 more than 40% of the world’s population was not using the internet, with many more women being unable to get online. Now a new global study into digital access in 90 countries shows that although women were disproportionately impacted by the Covid pandemic, it seems to have got more of them online in South East Asia and Africa. In these two parts of the world, the study shows progress in terms of bridging the gap between men and women and access to tech and the internet. While, historically, 90% of transactions in India were done by cash, the researchers say the pandemic forced more people to turn to digital payments for everyday items including food and other goods. In many parts of South East Asia, including India, many women are doing most of the shopping. The combination paved the way for progress and highlights a unique instance where the pandemic benefited women in these regions. Additionally, now equipped with their own digital wallets, women are afforded more agency over their finances. The progress in gender parity was seen in sub-Saharan Africa (8% improvement from 2019-2021), the Middle East and North Africa (6%), and South Asia (3%). We speak to Tufts University researchers who carried out the work, the dean of Global Business, Bhaskar Chakravorti, and research manager Christina Filipovic. War Games: Real Conflicts/Virtual Worlds/Extreme Environments Gareth and Ghislaine visit the Imperial War Museum in London to see the UK’s first-ever exhibition to explore video games and what they can tell us about conflict. Developing technology has introduced new ways of telling and experiencing war stories; toy soldiers and board games, cinema screenings of World War One, radio broadcasts from the frontlines of WWII, and TV images of the Cold War have given way to first-person shooter games on iconic consoles like the Atari 2600 and the Super Nintendo to internet driven team battles with the latest graphics and audio immersion. But is gaming tech the right place to explore conflict and how much is this entertainment industry driving tech development elsewhere? Presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Photo: Rural woman talking on a mobile phone and using a laptop, India. Credit: Exotica.im/Universal Images Group/Getty Images) ... Read more

04 Oct 2022

39 MINS

39:09

04 Oct 2022


#166

Tiny robots cure mice with deadly pneumonia

Microrobots have been created and used to treat the most common form of pneumonia that infects patients in ICU. In experiments, currently carried out in mice at the University of California San Diego, the tiny robots swam around the lungs and delivered antibiotics that killed the disease-causing bacteria. The amount of antibiotics needed is a tiny fraction of the amount currently used to treat this infection intravenously. The robots are made from algae cells (this allows them to move) covered in antibiotic-filled nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are made with tiny spheres that are coated with the cell membranes of neutrophils – a type of white blood cell that fights infection and inflammation - making the microrobots more effective at fighting the lung infection. We hear from lead author Professor Joseph Wang about the tech that’s allowed the team of nanoengineers to create these microrobots. Internet shutdowns in India – on what grounds are they allowed? Since 2012 there have been 683 full internet blackouts in India according to the internet shutdown tracker run by the Software Freedom Law Centre (SLFC). Many of these are done without following government rules. Now India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has only a week left to reveal the grounds on which it approves or imposes internet shutdowns in the country. The SFLC filed a lawsuit against the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal, after internet shutdowns were ordered to prevent cheating during state exams. This is a common occurrence around the time of public exams across the country as stolen exam papers often appear on the internet. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that the protocols on which these decisions are made need to be made public. Tech reporter Emma Woollacott explains the massive impact of these shutdowns and lawyer Mishi Choudhary founder of the SFLC explains why they bought about the lawsuit. National Robotarium opens in Edinburgh Digital Planet’s Hannah Fisher has been given access to the UK’s first robotarium and reports on the eve of its opening for the programme. A big aim of the national robotarium at Heriot Watt University is to change public opinion about what robots actually are and how we can use them. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: Andrew Garratt Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Illustration of microrobots entering the lungs to treat pneumonia. Credit: Wang lab/UC San Diego:) ... Read more

27 Sep 2022

46 MINS

46:22

27 Sep 2022


#165

Gamification – does making things fun work?

Do you track your physical activity on your phone, count your daily steps, or how many calories you’ve burnt? Perhaps you are learning a new language using an app or have performance-related leaderboards at work? All these things are part of gamification – making everyday tasks more fun. But is all this gameplay good for us and is there actually any evidence that it works? Digital Planet this week explores the phenomenon of gamification with guests Adrian Hon, the CEO and founder of the games developer Six to Start and co-creator of one of the world’s most popular gamified apps, Zombies, Run! and Gabe Zichermann founder of six high-tech companies and author of three books on Gamification, including “Gamification by Design”. The programme is presented by Bill Thompson with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Gamification. Credit: Getty Images) ... Read more

20 Sep 2022

30 MINS

30:07

20 Sep 2022


#164

Community Networks: Connecting the unconnected

The Digital Divide in Tribal Communities Across the North American continent, there is a stark difference in the availability of the internet to different communities. Tribal lands are typically remote, rural, and rugged landscapes, and often have very patchy, or non-existent internet connectivity. Dr. Traci Morris explains why such a digital divide exists and how tribes are working together, both within their communities and with each other, to create and gain access to communications networks. Digital Deras connecting farmers in rural Pakistan In rural Punjab in Pakistan, farmers and villagers gather in places called ‘Deras’ to socialise, drink tea and coffee and discuss their farms. But one project has created a community network to transform one of these Deras to have digital facilities – a ‘Digital Dera’. Farmers use this Digital Dera to access crucial weather forecasts and other information to help them manage their farms more efficiently. It also helps them battle the impact of climate change, as the crop cycles change due to shifting weather patterns. Founders of the project Fouad Bajwa and Aamer Hayat speak to Gareth about the impact of the Digital Dera project on the farming community. Offline interview in Cuba Cuba is one of the least digitally connected countries in the Western hemisphere. This is due to the US trade embargo but also poor internet infrastructure and tight control of its own government on the flow of information. Although accessing digital technologies is getting better, for ordinary Cubans going online is still a challenge. The internet connection is slow, unreliable, and prohibitively expensive. To combat this, they have created an offline underground internet called ‘El Paquete Semanal’ or ‘Weekly Package’ – it is a one-terabyte collection of eclectic material of movies, tv-series, sports, and music while turning a blind eye to copyright. Reporter Snezana Curcic visited to learn more about this Cuban alternative to broadband internet. This programme was first transmitted on Tuesday 7th June 2022. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Jackie Margerum Producer: Hannah Fisher (Photo: 5G data stream running through a rural village Credit: Huber & Starke/Digital Vision/Getty Images) ... Read more

13 Sep 2022

31 MINS

31:54

13 Sep 2022


#163

Happy birthday Digital Planet!

In this special 21st birthday show we’re bringing our Digital Planet community together for the first time since 2019. The team has been asking World Service listeners about their favourite bit of tech – we hear from around the world about the software and hardware that our listeners can’t live without. We will also be having not one but two special appearances – holograms from Canada and France – using the technology that President Zelensky used to beam himself to UN and London Tech week. We’ll be hearing from the listener who set up our Digital Planet Facebook group back in 2007 and we’ll also have a multimedia premier of Wiki-Piano that has been collaboratively composed by our listeners. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mair, Bill Thompson and Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Managers: Andrew Garrett Radio Theatre Manager: Mark Diamond Sound Balance: Guy Worth Stage Engineer: Alexander Russell Screen Visuals: Brendan Gormley PA Sound: Clive Painter Lighting: Marc Willcox Stage Hand: Alan Bissenden Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz ... Read more

06 Sep 2022

58 MINS

58:25

06 Sep 2022


#162

Inoculation videos against misinformation

Inoculation against misinformation Could people be inoculated and protected against misinformation online? A new study published in Science Advances shows that short animated videos could protect people from harmful content. Controlled experiments where people were shown how misinformation is spread e.g. using emotional language or scapegoating, appeared highly effective in helping people judge what might be fact or fiction on the web. Psychologists worked with Google Jigsaw and tested their experiments in real life by placing them in the ads section on YouTube videos. They saw a 5% impact in being able to spot misinformation and they also reduced sharing frequency. This “pre-bunking” strategy exposes people to tropes and explains how malicious propaganda is spread, so they can better identify online falsehoods. Researchers behind the Inoculation Science project compare it to a vaccine: by giving people a “micro-dose” of misinformation in advance, it helps prevent them falling for it in future – an idea based on what social psychologist’s call “inoculation theory”. Lead author Dr. Jon Roozenbeek is live on the programme to explain why this works and Beth Goldberg from Google talks about their new project to reduce misinformation spread about refugees in central Europe. Indonesian data breaches There have been five major data breaches in Indonesia this month, three alone in the last fortnight; the personal data of more than 26 million users of state-owned telecommunication provider PT Telkom was allegedly leaked – but the company denied this. Last week, foreign companies, including Microsoft and PwC, were also reportedly hit by a data breach. Astudestra Ajengrastri, Deputy Editor in the BBC Jakarta office, is on the show to explain why this is such a huge problem, how little is being done about it and why so many Indonesians seem indifferent to the breaches. Robotic Dogs Have you seen the video of a robotic dog firing a sub-machine gun? It’s had well over 4 million views. It comes swiftly after reports of robotic dogs being used to patrol the US-Mexican border. But can robotic dogs become our virtual best friend despite them being used by the military and security services? Reporter Dominic Watters looks at the tech and what these robots are truly capable of (walking on uneven surfaces still needs to be mastered) and could actually be used for the benefit of humankind – using their sensory systems to navigate dangerous terrains after natural disasters for instance? The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Steve Greenwood Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image credit: Screenshot of a video collaboration between Cambridge University, the University of Bristol, and Google Jigsaw) ... Read more

30 Aug 2022

43 MINS

43:00

30 Aug 2022


#161

India’s cyber scam scourge

Nearly a third of people in India lost money through online fraud in 2020 alone. Of them, it is thought that only 17% saw any returns through redressal mechanisms. Despite this prevalence of scams, reports have shown that the Indian population have got more trusting of unsolicited messages from companies online over the last five years. New Delhi based journalist Mimansa Verma from Quartz has been exploring this problem and joins the programme to discuss. Ultrasound sticker that monitors your heart A postage stamp size sticker could give doctors a more detailed picture of our health. Ultrasounds are one of the most common medical diagnostic tools in the world, but they only measure a snapshot in time and rely on the skill of the sonographer. A newly proposed ultrasound patch could record our heart changing shape during exercise, the impact of eating or drinking on our digestive system, and even the flow of blood through veins and arteries. Ghislaine Boddington checks out the tech and how this, and other devices, are giving doctors a much more complete picture of how our bodies work. Finally getting your slot on the JWST More than twenty years ago, Professor Mark McCaughrean submitted a proposal for observations to be made on a new space telescope. At midnight on August 29th he will finally see the results of his first observations from the James Webb Space Telescope. In the convening years, Prof. McCaughrean has become a scientific advisor for the European Space Agency and a collaborator on the JWST project. He joins the programme to talk about his hopes for observing star and planet formation with the JWST, as well as the tech that underpins the telescope. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: An Indian man counts Indian rupee currency. Credit: Getty Images) ... Read more

23 Aug 2022

45 MINS

45:23

23 Aug 2022