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Digital Planet


Technological and digital news from around the world.

Technological and digital news from around the world.


London, United Kingdom




Technological and digital news from around the world.






BBC World Service Bush House Strand London WC2B 4PH


Is disability tech delivering?

Why does tech not understand my speech? Physicist Dr Claire Malone is facing a problem: no speech-to-text software understands her. She is living with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects her movement and muscle coordination, including her speech. Claire shares how much of a difference this tech could make in her life, and Gareth speaks to Sara Smolley, the co-founder of Voiceitt, one of the leading companies in the area, about how close we are to having software that can understand...


Grassroots data – holding the powerful to account

Open source investigators We live in an age where there is data on almost everything, and a large chunk of it is publicly available. You only need to know where to look. There are many investigators on the internet that are gathering Open Source Intelligence, or OSINT for short, and conduct research and verification, much of it focussed on war zones. The most prominent collective in this field is the NGO Bellingcat, but there is a whole ecosystem of amateur sleuths online. Gareth speaks to...


Self-driving cars on the horizon?

A recent amendment to a regulation by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will extend automated driving technology to 130 km/h. The regulation, which will come into effect in January 2023, will set the standard for car manufacturers to develop so-called "level 3" autonomous vehicle. Gareth speaks to Francois Guichard, who is leading UN regulations on vehicle automation, about what "level 3" really means, and when we will see these types of cars on the road. Also, Prof...


Are internet shutdowns evolving?

Internet shutdowns have been a global issue for many years, and Digital Planet has reported on many of them, from Cuba and Myanmar to Iran. A new United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) report now warns of the dramatic real-life effects. Gareth speaks to Peggy Hicks, one of the authors of the report, about how internet shutdowns impact the lives of millions worldwide. In addition, Rest of World journalist Peter Guest, and #KeepItOn campaign manager at AccessNow, Felicia Anthonio, join...


Deepfake calls to European mayors?

On June 24th, the mayor of Berlin thought she was on a video call with the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko. The call, however, was fake. The head of the Deutsche Welle’s fact-checking team Joscha Weber tells Gareth what happened, how the mayors of Vienna and Madrid were deceived by similar fake calls, and how a Russian comedy duo claims to be behind it all. The video call was initially thought to be a deepfake, but a later analysis by German media suggests that it may have been a shallowfake...


What’s the deal with the metaverse?

So what is the metaverse really? Following a montage of BBC World Service listeners’ responses and opinions, contributing expert Ghislaine Boddington will shed light on this question. As it turns out, while there are current examples of virtual worlds, the metaverse is still being formed. Predicting exactly what it will be like is harder than one might think. An afternoon in Altspace What does it feel like to be in the metaverse? Reporter Chris Berrow strapped on his VR headset and spent...


Japan tackles online insults

Increased punishment for online insults in Japan Japan has taken the first steps to make online insults punishable by up to one year in prison. This new legislation comes two years after the suicide of Japanese reality TV star and professional wrestler Hana Kimura. BBC reporter Mariko Oi tells us how this new legislation came to be and what it means, and legal expert Dr. Sanae Fujita and cyberpsychologist Dr. Nicola Fox Hamilton talk to Gareth about why online abuse occurs so frequently,...


Archiving music in glass

‘Project Silica’ uses ultrafast laser optics and machine learning to utilise glass as a storage device. The fused silica glass is fully resilient to electromagnetic pulses (EMP) and to the most challenging environmental conditions, ensuring the data written into it is not degraded. In this proof of concept for the Global Music Vault in Svalbard, this glass platter will have a selection of some of the most important music data and files on it. Gareth talks to Ant Rowstron, who has been...


Community Networks: Connecting the unconnected

Across the North American continent, there is a stark difference in the availability of 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...


Data-driven football

Data-Driven football With the end of this year’s Premier League season and the Champion’s League final in the last two weekends, viewers around the world were cheering on their favourite teams. While the rules of football may not have changed much in recent years, there is one thing that has: the amount of data. Coaches and teams can now examine player performance and statistics in great detail. Has this transformed the way the game is played? Gareth chats to Ruben Saavedra, CEO of Metrica...


Detecting earthquakes with seafloor internet cables

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory have released research that utilises existing subsea telecommunications cables as environmental sensors, for example to detect earthquakes. These cables exist in many parts of the world already, so this finding has the potential to revolutionise seafloor earthquake monitoring. Research scientist Giuseppe Marra explains how it all works and Laura Kong, the director of the International Tsunami Information Centre, tells Gareth how this could...


Reclaiming African art in digital form

A Nigerian project called Looty is seeking to take back African art in digital form. Members go into museums, take LiDAR scans using their phones, and recreate these African artworks as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The first piece is one of the Benin Bronzes from the British Museum. Different artistic reimaginations of this ancient artwork are now being sold as NFTs, with parts of the proceeds going to emerging Nigerian artists. Gareth speaks to Looty’s founder Chidi about the idea, and...


North Korean digital control

North Korea is known as one of the most isolated countries in the world. Yet, there are North Koreans who have access to some of the same kind of technologies that are available to the rest of the world, albeit with severe restrictions. A new report suggests that some even hack their smartphones to get around the stringent digital controls. The authors of the report looked at North Korean phones and spoke to two escapees, a former computer programmer for the North Korean government and a...


Electric road trip on Jersey

This week you can listen again to our electric vehicle Jersey road trip. Gareth and Bill are on the small English speaking island off the coast of France investigating the tech scene. We’re travelling around in an on-demand electric vehicle – all booked, paid for and locked and unlocked with an app from our smart phones. We’re finding out about agricultural tech on a dairy farm – how the famous Jersey Cows that produce premium milk are being managed by the latest innovations, and we’re also...


Can we predict Twitter’s future?

What’s in store for twitter, now that Elon Musk’s offer has been accepted by the Twitter board? Bill and Gareth discuss. Is video chat tech still listening when you’re muted? Video conferencing technology might still be listening to your voice even when you are on mute. A new study shows that a number of video meeting apps were recording audio even when the user had switched off their microphone. The researchers analysed the code behind the apps and found that all of the apps in the test...


Audio beats - the new digital drugs?

Could audio files be the new digital drugs? New research shows that binaural beats - illusionary tones created by the brain when the brain hears two different tones in each ear – can change someone’s emotional state. The work, published in Drug and Alcohol Review, shows for the first time that people use binaural beats to relax, fall asleep and even to try to get a psychedelic drug high. BBC’s R&D Audio team have created a binaural beat soundscape especially for Digital Planet and we speak...


Africa’s first cyber-security declaration

As African connectivity improves, so does the spread of cybercrime across the continent. The first ever African cybersecurity conference was held in Togo recently and resulted in twenty nine nations signing the Lomé declaration, a policy that commits to establish a legal and regulatory framework across Africa to improve cybersecurity. Sasha Gankin was at the conference and has sent us a report which highlights the different types of cybercrime that are the biggest threat to businesses,...


Robot boat to survey Tonga volcano

A robot boat is to gather data following Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai’s eruption to try and help scientists what may have caused one of the fiercest volcanic eruptions in more than a century. The 12m long robot boat, called Maxlimer, will map the new volcano’s shape as well as collect readings on environmental conditions like the oxygen content of the surrounding seawater, which impacts marine life. Ashley Skett, operations director at Sea-Kit International, the company that created the robot...


Facial recognition identifies dead Russian soldiers

It’s been reported that Ukraine is receiving help to identify Russian infiltrators or ID dead soldiers. A facial recognition company called Clearview AI is offering access to its database of billions of facial images. We’ve reported on Clearview before as it has been accused of overstating its algorithms’ effectiveness as well as being fined by data regulators. Rhiannon Williams of MIT Download is on the programme and has been following the story. How Ukraine isn’t winning the Information...


Splinternet Risks

The shifting geopolitical economics following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to the reappearance of the word “Splinternet”. In recent years some countries have created the physical infrastructure to potentially run many internet services outside of the reach of the global network of networks most people know as the internet. As sanctions are imposed, popular websites and social networks blocked, and economic lines are drawn, could some countries like Russia and China withdraw...