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Technological and digital news from around the world.
3D printed food – what’s cooking?
Could 3D-printing be serving us up a tasty food revolution, or is it the ultimate in gimmicky processed foods taking us yet further away from natural eating? In the kitchen, a 3D-printer builds up customised tasty treats like exotic cheesecakes, layer by layer, using edible pastes, gels and liquids. The results look delicious, and delicate, and can be tweaked to suit the individual’s specific nutritional needs. The latest possibilities are one of the main courses in the latest issue of npj...
Jimmy Wales on bots and blockages
Digital Planet caught up with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. In the first of two interviews with Gareth, Jimmy explains why Wikipedia was restricted in Pakistan recently and how they overcame the block. And he gives his thoughts on Twitter’s plans to stop the bots and banish its free API. 6G – what we can expect Professor Sana Salous, Chair of Communications Engineering at Durham University is about to submit her latest recommendations for the implementation of 6G connectivity to the...
Digital identity: Where are we now?
It may seem that in some countries surveillance cameras are everywhere – recording almost our every move. We are using fingerprints and facial recognition to get access to our banking, work emails and even our healthcare systems. Alongside this rise in use comes a rapid increase in biometric data gathering, spurred on by contact tracing apps during Covid-19. But where is this very personal data going, who is using it and how. We bring together a panel of experts to discuss what’s happening...
Ukraine’s drone spotting app
As Ukraine enters the second year of the full-scale Russian invasion, we hear about an app through which citizens can help alert defence authorities of air attacks. To help prevent future attacks, the country’s Air Defence Forces want people to use their phones to report hostile airborne objects. Simply install an app, point your handset at the object, select the category – say a drone or a missile - and press the button. It means observers on the ground can pick up objects flying too low...
Data in disaster zones
After the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Northern Syria, how do you collate data to aid those coordinating the disaster response? Cecilia Utas from DEEP (Data Entry and Exploration Platform) explains how important data is in disaster relief and crisis management. And Aziz Şasa from the Turkish Amateur Radio Association also explains the vital role of amateur radio as a key communication method in the region after the earthquake. High altitude communication platforms After multiple...
Internet shutdowns around the world
Within hours of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake across Turkey and northern Syria, the internet in Turkey was partially shutdown. And it wasn’t just because of damage to network infrastructure from the quake itself, but Twitter was blocked, as the authorities raised concerns over misinformation online. Internet shutdowns are used by governments around the world to control people’s access to information, for example during protests, but also somewhat surprisingly to prevent cheating during public...
What’s the future of bots on Twitter?
What is happening with API’s, more commonly known as bots, on Twitter? The platform is set to eliminate free access to its APIs this Thursday, although there appears to have been some backtracking following announcements that bots providing “good content” will have access to the Twitter API for free. Tech writer, broadcaster and bot user and creator Kate Bevan will be on the show with the latest. The right to disconnect Kenya is the latest country to propose a new law that will block...
A smart glove to save babies
One of the main causes of maternal mortality during childbirth is that the baby cannot be delivered vaginally, most likely because it is not positioned correctly in the womb. Without a plethora of medical equipment and training to check the baby’s position, midwives and doctors in developing countries struggle to reposition the baby safely. Scientists at UCL have developed a smart glove that links to an app, which in lab tests appears to be able to correctly identify the position of a baby’s...
What happens when the Bitcoin miners leave?
In the summer of 2021 Kazakhstan was the second biggest producer of Bitcoin in the world, but what has happened since the crypto currency crash? Tech reporter Peter Guest is on the show to tell us about his trip to the country and how mega warehouses that once contained the computing power to make crypto millions now stand empty in the country’s rust belt. He tells us the story of the rise and fall of the bitcoin miners in this remote part of the world. Wearable tech, AI and potential new...
Self-driving cars could be a massive source of global carbon emissions
MIT researchers have concluded in a new study that computers that power self-driving cars could generate as many greenhouse gas emissions as the total of the world’s data centres do today. We’ve reported many times on the huge carbon footprint of data centres as well as the massive amounts of electricity needed to run them. They currently account for 0.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions – a similar level to Argentina - according to the International Energy Agency. The models created show...
Getting online in Ukraine’s blackouts
One of our listeners in Ukraine contacted us to tell us how he stays online during power outages following bombing in Ukraine. Volodymyr Bielikov is on the show to explain the issues he’s regularly facing with internet connectivity. AI avatars undressed and virtual employees Ghislaine Boddington looks at the alarming story of how a young female reporter created avatars in the AI avatar app Lensa and was shocked to find that out of 100 avatars, 16 were topless and another 14 wore very skimpy...
Agritech Special Edition
This week and to start the New Year we take a look at the use of technology in agriculture around the world. Agriculture as an industry is keen to clean up its act on emissions, so what could be better than an electric tractor. But will it be able to manage all that farming throws at it? Gareth puts the questions to Praveen Penmetsa who is co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractors which recently launched a ‘Smart Tractor’. It’s no use having a tractor smart or not, if your crop has been...
The Tech of 2022
We’re looking back on the technology year that was 2022. We go firstly to Ukraine to look at the booming tech industry before the war and discuss how that is doing now. Also how the cybersecurity declaration signed in Africa is already leading to the beginnings of a legal and regulatory framework across the continent. There was trouble for visually impaired patients using an implant to improve their sight – with some of the hardware becoming obsolete and finally the amazing popularity of...
Eight million SIMs blocked in Ghana
More than 8 million unregistered SIM cards have been blocked in Ghana. The Ministry of Communications and Digitisation set a final deadline for mobile phone users to link their SIM card to their identification cards and now those who have not been able to register cannot use their SIMS. Opposition parties and civil liberties groups are protesting as the SIM needs to be registered with the biometric Ghana Card. The scheme has been full of delays, but it looks as though the government is...
Shopee in Thailand – is it safe?
One of the biggest platforms in South East Asia, which is as popular as Google, YouTube and Facebook, has stopped bank transfer payments. Users have reported money missing from their accounts – the transactions should have been secured with a one-time passcode but according to social media they we processed without permission. Shopee have now stopped customers from linking their accounts to the platform directly. The company also denies they were hacked and that they had taken the decision...
Predicting cyclones with mobiles
Due to climate change cyclones are increasing in frequency and intensity. Data available to study these weather phenomena though is quite scare, so a new project at Imperial College in London, hopes to harness the computing power of people’s mobile phones to create a virtual supercomputer and create a massive public database of simulated cyclone models to help predict future events. Professor Ralf Toumi, Co-Director of Grantham Institute, is leading the project and is on the show. Listeners...
Robots that can assemble almost anything.
Researchers at MIT have made significant steps toward creating robots that could practically and economically assemble nearly anything, including things much larger than themselves, from vehicles to buildings to larger robots. Many objects could be built from tiny identical lightweight pieces e.g. an airplane wing or a racing car, and this latest work is a big step towards a fully autonomous self-replicating robot assembly system. Two of the authors are Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Director...
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...
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...
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....