28 episodes

Technological and digital news from around the world.

Digital Planet BBC

    • Technology

Technological and digital news from around the world.

    Internet shutdowns cost $8bn in 2019

    Internet shutdowns cost $8bn in 2019

    The cost of the major internet shutdowns in 2019 has been estimated as $8bn according to a report by the Top10VPN website, with WhatsApp being the platform that is blocked most often.

    Twitter bots and trolls on bush fires
    Could the latest orchestrated social media disinformation campaign be unfolding in Australia. Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have been analysing thousands of tweets and found some concerning activity. Could paid for trolls be behind tweets suggesting that arsonists are responsible for this year’s bush fires?

    Indigenous language keyboards
    The United Nations has just declared an International Decade of Indigenous Languages. It is to begin in 2022, so we have been finding out about getting indigenous languages onto a device – and it isn’t always as hard as you think.

    Worm robots
    Robotic worms might be soon being used to sniff out people as part of search and rescue operations. Our reporter Jason Hosken has been to the lab where they’re developing chemical sensors that could help trace people who have perhaps been trapped under rubble following a natural disaster. The robotic worm could end up assisting, or reducing the need for, specially trained sniffer dogs.

    Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

    (Photo: Internet shut down in India. Credit: AFP)

    • 45 min
    Tech tracking Australian fires

    Tech tracking Australian fires

    An app is helping Australian’s stay safe during the Bush fires. Fires Near Me was created by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and we hear how it works from journalist Corinne Podger. Also the WICEN HAM Radio operators who are providing emergency communications when mobile masts and internet connections are disrupted and measuring air quality using low power networks.

    Safer motorbike taxis in Rwanda and the DRC
    How do you ensure that the motorbike taxi you are hailing in Kigali or Kinshasa will get you home safely? Using an app that has data on the driver is one big step to having a safer journey. Gareth Mitchell finds out about Cango who collect data about their drivers to rate how safely they ride.

    Digitising Natural History
    The famous Natural History Museum in London has only a fraction of its collection on show. To ensure all their specimens are correctly catalogued, the museum is now digitising their collections. Harry Lampert has been finding out how technologies like machine learning are helping to get more and more specimens online.

    Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

    (Photo: Fires Near Me app. Credit: New South Wales Rural Fire Service)

    • 43 min
    South Africa power cuts

    South Africa power cuts

    South Africa Power Cuts
    Is South Africa facing a blackout? Power cuts across the country are now happening regularly as the country struggles with demand for electricity. There’s even an app that tells you if your lights are going to stay on today, or tomorrow. Professor Keith Bell from Strathclyde University explains why this is happening.

    Plasmonics - computing with light
    Fancy computing with the speed of light? Well for the first time this is possible thanks to research at Oxford University. Scientists have managed use light to store, access and now process data on chip. The research could significantly increase processing speeds at data centres, not only making computing faster but saving significant amounts of energy.

    Land of Iron
    A National Park is usually synonymous with nature and wildlife. Perhaps not the obvious place to find a technology story, but in North Yorkshire in the UK a project is underway that is using technology in many different forms to bring a forgotten history back to life. Our reporter Jack Meegan has been time-travelling for us. Jack finds out how the park’s industrial past can now be seen thanks to technology.

    World Wise Web
    Digital Planet gets a sneak preview of a brand BBC new tech podcast. On World Wise Web, teenagers from around the world get the chance to talk to the technology pioneers who have shaped our digital world.




    (Photo: Township Homes, South Africa. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 43 min
    Why is AI so far from perfect?

    Why is AI so far from perfect?

    A special episode looking at AI – why it still is far from perfect? We discuss what would happen if you took a driverless car from the streets of California and put it on roads in a developing country, why deep fakes are so difficult to detect and how the images that are used to teach machines to recognise things are biased against women and ethnic minorities.

    Picture: Driverless Cars, Getty Images

    • 38 min
    Digital Planet’s 18th Birthday Show

    Digital Planet’s 18th Birthday Show

    A special edition of Digital Planet recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre in London to celebrate the programmes 18th birthday. The team look back on the first show and look forward to the tech that is now also coming of age and what we might be seeing in the future. With 3D holographic phone calls, musical performances where the musicians are hundreds of kilometres apart, and the Gravity Synth detecting gravitational waves and turning them into music.

    Picture: Digital Planet recording, Credit: BBC

    • 29 min
    Improving crop yields with mobile phones

    Improving crop yields with mobile phones

    Mobile phones are improving lives and yields for millions of farmers around the world. Michael Kremer, a 2019 Economics Nobel Prize winner developed Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD) to give farmers in developing countries advice on how to improve their yields. He and Owen Barder, CEO of PAD, tell Digital Planet how it works.

    To reduce failures on surveillance or delivery missions, drones need to be monitored effectively. Karen Willcox at the Oden Institute of the University of Texas in Austin explains how her team has found a way to send back real time data using sensors that create a digital twin of the drone, which can show where fatigue and stress may cause damage during the flight.

    Racist and sexist biases within algorithms are causing concern, especially considering they are making many decisions in our lives. Noel Sharkey, Professor of Robotics and AI at the University of Sheffield in the UK, and he thinks it’s time to halt this decision making until it can be properly regulated, or it will have major, real-life effects on all of us.


    (Photo: Farmer carrying silage and talking on phone. Credit: Getty Images)


    Producer: Rory Galloway

    • 46 min

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