159 episodes

Technological and digital news from around the world.

Digital Planet BBC World Service

    • Technology
    • 3.5 • 2 Ratings

Technological and digital news from around the world.

    How Nancy Pelosi’s flight was tracked

    How Nancy Pelosi’s flight was tracked

    Were you one of the 2.92million people who was watching Nancy Pelosi fly into Taiwan on FlightRadar24 bypassing Chinese bases in the South China Sea as it approached Taipei? It’s one of the most popular flight tracking sites in the world and uses open standard surveillance technology which allows planes to transmit their location data to anyone with a receiver. As the receivers are fairly inexpensive it now has a network of more than 30,000 and collects data from other sources too like satellites. These data sources aren’t blocked which is why so many flights can be tracked (although they are not always named). It’s often used by fans to track celebrities, especially sports stars, it also shares information with air crash investigators. Ian Petchenik from FlightRadar24 is on the show to explain more.

    New push to get women into fintech in Ethiopia
    Digital payments in Ethiopia are just part of a much wider push by the government to get the country financially online. Currently most payments – including fuel bills - are paid by cash. Wairimu Gitahi, Global Communications & Knowledge Management Analyst at the United Nations Capital Development fund tells us about a new project the “Women’s Digital Inclusion Advocacy Hub.” The project is aimed at women, so they don’t get left behind in Ethiopia’s fintech revolution.

    Wikipiano – a call to compose our Radio Theatre performance piece
    Digital Planet is celebrating its 21st birthday this September and we’re recording a special show in the Radio Theatre (you’re all invited). To help us party we’re asking our listeners to compose a special multimedia performance of Wikipiano that will be premiered on the night in the Radio Theatre. You don’t have to be musical – just log onto Wikipiano.net and add text, video, images, compose new music (if you can), add actions for cyber soloist Zubin Kanga to perform on the night. Zubin helps Gareth add to the score and invites all our listeners to have a go themselves. The piece was composed by Alexander Schubert.


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.

    Studio Manager: Bob Nettles
    Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

    (Image: FlightRadar24. Credit: https://www.flightradar24.com/)

    • 37 min
    Is disability tech delivering?

    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 people like Claire.


    Listening glasses
    Many people have reading glasses, but what about glasses that can hear? A new pair of augmented reality glasses can hear what other people say, transcribe it, and then displays the text on your glasses like real-life subtitles. How could this type of tech help people with hearing impairment? Gareth speaks to XRAI CEO Dan Scarfe, as well as Josh Feldman, who was born hard of hearing and usually relies on lip reading. Will the listening glasses work live on the show?


    Who gets to use assistive tech?
    Technological solutions for people with disabilities are hugely beneficial, but as a new report from WHO and UNICEF shows, many people in need never get to access them. Chapal Khasnabis, head of the Access to Assistive Technology and Medical Devices unit at WHO, tells Gareth just how big the global inequity of assistive tech, and what we can do to fix it.







    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.

    Studio Manager: Bob Nettles
    Producer: Florian Bohr

    (Image: Wheelchair user using assistive technology credit: Getty Images)

    • 36 min
    Grassroots data – holding the powerful to account

    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 Charlotte Godart who leads the volunteer programme at Bellingcat, on how they effectively crowdsource part of their investigations, and we hear from several hobbyists who rose to prominence on Twitter about why they spent much of their free time on this type of research.

    Data tackling gun violence
    Brazil has a gun violence issue, and a public data issue. In the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area, there were, on average, 13 shootings every single day last year, and the only reason we know this is because of open data platform Fogo Cruzado. They collect data in real-time on shootings happening in Rio and other cities across Brazil via their app, social media, and public police reports, and they make that data publicly available for ordinary citizens, organisations, and journalists to use. The founder of Fogo Cruzado, Cecília Olliveira, explains how it all works, and how having data can help set the public agenda.

    The blue map: environmentalist action in China
    Only 10 years ago, Beijing was a city covered in smog with many residents opting to wear pollution masks. Now, the situation has, remarkably, improved, with blue skies being a normal sight. One possible reason for this drastic change is environmentalist Ma Jun, who, in 2006, started the blue map database aggregating government data and making it more easily accessible to the public. Since then, the blue map project has grown into an app that lets users check many types of environmental data and even contribute to the database themselves by simply taking a picture of a dirty river, a cloud of smog, or a factory that isn’t following environmental guidelines. Gareth speaks to Ma Jun, founding director of China’s Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs and founder of the Blue Map, about how this crowdsourcing approach works, and how environmental activism in China differs from Western countries.


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari.

    Studio Manager: Michael Millham
    Producer: Florian Bohr

    (Image: Crowd and data credit: Getty Images)

    • 41 min
    Self-driving cars on the horizon?

    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 Jack Stilgoe tells us about the potential issues and implications of self-driving technology.

    Robbed of mobile innovation
    In many cities globally, urban robberies have become a familiar occurrence, so much so that many people have started to develop their own strategies to mitigate losing their mobile phone. In São Paulo, some leave their phones at home or take a second throw-away phone that they can give away instead, but there are more technological solutions as well. Expert contributor Angelica Mari tells us more, and shares why this is affecting the adoption of mobile phone innovation, in particular fintech.

    Crypto adoption during Argentina's inflation crisis
    In Argentina, rising inflation has become a growing issue. Economy minister Martin Guzman resigned earlier this month, and annual inflation is set to hit above 70%. In light of the peso's instability, some Argentines are deciding to invest in cryptocurrencies instead. Is this a safer bet? Could crypto adoption affect Argentina's economy? Our reporter Lucía Cholakian has been finding out more.

    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari.

    Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant
    Producer: Florian Bohr

    (Image: Auto driving system and technology. Credit: show999 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

    • 40 min
    Are internet shutdowns evolving?

    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 live in the studio to discuss why internet shutdowns occur, and whether they have changed over time.

    Quantum-safe algorithms
    The encryption methods we currently use to keep our data safe and secure could be a thing of the past soon. Experts expect quantum computers to be able to crack these encryption codes quite easily in the future, which could have devastating consequences. After a six year selection process, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States has chosen four initial algorithms for their quantum-safe cryptography standards. Gareth speaks to Anne Dames, an engineer at IBM, where three of the final four were developed.

    Mobile app for tinnitus
    Hearing a ringing or buzzing in your ear can be very difficult to deal with. A number of mobile tinnitus apps are now promising help. One of them, called TinniBot, even includes an AI chatbot that provides support whenever it is needed. Our reporter Fern Lulham has been finding out more.

    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson

    Producer: Florian Bohr
    Studio manager: Duncan Hannant

    (Image: Abstract Digital Pixel Noise Credit: The7Dew/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

    • 35 min
    Deepfake calls to European mayors?

    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 instead. What do these two terms mean, and what is the difference between them? We have deepfake experts Hany Farid and Hao Li in the studio to answer this question, explain how deepfakes are created, and discuss the wider issues that they pose.

    India’s great VPN exit
    In late April, the Indian government decided to enact new cybersecurity rules that include forcing virtual private network (VPN) providers to keep users’ data such as names, contact numbers, and IP addresses for a period of five years. VPN companies in India have sharply criticised the ruling, and some have already exited and pulled their servers out of the country. India has now given VPN providers another three months to comply with the new rules. Expert contributor Bill Thompson tells Gareth what VPNs are, why these new rules conflict with their premise, and what this could mean for privacy and the tech sector in India.

    Can AI solve prostate cancer?
    In a recent machine learning competition, developers used a new prostate biopsy dataset to train artificial intelligence algorithms to diagnose and grade tumours. Gareth speaks to Ph.D. student Nita Mulliqi about the difficulties of using AI in prostate cancer grading and how a dataset from diverse clinical settings is needed to create effective algorithms. We also hear from a consultant for the WHO, Rohit Malpani, about the limitations of applying machine learning applications in healthcare in low- and middle-income countries.

    Studio manager: Michael Millham
    Producer: Florian Bohr

    (Image: Vitali Klitschko. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 37 min

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