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Digital Digest – 31 March


In this week’s Digital Digest we take a look at Britain’s digital start-up boom and government plans for a solar power station in space.

We then take a look at big tech as Apple makes history at the Oscars and Google’s Deepmind is accused of mishandling sexual misconduct allegations.

Closer To Home

British digital start-ups ‘are worth $1 trillion’

Digital Minister Chris Philp has revealed that Britain is now the third largest tech hub in the world, behind the US and China, as new figures show the UK’s digital technology start-up sector is worth more than $1 trillion. 

Britain is creating unicorns (a start-up worth more than $1bn) and decacorns (a start-up worth more than $10bn) at double the rate of Germany and five times the rate of France. The majority of these startups are located in the South of England, and particularly London. The UK government will be keen to see this boom in tech innovation expand to other regions, especially in the Red Wall. 

Philp suggested that the pandemic facilitated a wave of technology adoption from a variety of previously unintegrated sectors such as health and education. This spawned 13 decacorns and another 14 start-ups valued between $5 billion and $10 billion. Britain’s decacorns include fintechs like Revolut and Markit. 

Whitehall explores solar power stations in space

The Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has ordered civil servants to begin researching ‘orbiting space solar farms’ as he searches for long term, climate friendly solutions to Britain’s energy security crisis. It is argued that solar space farms could provide renewable, round-the-clock energy that is then beamed wirelessly to earth and fed into the electricity grid.

A government report last year stated that a giant grid system to be assembled in space could provide the same amount of power as a nuclear plant, and that space-based solar could provide a quarter of the country’s electricity needs. The project would likely be an international endeavour.

The solar farm would be a 1,700m tall structure, constructed in space by robots who would be launched into space along with the thousands of pieces required. It would then relay the power using high-frequency radio waves to a giant net on Earth.

Big Tech

Apple pips Netflix to the punch

While Will Smith may be grabbing the post-Oscar night headlines, Apple TV+ became the first streaming service to nab the award show’s most coveted prize. CODA, a coming of age drama about a deaf family, won best picture.

The award has evaded Netflix for years despite concerted efforts from the streaming giant, with Oscar-bait films such as The Irishman, Roma, and this year’s The Power of the Dog failing to take the big prize. Netflix’s head of global film, Scott Stuber, was quoted last week saying that a best picture win for the streaming giant would be “the dream”.

Apple’s win is a historic moment for the entertainment industry. The best picture award has long been touted as the benchmark to legitimise, once and for all, the disruptive force of streaming. Whilst this has been inevitable for some time, Apple was never thought to be the first to make the breakthrough.

DeepMind accused of mishandling sexual misconduct allegations

Deepmind, one of the most prominent Artificial Intelligence companies in the world, has been accused of mishandling multiple sexual misconduct and harassment allegations by a former employee. Deepmind employs more than one thousand people, including world renowned scientists, and has made a series of significant breakthroughs in AI since being acquired by Google for £400m in 2014. 

The company has claimed that the allegations were thoroughly investigated and the perpetrator was dismissed. However, Julia, the victim of the misconduct and harassment, wrote a letter to her former colleagues arguing that there are significant flaws in how allegations are handled at the company; this includes delays in investigations and a lack of safeguarding for victims. 

Following the complaints, Deepmind has stressed that it has made changes to its workplace policies, including how it investigates such allegations and how it trains its managers. Deepmind’s parent company, Google, was also forced into a $310m settlement in 2020 for similar allegations of mishandling employee complaints.

Also In The News

  1. Social media may affect girls’ mental health earlier than boys’, research from the University of Cambridge has found. See here.

  2. Apple is considering launching pay-as-you-go iPhones in a monthly subscription scheme that could be launched this year. See here.

  3. Usain Bolt has taken a stake in Irish esports group Wylde who field esports teams in video game tournaments for games including Rocket League and Fifa. See here.

  4. Ofcom has found that TikTok is being used by 16% of British toddlers and a third of children aged between five and seven. See here.

  5. Dyson launches a bizarre air-purifying mask that protects owners from pollution and doubles as a pair of headphones. See here.

Worth A Read

  1. Wired: Forcing WhatsApp and iMessage to Work Together Is Doomed to Fail

  2. Daily Telegraph: Why Russia’s cyber apocalypse has failed to materialise

  3. Financial Times: Russian tech giant Yandex’s data harvesting raises security concerns

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