Friday roundup: A week in tech

Digital skills

The Chinese government has been busy purging the ol’ internet of things it finds distasteful – which is a good deal of it.

The seemingly easily-perturbed-by-people-doing-things regime has given 4,000 sites the chop in the last three months, citing concerns about the cyber spread of ‘improper values, vulgarity or obscenity’.

Well, those metrics could cover a whole multitude of sins: Mail Online, Twitter, YouTube comments…hang on, most of the internet.

However, according to the BBC, the digital slaughter has included free e-books – and quite right, too: books can have ideas in them, which can lead to thinking, and thinking can unleash all kinds of mayhem.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that a story that doesn’t necessarily paint the Chinese government in the best light has found its way into quite a few round-ups in the last few weeks. Not my fault: I swear, as soon as Finland builds a big bureaucratic firewall around the internet, or Mexico asks Google to create it a government-beholden search engine, I’ll write about that too.


Ethically whiffy taxi-hailing outfit Uber is paying out a purse-splitting heap of money to settle the fallout over a massive data breach, and its subsequent attempts to hide the incident.

The firm is forking out £133m to soothe the US government and 50 American states, after it ludicrously failed to inform 57 million of its customers and drivers that their data was breached in 2016.

Instead of fessing up, cowardly Uber paid the hackers behind the attack $100,000 to delete the data – which I’m sure they did because it would be wrong of the criminals to steal the data, collect the ransom, and then lie about destroying it, wouldn’t it?

On top of the pay out, the company has kindly pledged to change its (deeply stupid, selfish) ways, ensuring such a thing never happens again. Isn’t that nice?

I still wouldn’t open an account with them, though. I’d rather walk. In the rain. With a bad leg.


A firm’s plans to open a robot brothel are looking like they may be kyboshed by the authorities.

Kinky S Dolls hopes to open a ‘love dolls brothel’ in Houston, USA, but the city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, doesn’t seem to like the idea very much and is currently trying to work out if the outlet presents a health and safety risk to the public.

The firm already has a similar shop in Toronto, Canada, where, clearly, the local administration isn’t too concerned with people having ‘sex’ with robots in a shop.

The company’s website states ‘WE ARE WORKING ON IMPROVING OUR WEB PAGE WE WILL BE BACK SOON…’ which seems remarkably remiss for an outfit that has apparently turned cyber-sex literally into a real thing in the real world. Maybe that’s the point?

Depressing, or merely insane? Both? We live in interesting times.


A company’s use of a stock image of a man looking at a woman while another woman looks aghast at the man has been ruled sexist, by no less than Sweden’s advertising regulator. Got that?

The miserable ‘distracted boyfriend’ image became the focus of much internet tomfoolery and japery last year – and continues to be, as people insist on churning out chronic memes based around it.

Anyhow, told-off firm Bahnhof used the notorious pic to advertise some job vacancies on Facebook, and in its wacky version the ‘distracted boyfriend’ is ‘you’; the woman the ‘distracted boyfriend’ is looking at is ‘Bahnhof’; and the woman looking aghast at the ‘distracted boyfriend’ is ‘your current employer’. Got that?

(Isn’t it fun having to read a long description of an image rather than seeing the actual image?)

The regulator, Reklamombudsmannen, has ruled that Bahnhof’s use of the pic not only objectified women but also managed to be ‘sexually discriminatory’ towards men.

And you’ll never guess what: the ruling has led to yet another flurry of rubbish, gruellingly unfunny memes based on the image. I don’t like memes much. Can you tell?

Having gone through all this, Bahnhof won’t be fined – and won’t even have to remove the image! So, I don’t know what the point of all this was.

And what do Bahnhof do, you ask? Well, they’re a robotic sex doll manufacturer. Only joking. I don’t know what they do.

Friday roundup: A week in tech

Declaring: The Local Digital Fund


The Local Digital Fund (LDF) is alive and well and open for applications, or so I’ve been led to understand.

Great, what’s that? you ask. Give me a chance! I’m about to explain…

Created to support the recent Local Digital Declaration, the LDF is a £7.5 million pot designed to not only pay for around 1,000 council staff digital skills but also, in the words of local government minister Rishi Sunak, ‘fund a toolkit of reusable tools and products that help service teams redesign their services to declaration standards’.

Indeed, MP Sunak is overjoyed, writing here that ‘I am delighted to announce the LDF…we at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will be using the fund to support you in local government’.

Now, if you haven’t clicked the first link you might want an explanation as to what the Local Digital Declaration is.

Well, it’s an attempt to help local authorities ‘break their dependence on inflexible technology, adopt the best digital ways of working, and ultimately offer excellent local services for less’.

If you’d like to apply for a piece of the pot, click here to do so.

And you can click here to view the LDF’s prospectus.

There are too many links in this article for my liking, but such is the nature of the story. Happy funding!

Declaring: The Local Digital Fund

Friday roundup: A week in tech


A former Google manager has become the latest tech turncoat to renounce his past evil ways – by accusing his erstwhile employers of ‘manipulating human nature’.

Guilt-sodden Tristan Harris turned to Radio 4’s Today programme for a lengthy confessional, during which he warned giving the likes of Google a ‘free pass on regulation’ will have terrible consequences for humanity.

(I should mention that I’m getting all this from a Daily Express story, so some or all of it may be misleading or false. In fact, the story’s headline refers to ‘hunan nature’ which I have taken the liberty of reinterpreting as ‘human nature’.)

Not really adding anything new, Mr Harris grumbled: “They [the world’s tech companies] are caught in this race to the bottom of the brain stem, and the problem is, it leads to huge consequences across the social fabric – from alienation and isolation to loneliness for teenagers.’

Again, not exactly setting the world alight with his ‘exclusive’ insights Mr Harris added that firms such as Google are ‘obsessed with maximizing clicks and little else’. Well, duh.

So, in summary: yet another chilling forecast of the ghastly hellscape we’re heading towards.


A woman has upset some people on the internet – and not just for merely existing.

Apparently not content with having the effrontery to be female, model Lyndsey Scott has had the further audacity to admit that she can write computer code.

Outraged and disbelieving net users were quick to mock Ms Scott’s claim that she can programme in C++, Java, Python and so on – provoking her to reply that ‘I have 27481 points on Stack Overflow; I’m on the iOS tutorial team for; I’m the Lead iOS software engineer for Rallybound, the 841st fastest growing company in the US according to Inc. Magazine,’ whatever any of that means.

So, it turns out you can be a woman, a model, AND a coder. Whatever next? (Busy/greedy Benjamin Franklin was an author, printer, politician, scientist, inventor, humourist, activist, statesman, and diplomat, but he was a man which changes things (also his modelling career was short-lived and awful).)

Anyway, this next bit of news might cheer up those disgruntled by the presence of pesky girls in the world of code: the number of women studying computer skills has fallen by a third.

A study by the Joint Council of Qualifications found that the number of female students who took GCSEs in computing or IT has fallen from nearly 53,000 in 2014 to 35,000 in 2018.

So, it looks like it might be a bit of a victory for James Damore-types: all those hours spent grinding away on Twitter et al may possibly have driven a lot of girls away from the hallowed world of computer coding. Well done!


A rattled cleric’s whinging has led to the closure of a 3D printing shop, which sounds like the set-up for an episode of a strange sitcom.

Sheikh Othman al-Khamis’s moaning has seen to it that the Kuwaiti shop was shut down by the authorities, after he accused the outlet of creating ‘idols’ – that is, 3D printed models of what looks like a random unremarkable man.

Backing the ecclesiastical complainer’s objections, Twitter user Abdulrahman al-Nassar tweeted: ‘Today these idols are mementos, but in years to come, people will seek blessings from them… and then they will be worshipped instead of God.’ Ah, right, yes, thanks for that.

In Islam, idolatry is considered a sin – yet there don’t seem to be any regulations covering Twitter usage, which seems like a bit of an oversight to me.

Anyhow, the banned shop’s despairing owner said: ‘I never expected that we could open a shop in the year 2018 and then have someone accuse the company of selling idols.’


Daft Elon Musk has finally got what he’s apparently craved for the last couple of months: he’s being sued for calling someone a ‘pedo’.

The peculiar billionaire first accused British diver Vernon Unsworth of being a ‘child rapist’ back in July, in the tumult following this summer’s blockbuster: 12 Trapped Thai Teenagers and a Mini Submarine.

Unable to back up the appalling slur, Mr Musk deleted his libellous tweets – but the incident clearly ate away at him, and he recently re-lit the stupid and wholly unnecessary fire by again implying that Mr Unsworth is a paedophile.

The diver has now decided to sue and is seeking £57,000 is damages – absolute peanuts as far as Mr Musk is concerned, but perhaps the real cost will be to his reputation. The Tesla owner’s behaviour and pronouncements have drawn lots of attention of late, which has led in part to some sharp falls in the value of his firm’s shares.

What a load of utterly idiotic nonsense. Have a nice weekend.

Friday roundup: A week in tech

How ready are you for the cloud?


Do you lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering whether or not you’re ready for the cloud? If the cloud turned up tomorrow morning, would you be deeply red-faced, horribly unprepared, hobbling around with your trousers around your ankles like the UK after the Brexit vote?

Well, cheer up: a workshop that addresses this very thing is on the way – and it’s free.

Frequent Socitm collaborator Eduserv, a not-for-profit partner for public and third sector organisations, will hold the special event at no less than Microsoft’s HQ in Reading on Wednesday 17 October.

And what can we expect? According to Eduserv, the workshop will cover: where you need to assess your readiness for cloud; how to effectively assess each of these areas; reviewing what’s discovered; and planning next steps and building a business case. So, you can expect plenty of insightful stuff.

Eduserv says that the interactive event is for IT and business leaders who are currently considering moving to the cloud. The organisation adds that to have a real chance of success, you must have a clear understanding of where you currently are, as this ensures that a realistic plan is put in place, helping to safeguard a smooth transition when the adoption starts.

In the, I say again, FREE workshop, Eduserv’s CTO, Andy Powell, and solutions consultant Colm Blake will teach you how to perform your own cloud adoption assessment within your organisation.

So, if you’re suffering pre-cloud anxieties there seems little reason to miss this special event.

Click here to read more and book your place.


How ready are you for the cloud?

West Midlands to testbed 5G


The next chapter in the exciting ‘G’ series is coming to the West Midlands, along with 50 million quid.

Following on from 4G, itself preceded by 3G, 5G will, it is said, offer even faster connection speeds to the millions of Facebook checkers, Twitter twitterers and LinkedIn posers throughout the UK.

And the lucky old West Midlands is to host the first multi-city 5G test bed, trialling the tech before a future rollout across the country – unless it all goes wrong, of course, in which case I guess they’ll just skip to 6G?

The pilot will see hubs set up in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, with the first of a series of projects expected to go live early next year.

The slightly over-excitable Margot James, minister for digital, said: ‘5G has the potential to dramatically transform the way we go about our daily lives, and we want the citizens of the UK to be amongst the first to experience all the opportunities and benefits this new technology will bring. The West Midlands Testbed, which is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, will be instrumental in helping us realise this ambition.’

The Department Culture, Media and Sport’s £50 million in funding for the project is coming from the £200m the government has assigned to develop 5G technologies.

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, is very pleased with the developments, which have moved him to the following words: ‘This announcement is game-changing for the West Midlands economy. This will be the backbone of our future economy and society.

‘We have been working to put the foundations in place to grow the industries which will create the jobs of the future, particularly around driverless vehicles and life sciences where we have a genuine advantage. To deliver the future of these industries we need the power of 5g.’

West Midlands to testbed 5G

Multi-purpose and library apps prove popular for councils

Blog Bradford app

SA Mathieson, editor of Socitm’s In Our View magazine

Multi-purpose and library-specific apps appear to be the most popular provided by local authorities, according to data from Google’s Play store.

As of mid-August, at least 13 local authority apps had been installed more than 5,000 times through Google, with eight of them library service apps from Scottish technology company Solus.

Bradford City Council’s multi-purpose app, which covers areas including school closures, library renewals and job vacancies, and Glasgow City Council’s iTouch-designed MyGlasgow app for reporting environmental issues, had both been installed more than 10,000 times.

As well as those for libraries, multi-purpose apps designed by Cloud 9 for East Devon District Council and governmentM for Staffordshire County Council, as well as Boxsail’s Recycle for Greater Manchester app, had all been installed more than 5,000 times.

The 127 apps, provided by 105 local authorities, were found through keyword searches in the Google App store for the 50 largest UK local authorities and lists of apps from selected suppliers, so the data is indicative rather than comprehensive.

But many council apps appear to be little-used. Although 68 had been installed more than 1,000 times through Google, 47 had between 100 to 999 installations and 12 had been installed fewer than 100 times.

User ratings for apps varied widely, with five having average scores of less than two stars out of five, but 12 scoring four or above. Cardiff Council’s multi-purpose app, launched in June, was one of the most highly-rated, with an average score of 4.6.

A longer version of this article is in the new issue of Socitm’s In Our View magazine, available for download here.

Multi-purpose and library apps prove popular for councils

Friday roundup: A week in tech


Facebook et al are going to start receiving some eye-watering fines in the post if they don’t start clearing their wretched networks of terror content, pending the European Union’s plans.

Tired of terror-related carnage, the EU wants to force the likes of Twitter, Facebook…um, Geocities if it’s still going, to remove violent mischief within an hour of going live, or be penalised into oblivion.

By my count, this is the 453rdattempt by the authorities to deal with the big social networks’ crummy grip on terror content and other cyber atrocities.

According to Julian King, the UK’s security commissioner in Brussels, people are increasingly getting their instructions for terrorism over the internet – and digital material has had a part to play in every European attack in the past 18 months.

Speaking, rather than tweeting, thankfully, Mr King said: ‘We have got a problem with content; it is not an entirely new problem, we are not starting from scratch, we have agreed to do some voluntary stuff, and we got some good progress – but not enough.’

If the EU gets its legislative way, networks will also have to erect systems that automatically remove terror propaganda.

So, let’s wait and see how all that works out.


Already cuddling up nicely with government bosses in China, Google seems to be extending the goodwill towards the authorities in Moscow.

The search giant has scrubbed YouTube adverts by one Alexei Navalny, a big critic of Russian uber-boss Vladimir Putin.

According to Google, it removed the ads merely to act in accordance with the laws of the land, which decree that political campaigning in a no-no within 24 hours of an election.

My Navalny’s YouTube videos called for people to join protests against the government’s plans to change the age of retirement in Russia.

So, jolly nice of Google to stringently adhere to local rules, and coupled with last month’s news that the firm is building a special government-friendly search engine for China, one wonders what the company might do next. A digital marketplace for the Mexican Juarez drugs cartel? A bespoke photo-sharing hub for ISIS?


Yet again the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a firm’s broadband adverts for being full of fibs.

Complaints have been upheld that Vodafone’s recent irritating Martin Freeman-fronted campaign has been misleading customers, claiming as it does that the firm’s broadband service doesn’t suffer ‘drop-out’ like other providers.

However, the ASA has ruled that the claims can’t be substantiated and that consumers might interpret the ads as saying that broadband with Vodafone would mean an end to the ongoing curse of internet connections, buffering.

This is where it gets interesting: on its website, Vodafone claimed that its Ultimate Speed Guarantee ‘means you get the best broadband speed available to you, or we’ll give you a discount off your monthly bill until we can get you there’.

However, speed and ‘drop-out’ are two different things, as I can tell you from my own horrible experience at my house, where the internet is nice and fast – when it’s there at all.

Interestingly, one of those that complained about the unreliable ads was BT – and you know you’re doing something wrong as an ISP when they’ve got the moral high ground.

Vodafone has said that it’s ‘disappointed’ with the ruling (specially as they probably paid Mr Freeman £millions to star in their rubbish, now banned adverts) but here’s the rub: the ads ran for ages, so Vodafone got lots of publicity and, I assume, sales from the campaign, but all the ASA has done is prohibited further broadcast, which is what happens every time in these situations.

When are these firms going to start getting fined for lying?

Friday roundup: A week in tech