Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works

There were two reasons I wanted to write about software used by international aid organisations. The first reason was that there were lots of great projects to write about. Where commercial mappers failed, Missing Maps volunteers using OpenStreetMap and aerial images had 23,500 square kilometres of the Democratic Republic of the Congo hit by Ebola mapped in a fortnight, helping Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to tackle the outbreak.

The second reason was that aid organisations need technology that works in all environments. Among other things, this often means avoiding cloud computing. MSF physically flew its new maps to the Congo, first on paper then on a small server, to save bandwidth to its facilities there. Those with staff working mainly in the field, such as Oxfam and World Vision, make sure their software works offline. It demonstrates why cloud is not the answer everywhere, even if mobile coverage in Britain are usually better than in central Africa. Continue reading “Aid organisations dodge cloud for technology that works”

Blockchain: cut the cryptocurrencies and taste the tuna

Cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology, such as bitcoin and ethereum, get a lot of hype. Some believe they are the future of finance, while other including savvy MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee and the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog (free registration required) take a more cynical view. Recent drops in the price of bitcoin suggest the latter have a point.

Like many technologies, blockchain – which creates a permanent, unalterable record of transactions – may prove to be of greater use in areas other than its original one. I have previously looked at its uses outside finance for Computer Weekly, but have now focused on how it can support food and drink supply chains. Continue reading “Blockchain: cut the cryptocurrencies and taste the tuna”

The profit-loss divide on a decade’s house prices

Land accounts for 51% of the UK’s total net worth of £10.2 trillion, far more than in France (42%) or Germany (26%). Most of this, £4.1 trillion, is the value of the land our homes are built on – the buildings are worth a further £1.8 trillion.

From 2009 to 2017, the Office for National Statistics reckons that land held by households has risen by a compound annual growth rate of 5.9%. But that disguises huge local differences. I compared the latest June 2018 data from the Land Registry’s House Price Index to that of a decade earlier, and found that in 42 of the UK’s 217 top-tier local authority areas house prices have actually fallen in cash terms over the decade. They are marked pink and red on this map.

Continue reading “The profit-loss divide on a decade’s house prices”

Updated version of Britdata just published

A new version of my e-book Britdata is available here (£9.99) and on Leanpub (US$11.99 plus VAT). I have updated it with the recently-released population estimates from the Office for National Statistics, as well as information on how GDPR affects subject access requests.

Whether on Leanpub or direct, buyers automatically get updated versions when they come out – I have just sent this new edition to those who had already purchased it – and it comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee. To give you an idea, you can read the introduction here and the list of contents here.

New NUJ training dates on freelancing and data journalism

All three of my NUJ training courses are due to run this autumn, all at the union’s London headquarters, Headland House. Winning and negotiating freelance work is on Friday 21 September, costing NUJ members £70, NUJ student members £60 and non-members £130. Details and booking here.

First steps in freelancing, which does what it says on the tin, is on Friday 5 October, at the same prices. Details and booking here.

And my Introduction to data in journalism course, organised by the NUJ’s London Freelance Branch, is on Friday 19 October, at a cost to NUJ members of £55, student members £45 and non-members £110. Book here.