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”

Cancer diets and tech giants: having cake and eating it

I recently worked with Jack Malvern at The Times on a news story on ketogenic diet apps that claim to help treat cancer (subscription required).

A ketogenic diet, which is very low in carbohydrates, can be used under medical supervision to treat children with epilepsy. But Cancer Research UK says there is no evidence it is effective in reducing the risk of people getting cancer or increasing survival rates. Continue reading “Cancer diets and tech giants: having cake and eating it”

When it’s time to edge away from the cloud

One of IT’s big trends of recent years has been the move to ‘the cloud’, accessing data remotely through the internet rather than storing it on a device. There is nothing particularly cloud-like about the racks of data centre electronics that provide such centralised storage, but as a concept cloud computing has swept all before it. This looks like it might be changing.

Based on Freedom of Information and open data, I recently looked at spending on cloud computing services by the UK public sector for The Register. This showed rapid growth – then flat-lining from late 2016. Continue reading “When it’s time to edge away from the cloud”

Woman sexually abused by Salvation Army members finally gets justice

Almost 20 years after going to the police, the men who attacked her as a young girl are convicted of offences from the 1970s

This article is a follow-up to an article Saba Salman and I wrote on Lucy Taylor’s story for Society Guardian in 2014.

Update: on 23 April, the three defendents in the trial were sentenced to prison. Philip Worthington was sentenced to eight years and three months, William Russell Tompkinson four years and Trevor Worthington 12 months. Derek Smith, who had earlier pleaded guilty, received a suspended sentence and will undertake 100 hours unpaid work (Lancashire Constabulary press release for details). Continue reading “Woman sexually abused by Salvation Army members finally gets justice”

Are you human, or are you software?

‘Artificial intelligence’ looks scary from a distance, but more limited and interesting close-up. In a recent article for Computer Weekly I explored whether AI software can be creative, such as by writing music. The answer is yes, but only with a lot of help from people – and according to those working on music-generating software, you’re going to get functional music for backing videos or lifts rather than the Goldberg Variations. Continue reading “Are you human, or are you software?”