The Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast team started the year discussing Harry and Meghan, registered the course of the Covid-19 public health crisis on enterprise IT throughout the year, and finished 2020 with reflections on the channel in the pandemic.
And to offer a more global perspective, in one episode, Alex Scroxton, CW’s security editor, joined the team to talk about how Southeast Asia’s approach to the coronavirus crisis has differed from ours.
The long and winding narrative of the controversial contact-tracing app was unfolded over the course of the year by Joe O’Halloran, CW’s networking editor, and he appeared, in May, on the podcast to discuss the app’s travails.
Along the way, the podcast foregrounded matters bigger than the narrow confines of business-to-business technology, signally diversity in IT and in society. Women in IT and ethnic diversity – which the Black Lives Matter movement brought to the fore in 2020 – were big areas of focus.
The podcast power trio of Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna mostly talked about their own areas of coverage: respectively, cloud, datacentres and IR35; diversity, skills and retail; and data analytics and business applications.
And they, and other team members, talked in a more personal vein about their experience of the pandemic and its lockdowns. Hair dyeing, gaming, TV bingeing, tropical fish tending (featuring Cliff Saran), cat communing (featuring Bill Goodwin), and rewilding all cropped up, among many other lockdown staples.
The (this year) virtual Chelsea Flower Show also afforded Caroline an opportunity to talk about gardening, a popular lockdown activity for many. Who knows, perhaps these warm-up chats will figure in some future oral history project?
It’s an invidious task to select 10 of the 2020 podcast episodes, but here goes (in chronological order):
In the 14 January episode, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna greeted the new decade with reflections on the Travelex ransomware attack and Dominic Cummings’ call for data science to rejuvenate Whitehall. And they took stock of the retail sector’s grim 2019, while remembering to mention the big story of the moment: Harry and Meghan.
In the 10 March episode, Clare McDonald, Caroline Donnelly and Brian McKenna were joined by CW production editor Claire Cormack to discuss the Everywoman in Tech Forum, the vulnerability to hacking of smart cameras and baby monitors, and the value or otherwise of the traditional annual performance review.
In the 5 May episode – recorded on May Day – Caroline Donnelly and Brian McKenna were joined by Sebastian Klovig Skelton to discuss the 20th anniversary of the Love Bug virus, Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism, the rise of virtual events in the wake of Covid-19 and Amazon’s difficulties with striking warehouse workers, concerning the Covid-19 virus.
In the 23 June episode, Clare McDonald, Caroline Donnelly and Brian McKenna discussed how the pandemic was shining a light on digital divides across society and between companies. They also discussed the CEO keynotes from SAP’s and AWS’s summer conferences, how Microsoft has kept its cloud going through the crisis, and Larry Ellison’s entertaining pot-shots at competitors.
In the 30 June episode, Clare McDonald, Caroline Donnelly and Brian McKenna discussed digital art, Covid-19’s likely lasting impact on the datacentre industry, and some of the persistent blockages facing diversity in IT.
In the 7 July episode, Clare McDonald, Caroline Donnelly and Brian McKenna discussed the publication of the long list for the 2020 Most Influential Women in UK Technology, the latest developments in the IR35 private sector reforms and loan charge sagas, and the impact of AI-driven automation on journalists and other knowledge workers.
In the 28 July episode, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna discussed digital addiction and business software, digital skills in the context of the Covid-19 lockdown, and how Barnardo’s has benefited from digital transformation.
In the 29 September episode, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna discussed workplace diversity in respect of ethnicity, a financial app for cashless Generation Z, and how accountancy firm Saffery Champness has benefited from a software-as-a-service document management system.
In the 18 November episode, Bill Goodwin, investigations editor, joined Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna to discuss the case of Julian Assange, whose then recent extradition hearing at the Old Bailey was curiously under-reported, but which Bill covered in depth.
In the 1 December episode, Simon Quicke, editor of MicroScope, joined Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna to discuss how the IT channel has fared and changed in the pandemic, how datacentres have been evolving as investment assets, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for children through the Asha the Agent book series, and the data strategy at Guide Dogs.