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Podcast: The Computer Weekly Downtime Upload – Episode 38

In this week’s episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, the team discusses the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto and touches on those of the two main parties. Also under discussion are Dreamforce, Google Next and Monster Confidence for Stemettes

In this episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna are joined by Computer Weekly sub-editor and Downtime satirical scribe Ryan Priest. They set out to discuss the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, while glancing at those of the Tories and Labour, Dreamforce 2019, Google Cloud Next in London, and Monster Confidence for Stemettes.

  • In the Tech on the Stump segment, Caroline goes through the technology aspects of the Lib Dem manifesto, which states the party will scrap the loan charge that is bedevilling the lives of many IT contractors. Caroline also says it seems to be the most comprehensive of the three main party manifestos with respect to technology. It has pledges to make the UK a “world leader” in ethical, inclusive new technology, with artificial intelligence (AI) trumpeted.
  • Ryan revisits the Conservative Party’s social media masquerade as “factcheckUK” during the recent Corbyn versus Johnson ITV debate. “What’s the story morphing Tory?” is the question he poses. And he recaps a Downtime, Enema at the Gates, about the Conservatives’ doctoring of a Keir Starmer Good Morning Britain interview and an arms-folded Piers Morgan’s insouciance about 26 billionaires owning as much as the planet’s poorest 50% because the likes of Bill Gates have given a lot to charity.
  • Brian then segues into the fireside chat at Dreamforce in San Francisco between former US president Barack Obama and Salesforce CEO and co-founder Mark Benioff. Obama told his audience that the job of a leader is to “orchestrate” the conversation, not to be the smartest person in the room. “You have to have people smarter than you sitting around the table,” Obama said. Often, leaders make the mistake of wanting to surround themselves with people who will defer, he added. Critical insights would often come from junior staffers sitting against the wall of the cabinet room in the White House, said Obama: “The people who do the work.”
  • Benioff’s own keynote was interrupted by a representative of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), who approached the stage to protest against Salesforce’s contract with the US Customs and Border Protection, whose ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) programme has separated children from families that try to cross the border illegally. Salesforce has said its software is not being used for that purpose. But the company’s high-profile philanthropic efforts, coupled with its alignment with the spiritual values of non-western cultures, makes it vulnerable to critique, Brian comments.
  • He also speculates on whether the revolt of young tech workers in Silicon Valley might be finding an echo in the UK.
  • Caroline then talks about the Google Cloud Next UK conference, held in London while Dreamforce was snarling up traffic in San Francisco. She relates how Gareth Southgate, the England football manager, told the conference how the FA is using big data and cloud collaboration tools to change the organisation’s culture and improve player performance. “The biggest thing was changing culture,” Southgate told attendees. “The FA has historically been viewed as old men with blazers, out of touch with the rest of society. We had national teams that hadn’t performed well, and we knew we needed to modernise.” Astonishingly, when Southgate took over as manager of the senior England team in 2016, “there were no records of the past from all the England managers there had been over 30 years. There weren’t even written reports of what had happened in past tournaments to pass their learnings on. Now everything we do is stored and shared”. Southgate and his management team harnesses GPS and bio-mechanical data derived from monitoring players and digital video footage. But while data can have a transformative impact on how a game is played and can secure marginal improvements that can tip the balance of a game into England’s favour, it is important not to get too reliant on that, Southgate cautioned, especially with young players.
  • Finally, Clare tells the team about a Monster Confidence event she attended in London, the purpose of which was to encourage young women in England studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects to continue doing so. The events, which are held in Peterborough and Teeside, as well as London, are targeted at young women between 14 and 17 who are deciding what to do after A-levels.

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