Friday Five: Calls to cut data fees for online schooling

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Calls to cut data fees for online schooling

With most children learning at home again, there have been calls for broadband companies to do more to help low-income families. Many disadvantaged children live in homes without a fixed broadband connection and are dependent on pay-as-you-go or monthly phone subscriptions that only include a small data allowance.

And many schools are using video-chat tools such as Teams and Zoom to live-stream classes, which consume a lot of data. Tech for UK has suggested one way forward would be for internet providers to “zero rate” edtech apps and websites, so that their data use would be deducted from a mobile subscriber’s monthly allowance.

2. Trump locked out by Twitter and Facebook

Donald Trump has been suspended from Twitter and Facebook for inciting violence and spreading misinformation after tweeting praise to supporters who stormed the US Capitol. In a video that was later removed, Trump told protesters to go home but said “we love you” and repeated false claims about election fraud.

The action is the most aggressive yet from the social media companies, who have been under mounting pressure to kick Trump off their platforms for good, with Twitter insisting he remove three incendiary tweets and giving him a final warning. Facebook has also said it will be removing content that praises the storming of the US Capitol.

3. Amazon Pharmacy has side effects for rivals

Chemists in the UK are watching nervously after Amazon Pharmacy launched in the US in November. Americans can now order medicines through Amazon and receive them within two days if they have a Prime account. And while Amazon hasn’t announced plans for other countries, it’s expected to branch out before long.

Unlike in the US, UK drug prices are regulated, so Amazon would not be able to compete on price, but it has the logistical power to give it the edge over companies that have to rely on Royal Mail. And while many consumers would prefer not to use Amazon, speed and reliability are pretty important when it comes to vital medication.

4. Musk wins the battle of the billionaires

Here’s some rare good news at the moment: Elon Musk has become the world’s richest person! Well, it’s good news if you’re Elon Musk, I suppose. The controversial entrepreneur reached the summit yesterday thanks to Tesla’s share price, which has shot up by 830% since March 2020. He’s now worth a cool $188bn, apparently.

But spare a thought for poor little Jeff Bezos, with the Amazon overlord being dethroned in the process after three years at the top of the charts. Bezos hasn’t exactly done badly during the pandemic, but with Tesla now worth more than Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, GM and Ford combined, Musk literally reeks of money.

5. Dall-E shows the surreal side of AI artistry

If there’s one thing you don’t see enough of these days, it’s pictures of baby radishes wearing tutus while taking their dog for a walk. So thank goodness, then, for Dall-E, a new AI system that has been trained to generate pictures from short text-based descriptions, using 12 billion images and their captions sourced from the internet.

Dall-E (is that a double pun on Salvador Dali and Wall-E? Well played) was created by OpenAI, which previously produced a text generator that turns short phrases into stories, poems and articles. OpenAI said Dall-E was a diverse artist “combining unrelated concepts in plausible ways”. Like a robotic Jim’ll Paint It, then…



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