Somewhere on Earth: The Global Tech Podcast

Technology is not the problem (we are)…

May 28, 2024 Somewhere on Earth Episode 34
Technology is not the problem (we are)…
Somewhere on Earth: The Global Tech Podcast
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Somewhere on Earth: The Global Tech Podcast
Technology is not the problem (we are)…
May 28, 2024 Episode 34
Somewhere on Earth

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Technology is not the problem (we are)…
Can we really lay the blame for our problems to the rise of technology or should be take responsibility for our actions and how we are choosing not to relate to the world around us? Author, tech journalist and comedian Timandra Harkness is on the show to challenge the way we think and deal with the choices presented to us by tech. Her new book “Technology is Not the Problem” explores the themes of our own self worth and of who we are. Are we choosing to lose ourselves to the choices that tech makes for us?

Why do only a fifth of Brazilians have good internet access?
According to The Brazilian Steering Internet Committee only 22% of Brazilians have satisfactory connection to the internet, despite just over 84% of people aged 10 and over, using it.  Angelica Mari explains who has access and why the quality of the connections leaves much to be desired.

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell and the studio expert is Angelica Mari.

More on this week's stories
:
Technology is Not the Problem
Lack of good quality Internet access in Brazil

Everyday AI: Your daily guide to grown with Generative AI
Can't keep up with AI? We've got you. Everyday AI helps you keep up and get ahead.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Editor: Ania Lichtarowicz
Production Manager: Liz Tuohy
Recording and audio editing : Lansons | Team Farner

For new episodes, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or via this link:
https://www.buzzsprout.com/2265960/supporters/new

Follow us on all the socials:

If you like Somewhere on Earth, please rate and review it on Apple Podcasts

Contact us by email: hello@somewhereonearth.co
Send us a voice note
: via WhatsApp: +44 7486 329 484

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Technology is not the problem (we are)…
Can we really lay the blame for our problems to the rise of technology or should be take responsibility for our actions and how we are choosing not to relate to the world around us? Author, tech journalist and comedian Timandra Harkness is on the show to challenge the way we think and deal with the choices presented to us by tech. Her new book “Technology is Not the Problem” explores the themes of our own self worth and of who we are. Are we choosing to lose ourselves to the choices that tech makes for us?

Why do only a fifth of Brazilians have good internet access?
According to The Brazilian Steering Internet Committee only 22% of Brazilians have satisfactory connection to the internet, despite just over 84% of people aged 10 and over, using it.  Angelica Mari explains who has access and why the quality of the connections leaves much to be desired.

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell and the studio expert is Angelica Mari.

More on this week's stories
:
Technology is Not the Problem
Lack of good quality Internet access in Brazil

Everyday AI: Your daily guide to grown with Generative AI
Can't keep up with AI? We've got you. Everyday AI helps you keep up and get ahead.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Editor: Ania Lichtarowicz
Production Manager: Liz Tuohy
Recording and audio editing : Lansons | Team Farner

For new episodes, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or via this link:
https://www.buzzsprout.com/2265960/supporters/new

Follow us on all the socials:

If you like Somewhere on Earth, please rate and review it on Apple Podcasts

Contact us by email: hello@somewhereonearth.co
Send us a voice note
: via WhatsApp: +44 7486 329 484

Find a Story + Make it News = Change the World

00:00:00 Gareth Mitchell 

Hello everybody, I'm Gareth. Welcome along to Somewhere on Earth. It's Tuesday the 28th of May 2024 and with us today is technology and business journalist Angelica Mari, also entrepreneur and academic, joining us from Sao Paulo we assume unless you're online from somewhere else. So where are you, Angelica? 

00:00:28 Angelica Mari 

Hi, Gareth. Lovely to be with you again in downtown Sao Paulo. It’s a little bit rainy out there. And yeah, I think the weather in London is pretty similar today, -10° perhaps, but yeah, I mean Sao Paulo, right. 

00:00:47 Gareth Mitchell 

Yeah, right. That's thanks for clarifying that across the hemispheres united by the rain and the puddles. But as we say, as we say in the UK, it's jolly good for the garden. right, anyway and you know a little while ago Angelica, we were talking about, it may not have been on an Angelica podcast but certainly  

00:01:07 Gareth Mitchell 

the podcast was talking about digital government and filling in online forms. I can't remember if that was one of yours. It might be one of Ghislaine’s. 

00:01:15 Gareth Mitchell 

But don't worry, I'm not going to pick you up on that programme and ask you all about it because you may not been in it. But reminding you and the listener, this is a little while ago we talked about digital government and of course forms, the little things that we fill in online. That's our way of interfacing with so many government services and my initial  

00:01:35 Gareth Mitchell 

thought going into this story is how interesting can forms be? You know, they're the bane of all our lives. We all hate filling them out. They're really tedious things, but my goodness, we had such a fascinating conversation just about how 

00:01:46 Gareth Mitchell 

you design these forms, all the different theories about how you structure the form and the questions in the right way, how you try and get the maximum amount out of an interaction with a client or somebody online trying to get a government service, how you get as much value as you can out of that 

00:02:06 Gareth Mitchell 

transaction without you know, with the minimum number of words with the minimum number of questions and boxes to fill on the form. So that's where we were, Angelica and you may have your own views about filling in forms. Is there a lot of egovernments where you are and where you fill in lots of online forms to get your drivers licence or to register a business. That kind of thing, or 

00:02:27 Angelica Mari 

Yeah. In fact, Brazil is seen as one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of egovernment. We advanced quite a lot during the pandemic, as many countries have, but we shifted a lot of the the physical 

00:02:47 Angelica Mari 

government services to the digital space and more importantly, we managed to get, the government managed to get people to use them, but 

00:02:59 Angelica Mari 

it's it was not a trivial process, right? A lot of physical government spaces had to close in order to force people into doing that. And it it is directly connected to a meaningful Internet access, which we will discuss later on. But yes, we have advanced quite a lot. 

00:03:20 Gareth Mitchell 

OK, I'm sure that's the case in many countries. The pandemic drove so much of this in many places, I can imagine. It certainly did in the UK and of course we might all whinge and complain about having to fill in these online forms, but on the other hand, it might be better than having to go all the way to your local post office or bureaucratic centre and 

00:03:39 Gareth Mitchell 

wait in behind 30 different people before you get to speak to a human being. But then on the other hand, there is a human being at the end of it. 

00:03:46 Gareth Mitchell 

I don't know, just arguments for and against. Just really briefly though, let's have this one from listener Jennifer who enjoyed the interview and enjoyed that item, said that that she has to spend a lot of time filling out and processing forms. She said that interview really got my attention. She says there's a lot of work to do 

00:04:05 Gareth Mitchell 

in the USA. There's still a way to go, and Jennifer says when the item mentioned taxes I, this is Jennifer talking, not me. I, says Jennifer, gave myself a virtual pat on the back. I was driving at the time. So this is a virtual pat on the back. So both hands firmly on the wheel. 

00:04:23 Gareth Mitchell 

Jennifer says, because I managed to file both federal and state taxes online this year on the government websites, which means I didn't have to pay money for one of the companies that offers tax preparation software to do it for me. Finally, says Jennifer, we need to make people more aware of what they can do online. I've stood in long lines at the post office, watching fellow  

00:04:43 Gareth Mitchell 

customers on their cell phones many times. That's all that's needed for a change of address. Just get onto your mobile phone. So a few thoughts there from Jennifer. But on that tax form, filling in online egovernment interaction bombshell Angelica, shall we move on? 

00:05:01 Angelica Mari 

Yeah, but I would just say before we move on that you have to offer people options. You can't just say that everyone is able to do that because we have parts of the population which don't have access to the hardware or have the skills to do these things. So we have to offer people options. 

00:05:24 Gareth Mitchell 

Sure. Yeah. I think of my, what is he now 84 or 85 year old mother, who, yeah, does struggle. She does pretty well on her tablet computer, but some things are just too complicated for her and she would rather actually just queue up and speak to a person and go through it with them or wait till I come home and help her out with it, which is usually the thing.  

00:05:49 Gareth Mitchell 

OK and in fine form filling tradition, we could ‘A’ carry on talking about this, tick box ‘B’ if you think we need to move on, or box ‘C’ if that's enough for a podcast and we can call it a day. Ohh you've clicked the box ‘B’. That means we'll move on. Here we go. 

00:06:08 Gareth Mitchell 

And coming up today. 

00:06:15 Gareth Mitchell 

We delve into our sense of self in this edition, asking big questions about where we are in this here information revolution or whatever you want to call it. Whatever it is, what is this revolution? Well, the question 

00:06:28 Gareth Mitchell 

really is the extent to which the technology is shaping us. But then should we be asking if we're shaping the technology? 

00:06:35 Gareth Mitchell 

Now to work that out, then we need to ask some very deep questions about who and what we are and what we want, and only then can we address the bigger question. Is technology really the problem? Now all of this is rehearsed in a new book. Its author is right here, poised and ready to speak to us. 

00:06:55 Gareth Mitchell 

Also today, we're going to talk about connectivity and the country that's approaching the Internet for everyone, getting everyone online. Yet connectivity for many, well it's still not that good and we're discussing it all right here on the Somewhere on Earth podcast. 

00:07:17 Gareth Mitchell 

We don't have a shrinking sense of who we are because of personalising technology. We have personalising technology because of our shrinking sense of who we are. That's one phrase that stood out for me from Timandra Harkness's new book ‘Technology is Not The Problem’. The clue to the book's further conclusion is very much in that title, which I guess is the whole point of a title, yes, technology is not the problem. 

00:07:40 Gareth Mitchell 

We are the ones, after all, who have chosen to be profiled, who rather like it when things are tailored to us and who are prepared to be nudged, indeed quite possibly often shoved in whatever direction the algorithms take us in. Anyway, humanity wrote those algorithms, or at least the code that wrote that code. This is getting very meta, isn't it, anyway, 

00:08:00 Gareth Mitchell 

I hope I've summed that up. OK, let's find out from Timandra herself. She's a broadcaster, statistician, mathematician, and it says here on her homepage, a lapsed comedian. Oh, and she gives radio interviews. This is one. Hello to Timandra. Thanks for being with us. 

00:08:15 Timandra Harkness 

Hello, Gareth and Angelica. Nice to be. Here. 

00:08:17 Gareth Mitchell 

Good to have you on. So I I don't know in that introduction if I even came close to summing up what this book is all about, and I got into the whole thing about the algorithms that are written about the algorithms and where does the human come in. Maybe another way of just starting this interview is to say, why did you want to write this book? 

00:08:35 Timandra Harkness 

Well, I mean, the weird thing is, I think you summed it up very well, but I I kind of started writing a slightly different book. I started writing a book that was much more about the technology because I'd previously written a book about big data.  

00:08:47 Timandra Harkness 

And I was really interested in this way that technology gathers data about each of us and builds a profile from the data and then targets that profile with adverts, or personalized services or whatever. But the more I looked at it, the more I thought, 

00:09:04 Timandra Harkness 

but I I kind of want to ask a different question. I want to ask why we have this technology and not other technology. Because ten years ago I would have said we don't really know about this data gathering and if we knew we wouldn't go along with it. But now I think most people have a pretty good idea that our data is collected and we're profiled, and we have this weird ambivalence like we find it creepy, but we also hate it when it gets it wrong. 

00:09:29 Timandra Harkness 

And so I thought, I think actually we kind of like it. So what is it about us that makes this so attractive? This world in which each of us is the centre of our own digital universe, and increasingly like our own universe in the real the offline world, because in the offline world as well, things are tailored to us as individuals  

00:09:52 Timandra Harkness 

although perhaps not that personally, and we if we talk about how the technology does it, it doesn't feel as personal as perhaps they'd like it to. 

00:10:02 Gareth Mitchell 

Yeah, there’s a bit of irony there, in a sense, isn't it.  The it's the, the technology, this thing that we think of as being rather cold might be actually more, and is more effective in many ways at discerning what we really want than a human being, for instance, in a restaurant doing their very best to make sure they put exactly the right amount of salt on our food. 

00:10:23 Timandra Harkness 

Well, yes and no, I mean. In a sense, I I would say it's not that the technology knows you better than you know yourself, but it has more data on you. So in that kind of sense. Yes, I think it, it can be alarmingly accurate and pick up on things that we're not even aware of, like our daily habits. 

00:10:44 Timandra Harkness 

In fact someone was saying to me the other day that their phone kind of says, oh, well, you know, usually at this time of the morning you do this, do you want to do this, like, well, that's that's bit, I've never really noticed that, but yeah, go on. 

00:10:57 Angelica Mari 

I I I'm with you, Timandra. I think a lot of people find comfort in, for example, being profiled because it sort of provides a sense they're being understood and catered to. But I'm thinking that it can also create sort of 

00:11:11 Gareth Mitchell 

Yeah. 

00:11:15 Angelica Mari 

echo Chambers, where our our beliefs are being like sort of reinforced rather than challenged and that can also limit our exposure to different things, different points of view experience and so on. What do you, what's your take on that? 

00:11:34 Timandra Harkness 

Well, yes, I I mean I that does worry me that. If if an algorithm has profiled me and says this is this is the kind of person you are and we're going to feed you things targeted at that kind of person, then you'd lose the chance to discover new things and maybe to be stretched and maybe to become a different kind of person. But the echo chamber thing particularly is very interesting. So I talked to Chris Bale 

00:11:58 Timandra Harkness 

who runs the polarization lab at Duke University? And he and his, he and his lab did some research because he thought, ohh, you know, echo chamber is a big problem on social media and this is why I and my liberal friends were completely surprised when America voted for Trump. 

00:12:15 Timandra Harkness 

Because we didn't know anybody who had voted for Trump. But obviously we were in an echo chamber. But when they did research and they tried taking people out of their echo chambers online and kind of exposing them to different views,  

00:12:28 Timandra Harkness 

they didn't, it didn't have the effect they expected. They thought that it would make people change their mind a bit, but in fact people doubled down and became very defensive. So he decided that that that the Echo chamber theory wasn't quite right, that what's actually happening when we interact on social media is we're not trying to engage with ideas. We're trying to build and project our identities. 

00:12:50 Timandra Harkness 

And therefore, when somebody comes along and disagrees with us, then we feel that as an attack on the group that we identify with. And so we react in a hostile way. I mean, he, he was quite he's quite positive. He says there are other ways. If you get people to interact in different ways on different platforms, maybe you can overcome that. 

00:13:11 Timandra Harkness 

Because in many cases we're not as far apart as we think. We perceive the other side to be really different from us and really hostile to us, but actually  

00:13:22 Timandra Harkness 

if you ask people what they think about particular issues, often we don't disagree as much as we think we do. But but I found that really interesting cause I would have said yeah, Echo Chambers are an aspect of this. Everything is personalized to you. But that wasn't what they found and this this was another thing that led me to the idea that it's actually,  

00:13:42 Timandra Harkness 

it's the urge to project your own identity and have it reflected back to you that drives this desire to be understood and recognised, and I think you're exactly right about that. 

00:13:53 Gareth Mitchell 

Yeah, you talk about your own experiences, many of which we’ll identify with, I'm sure, but certain platforms, for instance, thinking you're a man and they're pushing you ads for beard trimmers. And the last time I looked Timandra, you definitely don't have a beard. 

00:14:05 Timandra Harkness 

I don’t. 

00:14:05 Gareth Mitchell 

And of course in a way, that's depending on how you take it, but you've obviously found that quite amusing. But on the other hand, you said when they associated you with the wrong football team that really, genuinely made you furious. And at the same time, like an ad might just persuade you to buy this kind of biscuit over the next one,  

00:14:20 Gareth Mitchell 

but you're a grown human adult. You're not going to change your voting behaviour just because of something's been that's been pushed at you by some algorithm that's trying to profile you from a political campaign. 

00:14:31 Timandra Harkness 

Well, exactly. I mean, I thought and I thought the beard trimmers was quite a good example because however much Twitter thinks I'm a man, and advertises beard products to me, I'm not a man. I don't have a beard, so I'm not going to buy them. And I'm definitely not going to buy Aston Villa football strip like, but I did. I made myself laugh because,  

00:14:51 Timandra Harkness 

the the whole like, we think you're a man thing, just I found amusing. But when they got the football team wrong, I I was, as you say, furious. It it's, 

00:15:00 Timandra Harkness 

that does kind of reflect, I think, how some things really matter to us about whether whether even the algorithms get us wrong. I mean, do you think it's kind of weird that why would we care whether an algorithm gets us right or wrong? It's only a machine, but it's so knitted in now to our social world that we kind of do care. 

00:15:21 Gareth Mitchell 

And probably because we know that algorithms being fed by a load of data from us. So maybe it worries about, make, makes us worry about the data that we're feeding into the machine. And then we think, well, maybe it's just my patterns of behaviour and my opinions and everything about me that is that data that's going into the algorithm and now it's been reflected back on me and almost like looking at yourself in the mirror on a very bad hair day or bad beard day as I sometimes have, and just thinking this is terrible. 

00:15:45 Timandra Harkness 

Yes. Well, look, yeah, I think that's it, is that we we have that, we have the idea which I don't think is really strictly true, but we do have the idea that the algorithms are kind of objective,  that they see us, and as we really are, especially when it's based on our own behaviour. 

00:16:02 Timandra Harkness 

It's like well, but this is true because it just looks at what I actually do and what I posted on an unguarded moment. So it must know what I'm really like, which I don't think is really true. 

00:16:13 Timandra Harkness 

But we do kind of think of it that way. I think we still have this, this slight reverence for the technology, as if it's an oracle, as if it somehow knows more about us than other people do. 

00:16:25 Gareth Mitchell 

Yeah, because it's technology, right? You know, so it must be right. Yeah. No, sure. And but to give a sense of how deep you've gone in this book, you spend a lot of time in the book thinking very hard about what we mean by self. And so you end up with a 

00:16:43 Gareth Mitchell 

whole, like post enlightenment and even pre enlightenment philosophy. You talk about Immanuel Kant of course. You know, the idea that we're not nearly merely the means to other people's ends. Maybe a self-evident question in a way. But why did it matter to you so much Timandra in asking questions about technology that you? Why did it matter to you to spend so long thinking about the self. 

00:17:06 Timandra Harkness 

I think I was worried that one of the things that happens when we increasingly give over decision making to technology and even the decisions that we do make instead of us just going out to the world and saying right, what am my, what are my goals? What am I wanting to do? How am I gonna go about this. We increasingly can choose from menus that are pre selected for us. 

00:17:30 Timandra Harkness 

And I worry that that was taking away our agency, our our sense of ourselves as a subject, if you like, or that that the self is something that makes things happen in the world as opposed to just a kind of something that passively experiences the world and and so I went back and I thought, we don’t, this idea of ourselves as, 

00:17:58 Timandra Harkness 

as identities, primarily as that the most important thing is that you project who you are and people recognize you and see the way that you see yourself, is quite a recent way of thinking about ourselves really. I mean, I was thinking recently and I thought 1000 years ago nobody had an identity, but we all had an immortal soul. 

00:18:21 Timandra Harkness 

And it's a very different way of thinking about ourselves in the world, and I think it affects how you see yourself and what you think you can do. So. So I wanted to go back and kind of dig into that and say, where did this idea come from? Because it's a, it's a kind of weird, contradictory idea. On the one hand, you go, well, my identity is is authentically me.  

00:18:42 Timandra Harkness 

It’s my inner kernel, it's my essence, and that's why it's so important that I should live it authentically. But then in another way, it's something that has to be out there in the world, that I may be create or perform even that other people should respond to. So it it's a very complicated idea, I think. 

00:19:00 Angelica Mari 

So they are the the point you're getting at in the book Timandra is that we sort of need to assert our autonomy and kind of resist being reduced to data points for others, for other people's purposes or the purposes of organizations too. But I wanted to ask you. That, to what extent do you believe that's actually possible? 

00:19:25 Timandra Harkness 

Well it, I mean I think it is possible. But we obviously we have to want to do it. Is the first thing. 

00:19:36 Timandra Harkness 

I think well, I mean one thing is if we say ohh no, it's impossible because the technology is too powerful, then you've kind of given up already. It's like as soon as you say it's not possible then it's not possible because you've you've like you've you've you've decided that you're incapable of it. But the other thing that's really hard I think is that it's not something you can do as an individual. 

00:19:59 Timandra Harkness 

Because part of the reason why I think we feel so fragile and we need the constant reassurance from the technology of who we are, is that we're much more isolated than, say, our grandparents were. We're not embedded in social networks like we, we're much more free to move away from where our families live and  

00:20:19 Timandra Harkness 

do a new kind of job maybe, that nobody in our family has done before. And we that's in one way it's very liberating, I mean I think it's it's a very positive thing in some ways that we can choose how to live, but in another way it does leave us more exposed and  

00:20:37 Timandra Harkness 

yeah, more insecure. And so I think one way that we need to get back our sense of autonomy is that we actually need each other. We need to build stronger social networks within which we can be free and autonomous. I know that sounds contradictory because part of part of having become as free as we are is like extracting ourselves from 

00:20:56 Gareth Mitchell 

No, I see. 

00:21:02 Timandra Harkness 

tradition and hierarchy and rigid social networks. But I think this this being on our own out there and you're free to be whoever you want means that we're like, OK, but if I'm free to be whoever I want then this feels a bit arbitrary. I can be this person, but I could just easily have been different and and so how do I really know who I? 

00:21:23 Gareth Mitchell 

Yeah. And I think you, you ask us to be bold really, not to be afraid of that, which I know is all very well to say, you know, but just don't be afraid, you know, take, put yourself out there. Perhaps go outside the comfort zone a little bit and ultimately some kind of freedom and unshackling from the machine may result if I might paraphrase you, just briefly to Mandra before we end. 

00:21:43 Timandra Harkness 

Yes, I think that's I think that's put very well actually and take risks. I think freedom is risky and I think that's one of the appeals also the technology that it promises a much safer world. But it's a it's a flatter thinner, more restrictive world. 

00:21:58 Gareth Mitchell 

Absolutely, yeah. And to do nothing is a risk in itself, a risk of missing out on something better. 

00:22:04 Timandra Harkness 

Absolutely. The best infinite possibilities. 

00:22:07 Angelica Mari 

That's even an acronym, isn't it, FOMO?  

00:22:11 Timandra Harkness 

Yes. 

00:22:13 Gareth Mitchell 

Welcome to my life. Well, apparently everyone else gets FOMO, and I just felt left out, so I thought I'd better have some as well. Alright. Timandra let’s have a bit more from you in the subscriber extra version of this podcast. But for now, thank you very much indeed. That's Timandra Harkness. Who is the author of the new book ‘Technology is Not The Problem’. 

00:22:47 Gareth Mitchell 

It's pre record Gareth here interrupting the live Gareth with an important message. Yeah, they're just playing this in to give me a rest. Aren't they clever? And the message is please subscribe to the extended version of this podcast, won't you? It's where the guests often relax. I get to wing it a bit and we find out more about people's work and their lives. 

00:23:07 Gareth Mitchell 

It's ten U.S. dollars a month. Most podcatchers open up the subscription content. If you just click on the padlock or something and/or you can go to somewhere on earth dot OK, press the big button on the left hand side to subscribe or the big button on the right to donate. You can opt out at any time and because we know it's so easy to cancel, we really do try to make it good. No filler, just a bit of extra bonus content to make your and our day. 

00:23:39 Gareth Mitchell 

Well, here's a question. Then how does a country end up in this position? It's close to having universal Internet access for all, yet most of the population has poor connectivity. Well, Brazil seems to be in that situation, 84% of people are connected in Brazil. Hurrah. But only a fifth of them really have what you might call a decent connection. 

00:23:58 Gareth Mitchell 

The finding comes from a report by Brazil's Regional Centre for Studies for the Development of the Information Society and say the the acronym if you like is, CETIC dot BR or CETIC. Should I say that as at the cetic Angelica, you know the cetic dot BR cetiqt dot? 

00:24:18 Angelica Mari 

CETIC.BR 

00:24:18 

Yeah. 

00:24:20 Gareth Mitchell 

OK, I think people got that CETIC.BR as I say, that's the Regional Center for the Studies for the Development of the Information Society. And it's linked to Brazil's Internet steering committee. And we've, we've got to unpick a bit of this nomenclature just before we crack on Angelica. So the Internet Steering Committee is that part of the government then is it or something, steering Internet policy or is it an academic body or? 

00:24:43 Angelica Mari 

Yeah, it's a. It's an official body, but it function. Yeah, it it functions out of government. 

00:24:50 Gareth Mitchell 

Right. OK. So it's coming up with this report that says some very interesting things about the quality or maybe lack of in many cases, the quality of connectivity for people in Brazil. So can you pick up on this and perhaps give a sense of why these numbers are relevant and so interesting? 

00:25:07 Angelica Mari 

Well, it's easy to assume that Brazil is highly connected. Just because the use of penetration of smartphones, for example, is so widespread. We have more phones than people in this country, and there are lots of studies that show the popularity of social media. For example, Brazil is always high up high up there in in rankings 

00:25:34 Angelica Mari 

of digital adoption and uptake of any kind of digital tool, right? But what this study shows is that this impression is kind of misleading. And it found that many Brazilians in fact struggle with slow Internet speeds,  

00:25:52 Angelica Mari 

unreliable connections and lack of digital skills and the study also found out very interestingly, Gareth, that if you are poor, black and you are a woman, you are more likely to have Internet access that's not good enough. And so to encapsulate all these challenges, this study came up with the concept of meaningful connectivity, so that's Internet access. that should enable a satisfactory use of online services, whatever they are, and enable people to sort of  

00:26:28 Angelica Mari 

seize all the opportunities of the of the digital economies, so they've used nine indicators to to define this, including cost of household Internet, mobile plan, if you had one, how many devices or computers you have in a in a home, and connection speed, frequency of Internet use and so on to sort of arrive at this concept of what's good enough Internet access. 

00:27:00 Angelica Mari 

So I've asked Graziela Castello, whose research coordinator CETIC.BR about what specific policies can the Brazilian government implement to improve meaningful connectivity, especially in financially and geographically disadvantaged regions. 

00:27:34 Graziela Castello 

I believe the first crucial step is always relying on science. Diagnosis like the ones we just published are fundamental to ensure that we are monitoring the populations’ connectivity. By publishing data every year on connectivity, it will allow the authorities to develop state policies to improve connectivity. These can be monitored to see how effective they are. 

00:27:58 Graziela Castello 

As technological advancements continue to demand more bandwidth and varied device usage, our social and work lives are increasingly affected if we don't have good connectivity. With the rapid emergence of disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, it is essential to continuously monitor and improve connectivity conditions. 

00:28:19 Graziela Castello 

This ensures that new issues, themes and demands are addressed considering the broad impacts of technological progress on social life and the country's economy, especially for each individual. By doing this, we can help mitigate these inequalities that are exacerbated in the country. 

00:28:36 Angelica Mari 

I was also interested in learning how Brazil can develop a a long term strategy to to ensure equitable access and use that can accompany the tech advancements in areas like connectivity to prevent the digital gap from worsening in the future. 

00:29:10 Graziela Castello 

When you have an event of incredible magnitude like this, regardless of the causes, you can already see the immediate effects of the catastrophe, including on the connectivity gap faced by these individuals. We don't have precise data at this moment on the immediate effect of the floods, especially on individuals. 

00:29:28 Graziela Castello 

Now it's important to understand that society is made-up of individuals who are susceptible to different issues, whether environmental, economic or social, and that things can change very quickly. This reinforces the importance of continuous monitoring of Internet connectivity. 

00:29:46 Graziela Castello 

The data from 2024 will likely show a gap or absence of data because there is even a problem of how to collect data now after the floods. It's vital that data is collected every year to see if connectivity is improving. This population cannot recover without adequate access to the Internet. 

00:30:06 Graziela Castello 

We have to ensure that people have food and that food meets minimum nutritional standards. I think the same applies to Internet access. It's not enough to have access, it must meet minimum standards to ensure that this access provides the benefits and opportunities that the web offers. 

00:30:23 Angelica Mari 

Graciela also told me how the lack of good enough Internet access can actually worsen in terms of impacts on people, especially in the context like the current climate disaster that we're seeing with the floods in the South of the country. 

00:30:49 Graziela Castello 

We need to think of policies that will ensure quality access, access at a reasonable cost for family budgets and access to devices that are suitable for people's uses and access that guaranteed usage where and when people want it. 

00:31:04 Graziela Castello 

At the same time, we need overlapped, targeted policies for the most vulnerable groups because they are already at a greater disadvantage. It is crucial to provide targeted incentives, such as subsidies for those facing cost barriers, alongside policies to improve Internet usage skills. 

00:31:22 Graziela Castello 

Collaboration with the private sector, including small and commercial providers, can address significant connectivity issues, ensuring quality access with adequate speed and affordable plans is essential, but policies must also focus on developing digital skills. Merely enabling access is not enough, it is necessary to equip users with skills and create a positive feedback loop. 

00:31:48 Graziela Castello 

Combining national state and municipal strategies can more effectively address connectivity bottlenecks, ensuring equitable access for disadvantaged groups. The study highlights the urgent need for coordinated policies by state bodies, the private sector and civil society to address regional needs and get the most disadvantaged connected. 

00:32:09 Gareth Mitchell 

So that's Graciela Castello, who's the research coordinator at CETIC.BR. Right. So finally, people are hearing this case in Brazil and possibly wondering, well, what does that mean for my life if I live outside Brazil? So what relevance does this have outside, beyond your borders, Angelica. 

00:32:28 Angelica Mari 

I guess that for people living outside Brazil, the study, these findings, they are quite novel because you talk about Internet access, but you you have to evolve this conversation, and I think this study illustrates that it's it's showing the importance of talking about not only Internet access, but the quality, the effectiveness of that access. And I I guess it also shows that even with high smartphone 

00:33:00 Angelica Mari 

penetration and social media use, which is the case in Brazil, real digital inclusion really is about addressing other dimensions of connectivity, and that that's so that we can ensure like we're saying just now, that everyone can benefit from all these opportunities online. 

00:33:20 Gareth Mitchell 

And there we'll leave it. Thank you very much indeed, Angelica. So that'll do for this edition. If you want to find us on the webs, then on most platforms, if you do some kind of variant of Somewhere on Earth Productions or Somewhere on Earth Podcast or S.O.E.P or soap tech but I'm sure if you're listening to this, you're clever enough to search for things and we're quite easy to find. 

00:33:46 Gareth Mitchell 

That's all I'm saying. But when you have found this, please follow us, please Like us. Please just interact, engage somehow. It makes our figures look good, and it also folds what you have to say into our programme and we include it in our content and then we're all part of some great big lovely club as well. So thank you for that dear listener. And So what else can I tell you? The audio today has been done by Keziah,  

00:34:10 Gareth Mitchell 

the production managing is done by Liz. We're going to have more from Timandra and Angelica in the subscription extra. The producer is Ania. It's all happening here at Lanson's Team Farner in London. And I'm Gareth. Thanks for listening. Bye bye.