The need for increased digital accessibility during COVID-19 — and beyond

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of Internet connectivity has helped maintain business continuity, keep children in education, and ensured that people can access essential goods and services online.

But the pandemic has also exposed significant areas of inequality and exclusion in the digital world, particularly for populations at risk. This includes the estimated one billion people worldwide living with some form of disability.

“In today’s fragile world, it is absolutely essential that digital information be distributed and available in formats that are accessible,” said Doreen Bogdan Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “Neglecting this imperative will mean consigning many Persons with Disabilities to a higher risk of contamination and exclusion from essential health and safety information and services and vital social support programs.”

At a recent ITU-D Study Group public webinar on digital accessibility during COVID-19, panelists discussed the importance of ICT accessibility implementation at global level to ensure that everyone’s right to communicate and be part of the digital world is fulfilled – during and beyond the global COVID-19 pandemic. That means, ensuring that digital information is designed and developed considering all users’ needs and/or abilities to perceive it, regardless the ICT used to access it (through, radio, mobile, TV, Websites etc.)Flaws in the system

Panelists agreed that the pandemic has exposed pre-existing and fundamental gaps in accessible communications.

“Most countries, including developed ones – even European ones – were not fully prepared to make sure that everyone has digital access to televised information, sign language and captioning,” said Lidia Best, Chair, National Association of Deafened People (NADP) of the United Kingdom. “Without appropriate accessible futures and services, vital services cannot be seen by all.”

This means that potentially lifesaving health information – such as COVID symptoms or related precautionary measures including the need to wear a mask – may be missed by persons with disabilities who are consequently exposed to  greater risk of contracting the deadly virus.

She advocated that governments should implement ITU-T recommendation F.930, multimedia telecommunication relay services.Creating successful digital accessibility 

But there is some good news. The number of countries committed to digital accessibility is on the rise. According to G3ict data, 59 per cent of countries around the world have a legal definition of accessibility which includes ICTs today, compared to 49 per cent in 2018.

“It shows that what ITU and UNDESA does is having an effect because many more countries are taking steps to undertake regulation,” said Axel Leblois, President and Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs – G3ict.

But although good progress is being made decade-on-decade, “the level of implementation is ridiculously low,” he said. “So this is a real wake-up call because there are lots of commitments, but very little in terms of actual outcomes for Persons with Disabilities.’

He presented a three-point plan to increase digital accessibility in the post COVID-19 era: 1) involve Persons with Disabilities in development, promote and monitor digital accessibility policies and programs; 2) adopt standards for accessibility; and 3) promote understanding of disability and training and certification of accessibility professionals.

“COVID-19 is, in fact, a catalyst for action,” he said.An opportunity to change 

The aim to develop and deploy communications technologies that are ‘born accessible’ is a key tenement of the European Commission’s Accessibility Act.

Public procurement legislation already requires that when public authorities buy video conferencing systems, they are bought accessible, so complying with the accessibility standards and requirements. But the pandemic has highlighted the need to update and revise European accessibility legislation to plug additional gaps.

“We are now starting the preparation of a new disability strategy. The current one is finishing this year, in 2020, and the lessons learned from COVID will be really taken on board,” said Inmaculada Placencia- Porrero, Senior Expert, Disability and Inclusion, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission.Strengthening partnerships 

A multi-stakeholder collaborative effort is needed to ensure that we plug the remaining gaps and “include Persons with Disabilities in the COVID 19 response, recovery and build back better,” said Daniela Bas, Director Division for Inclusive Social Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

And time is of the essence.

“It is crucial to accelerate the implementation of ITU target 2.9 which calls for all Member States to ensure that ICTs are accessible in all countries by 2023. Considering that we are now in 2020, we really don’t have much time,” said Amela Odobasic, Rapporteur of. ITU-D Study Group 1 Question 7/1, who moderated the session.

This was a call echoed by Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

“In a world that has never been so dependent on the power of digital technologies, we must redouble our efforts to make sure that all people regardless of their gender, their ability, their age, their location enjoy equal access to digital platforms and services.  And that’s why the work of this Study Group and this particular question is so important,” she said.

4 key takeaways from the new Global E-waste Monitor 2020

Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) such as mobile phones and computers have helped improve lives for billions of people across the world.

But the way we produce, consume and dispose of our EEE has become unsustainable.

The third edition of The Global E-Waste Monitor 2020 launched this week by the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP), provides comprehensive insight for leaders to address the global e-waste challenge.

The Global E-waste Monitor is a collaborative effort between the Germany-based Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme currently co-hosted by the United Nations University (UNU) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

The report calls for decision-makers to adopt an internationally recognised methodological framework to measure and monitor e-waste, also commonly known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Monitoring the quantities and flows of e-waste is important to assess developments over time, and to set and evaluate targets. The report further stimulates the ongoing efforts to tackle the e-waste challenge and drive resource recovery policies and activities towards a sustainable society and circular economy.

The report reveals a 21 per cent increase in the global generation of e-waste since 2014, fuelled by higher EEE consumption rates (growing 3 per cent annually), shorter lifecycles and limited repair options.

Here are some key takeaways from the new report that emphasise why quantifying e-waste should be a priority for countries around the globe.

  • Formal collection and recycling activities are not keeping pace with the global growth of e-waste.

In 2019, only 9.3 Mt (17.4 per cent) of e-waste was officially documented as formally collected and recycled.

There is uncertainty over the fate of the other 44.3 Mt (82.6 per cent) of e-waste generated in 2019, which if dumped, traded or recycled under substandard conditions, will have varying environmental impacts around the world.

In 2018, the highest policy-making body of the ITU, the Plenipotentiary Conference, established a target to increase the global e-waste recycling rate to 30 per cent by 2023. The formal collection and recycling rate would have to increase at a much faster pace in order to hit that target.

The amount of e-waste formally collected and recycled per year increased by 1.8 Mt from 2014 to 2019, while e-waste generated increased by 9.2 Mt over the same time. This suggests that current collection and recycling methods are not keeping pace with global e-waste growth.

  • Increasingly countries are adopting national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation

The number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78 between 2014 and 2019. In many regions however, regulatory advances are slow, enforcement is low, and the collection and proper e-waste management is poor.

ITU Member States also set a target to raise the percentage of countries with an e-waste legislation to 50 per cent – or 97 countries – by 2023. ITU provides a programme dedicated to e-waste policy and regulatory development, where Member States can request ITU technical assistance and capacity building support.

It is essential to improve the rate of global e-waste collection and recycling through policy support as continued e-waste growth is expected.

  • E-waste can negatively impact human health and the environment if not managed in an environmentally sound manner

In many countries, infrastructure for e-waste management is not fully established. In other countries, it is completely absent. This often leaves e-waste to be managed by the informal sector.

Toxic and hazardous substances such as mercury, brominated flame-retardants (BFR) or chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) are found in many types of electronic equipment and pose severe risk to human health and the environment if not handled in an environmentally sound manner.

The report highlights that 50 tonnes of mercury and 71 kilo tonnes of BFR plastics are likely to be found in undocumented e-waste flows, which pose harm to workers’ health and the environment if released.

For the first time, the Global E-waste Monitor 2020 considers the global warming effect from the improper management of undocumented waste fridges and air-conditioners as they can contain potent greenhouse gas refrigerants. An estimated 98 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) is released to the atmosphere in 2019 due to incorrect disposal measures – this is approximately 0.3 per cent of global energy-related emissions in 2019!

  • E-waste provides an opportunity to adopt a circular economy through discarded equipment and high-value materials

Numerous valuable materials such as gold and palladium can be found in e-waste — and if reused and recycled, can promote a circular economy through secondary material use.

A potential raw material value of US$ 57 billion could have been extracted from e-waste generated in 2019, particularly through iron, copper and gold.

The use of recycled iron, aluminium, and copper contributed to a reduction in emissions equivalent to 15 Mt of carbon dioxide in 2019, as compared to their use as virgin raw materials. Going forward, it will be important to reduce virgin material use and increase material recovery in a more circular and sustainable way.

Benin launches a new National Cybersecurity Strategy

By Serge Valery Zongo, Programme Officer, ITU; and Yasmine Idrissi Azzouzi, Junior Officer, ITU

The Government of Benin has adopted a new National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) and plan of action for 2020-2022, endorsed by the Council of Ministers on 6 May 2020.

This critical commitment in cybersecurity comes in the context of President Patrice Talon’s government’s efforts to make the national digital transformation a vector of economic and social development of the country, with cybersecurity as an essential element to build trust and foster the secure development of the digital economy.

The main vision of Benin’s new National Cybersecurity Strategy’s is to ensure the creation of reliable and attractive cyberspace for a thriving digital economy. It revolves around five main strategic axes: protection of information systems and critical infrastructure, fight against cybercrime and development of the legal and regulatory framework, development of digital security skills and culture, promotion of digital trust and national coordination and international cooperation.

“I am convinced that the implementation of our digital security strategy will profoundly change the digital sector in Benin by reinforcing security within our digital projects by building even greater digital trust,” says Ms. Aurélie Adam Soulé, Benin’s Minister of Digital and Digitalization. “It will also stimulate the creation of new professions and new employment opportunities. These are a total of forty-seven key actions to be carried out to win the fight for economic development through digital trust and innovation.”

The new strategy was developed with the support of ITU experts, building on ITU’s publication “National Cybersecurity Strategy Guide“, and in consultation with national key stakeholders.

World's first flying car about to go on sale

World’s first FLYING CAR that can turn into a plane in less than a minute and soar along at 100mph is going on sale in the US next month According to manufacturer Terrafugia, which belongs to the parent company of Volvo, the Transition can fly up to 400 miles (640km) at top speeds of 100mph (160kmh).

The price has not yet been determined but preliminary sales for the first of the pioneering models will begin in October, according to China’s news agency Xinhua. BlackTree TV is the premier place for best in Hollywood, music and lifestyle. You can find BlackTree TV as far as 30K feet in the air and as close as your fingertips. We routinely license our content to all kinds of channels from BET to the BBC and you can find us on our new web destination

Be sure to check out our content partners online, check out a cool original series like Respect Life right here on Youtube and you can watch Da Jammies on Netflix.

Museveni officially launches ICT Innovations Expo 2019

Original article by PML Daily

President Museveni at the launch of ICT Innovations Expo 2019 (PHOTO/PPU).

KAMPALA – President Museveni has on Tuesday, December 17 officially launched the ICT Innovations Expo 2019.

The president visited different exhibition stalls and commended the different Ugandans who are embracing technology as a game-changer in the face of human and global needs.

Among the exhibitors, is a one William Wasswa whose innovation is about easily identifying cervical cancer amongst women.

In a statement, Museveni said that “I have also seen a digital hospital where patients can be examined, and diagnosed in just minutes. I must say I am greatly impressed by the step Uganda is taking towards technology.”

“Technology is no longer a choice but a necessity, I would, therefore, like to assure Ugandans that we will work towards eliminating import solutions in the ICT sector, such money should be diverted to local innovators,” he added.

The president revealed that there will always be money to fund local innovations.

“Once you show that we can use it, we can then show the money,” he said.

Museveni said that he has been informed that data bundles subscribed to by internet users specifically on MTN will no longer have an expiry date.

“I do not understand why there was an expiry date in the first place, because this is paid for service and it should not be taken away until its money value is diminished. Nonetheless, that is a move in the right direction,” he said.

He said that about internet service, the government has worked with the Chinese to build the ICT backbone, the underground cables which can take all the data because the satellite system was really expensive.

Drones used to collect data from remote IoT devices

Credit for this article goes to E&T

Scientists have developed a system to remotely collect data from IoT devices which would otherwise be unable to communicate with a central server.

The KAUST researchers believe such a system could be the key to connecting large numbers of smart objects spread across a broad geographical area.

“IoT networks will revolutionise the way we monitor, control and communicate with everything around us,” researcher Osama Bushnaq said, adding, “To enable IoT networks, a huge number of low-cost, self-powered sensors are needed.”

Traditional wireless data transfer is unsuitable for this purpose due to the limited power supply of each sensor and the complexity of connecting so many devices.

Sending UAVs to gather data via low-power, short-range transmission could be an alternative, transferring the burden of data aggregation from each individual sensor to a single machine that can autonomously return to base for recharging.

The researchers made efforts to minimise the total mission time, optimise coverage area and lower the number of hovering locations.

Imagine a field randomly covered with IoT sensors, said researcher Osama Bushnaq: “Covering a small area of the field at each hovering location improves communication between the UAV and the devices, reducing data aggregation time.”

The team split the problem into components. For a given number of hovering locations they first calculated where the optimal ones would be. They then identified the best route between locations and optimised the data transmission rate.

“The process is repeated for different numbers of hovering locations until an optimal trade-off between hovering and traveling times is obtained,” Bushnaq said. The approach cut the mission time by up to 10 times for a field of 100 square metres.

The team is currently testing the idea of using UAVs with IoT sensors for fire detection. “We are studying how such a system can be used for forest fire detection and the trade-off between system cost and fire-detection reliability,” said Al Naffouri, who leads the lab developing the technology.

Other examples include crop fields that could be filled with sensors to monitor water and nutrient levels or networks of sensors that detect wildlife.

Earlier this year, a network of IoT sensors was installed at London Bridge station to gather data designed to help prevent delays and train cancellations.

Transparency at Google is igniting a culture war among workers

One of Google’s top lawyers has angered its employees by suggesting there be limited access to some internal documents.

Credit to this articles goes to Aljazeera

Each morning, workers at Google get an internal newsletter called the “Daily Insider.” Kent Walker, Google’s top lawyer, set off a firestorm when he argued in the Nov. 14 edition that the 21-year old company had outgrown its policy of allowing workers to access nearly any internal document. “When we were smaller, we all worked as one team, on one product, and everyone understood how business decisions were made,” Walker wrote. “It’s harder to give a company of over 100,000 people the full context on everything.”

Many large companies have policies restricting access to sensitive information to a “need-to-know” basis. But in some segments of Google’s workforce, the reaction to Walker’s argument was immediate and harsh. On an internal messaging forum, one employee described the data policy as “a total collapse of Google culture.” An engineering manager posted a lengthy attack on Walker’s note, which he called “arrogant and infantilizing.” The need-to-know policy “denies us a form of trust and respect that is again an important part of the intrinsic motivation to work here,” the manager wrote.

The complaining also spilled into direct action. A group of Google programmers created a tool that allowed employees to choose to alert Walker with an automated email every time they opened any document at all, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The deluge of notifications was meant as a protest to what they saw as Walker’s insistence on controlling the minutiae of their professional lives.

“When it comes to data security policies, we’ve never intended to prevent employees from sharing technical learnings and information and we are not limiting anyone’s ability to raise concerns or debate the company’s activities,” said a Google spokeswoman in an email. “We have a responsibility to safeguard our user, business and customer information and these activities need to be done in line with our policies on data security.”

The actions are just the latest chapter in an internal conflict that has been going on for almost two years. About 20,000 employees walked out last fall over the company’s generous treatment of executives accused of sexual harassment, and a handful quit over Google’s work on products for the U.S. military and a censored search engine for the Chinese market. Earlier this year, Google hired IRI Consultants, a firm that advises employers on how to combat labor organizing, and it recently fired four employees for violating its policies on accessing sensitive data.

The extent of Google’s employee rebellion is hard to measure—the company has tried to portray it as the work of a handful of malcontents from the company’s junior ranks. Nor are the company’s message boards unilaterally supportive of revolt. “We want to focus on our jobs when we come into the workplace rather than deal with a new cycle of outrage every few days or vote on petitions for or against Google’s latest project,” wrote one employee on an internal message board viewed by Bloomberg News.

Still, the company seems stuck in a cycle of escalation. Walker’s internal critics say his Nov. 14 email is part of a broader erosion of one of Google’s most distinctive traits—its extreme internal transparency. The fight also illustrates the lack of trust between Google’s leadership and some of its employees, according to interviews with over a dozen current and former employees, as well as internal messages shared with Bloomberg News on the condition it not publish the names of employees who participated.

The conflict comes as Google is changing in other ways, too. On Dec. 3, Sundar Pichai, who took over as Google’s chief executive office in 2015, became the head of Alphabet, its parent company. His elevation marks the end of the active involvement of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who established Google’s distinctive culture when they founded the company as Stanford graduate students.

Pichai has at times supported internal activism. He spoke at an employee protest against the Trump administration’s immigration policies and apologized to employees for Google’s track record on sexual harassment. His executives met repeatedly with critics of the company’s military work. Some Google managers began signaling that they’re losing patience with internal activism even before the firings, according to one person who worked with them. Executives have not met with dissenting staff leadership in many weeks, according to one of the employees.

While Walker wrote in the “Daily Insider” that organizations have to change as they grow, he simultaneously argued that the policies he described had always existed. “It was that way since the early days of Google, and it’s that way now,” he wrote. This particularly offended several long-time Googlers, who said on internal message boards that Walker’s comments didn’t square with their own memories. For some of them, the incident illustrated a broader breakdown in their trust of leadership.

“I want to believe that executive management is saying everything—disclosing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” said Bruce Hahne, a Google technical project manager. “I don’t think we are currently under those conditions.”

Hahne, 51, doesn’t meet the Google management’s profile of internal protestors. He joined the company in 2005, a year after Pichai, partly because he was attracted to its mission to organize the world’s information. His disillusionment crept in gradually during the company’s myriad controversies. In an online essay, Hahne compared Google to a “rogue machine” that was “originally created for good but whose psyche has turned corrupt and destructive,” much like Hal 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. “You don’t treat a rogue machine like family,” wrote Hahne, “instead you come up with a plan, you disable or dismantle the dysfunctional parts of the machine, and you seek to reprogram the machine to serve its original purpose.”

Google employees during the 2018 walkout.
Google employees during the 2018 walkout [File: Michael Short/Bloomberg]

When it was founded two decades ago, Google established an unusual corporate practice. Nearly all of its internal documents were widely available for workers to review. A programmer working on Google search could for instance, dip into the software scaffolding of Google Maps to crib some elegant block of code to fix a bug or replicate a feature. Employees also had access to notes taken during brainstorming sessions, candid project evaluations, computer design documents, and strategic business plans. (The openness doesn’t apply to sensitive data such as user information.)

The idea came from open-source software development, where the broader programming community collaborates to create code by making it freely available to anyone with ideas to alter and improve it. The philosophy came with technical advantages. “That interconnected way of working is an integral part of what got Google to where it is now,” said John Spong, a software engineer who worked at Google until this July.

Google has flaunted its openness as a recruiting tool and public relations tactic as recently as 2015. “As for transparency, it’s part of everything we do,” Laszlo Bock, then the head of Google human relations, said in an interview that year. He cited the immediate access staff have to software documentation, and said employees “have an obligation to make their voices heard.”

Google’s open systems also proved valuable for activists within the company, who have examined its systems for evidence of controversial product developments and then circulated their findings among colleagues. Such investigations have been integral to campaigns against the projects for the Pentagon and China. Some people involved in this research refer to it as “internal journalism.” 

Sundar Pichai Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Sundar Pichai [File:Simon Dawson/Bloomberg]

Management would describe it differently. In November, Google fired four engineers who it said had been carrying out “systematic searches for other employees’ materials and work. This includes searching for, accessing, and distributing business information outside the scope of their jobs.” The engineers said they were active in an internal campaign against Google’s work with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and denied violating the company’s data security policies.

Rebecca Rivers, one of the fired employees, said she initially logged into Google’s intranet, a web portal open to all staff, and typed the terms: “CBP” and “GCP,” for Google Cloud Platform. “That’s how simple it was,” she said. “Anyone could have stumbled onto it easily,” she said.

In an internal email describing the firings, Google accused one employee of tracking a colleague’s calendar without permission, gathering information about both personal and professional appointments in a way that made the targeted employee feel uncomfortable. Laurence Berland, one of the employees who was fired recently, acknowledged he had accessed internal calendars, but said they were not private. He used them to confirm his suspicions that the company was censoring and “coordinating to spy on” activist employees. Berland, who first joined Google in 2005, added that he felt the company was punishing him for breaking a rule that didn’t exist at the time of the alleged violations.

Google declined to identify the four employees it fired, but a company spokeswoman said the person who tracked calendars accessed unauthorized information.

Other employees say they are now afraid to click on certain documents from other teams or departments because they are worried they could later be disciplined for doing so, a fear the company says is unfounded. Some workers have interpreted the policies as an attempt to stifle criticism of particular projects, which they allege amounts to a violation of the company’s code of conduct. These employees point to a clause in the code that actively encourages dissent: “Don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right—speak up!” Workers are “trying to report internally on problematic situations, and in some cases are not being allowed to make that information useful and accessible,” said Hahne. There is now a “climate of fear” inside Google offices, he said.

Protesting Google employees in New York last year

Protesting Google employees in New York last year [File: Peter Foley/Bloomberg]

Google’s permissive workplace culture became the prime example of Silicon Valley’s brand of employment. But transparency is hardly universal. Apple Inc. and Inc. demand that workers operate in rigid silos to keep the details of sensitive projects from leaking to competitors. Engineers building a phone’s camera may have no idea what the people building its operating system are doing, and vice versa. Similar restrictions are common at government contractors and other companies working with clients who demand discretion.

The specifics of Google’s business operations traditionally haven’t required this level of secrecy, but that is changing. Google’s cloud business in particular requires it to convince business clients it can handle sensitive data and work on discrete projects. This has brought it more in line with its secrecy-minded competitors. The protests themselves have also inspired new restrictions, as executives have looked to cut off the tools of the activists it argues are operating in bad faith.

Google’s leaders have acknowledged the delicacy of adjusting a culture that has entrenched itself over two decades. “Employees today are much, much more active in the governance in the company,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO and chair, said at an event at Stanford University in October.

Amy Edmonson, a professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, said that Google’s idealistic history increases the burden on its executives to bring along reluctant employees as it adopts more conventional corporate practices. “It’s just really important that if you’re going to do something that is perceived as change that you’re going to explain it,” she said.

Bock, the company’s former HR director who is now CEO of Humu, a workplace software startup, suggested that Google hasn’t succeeded here. “Maybe Alphabet is just a different company than it used to be,” he wrote in an email to Bloomberg News. “But not everyone’s gotten the memo.”

Huawei Mate X: One day with this foldable phone and I'm all in

Original Article by CNET

I spent a day with Huawei’s folding smartphone. Spoiler alert: I liked it a lot.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I’ve finally been able to spend some real time with the foldable Huawei Mate X, the Chinese company’s folding phone rival to Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Motorola’s folding Razr. After a whole day using it all over Paris, I’ve gotta be honest, this foldable Android device is damn cool. 

I’ll start with the obvious, the actual folding mechanism. The Mate X’s flexible OLED screen folds backwards on itself, in contrast to Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, which closes in on itself like a book, or the Razr, which folds shut like an old clamshell phone. That means you can use the entire 8-inch display even when the phone is closed. Unlike the Galaxy Fold, there is no internal Mate X display.

Now we can debate all we want about which screen design and mechanical hinge are best, but this is purely about the Mate X, so I’ll tell you what I’ve found to be great so far.

First of all, that folding display just looks amazing. The way the screen bends back around on itself, without any kind of distortion to the images, is awesome and I love the way the interface — no matter what you’re looking at — instantly resizes into the correct aspect ratio. When I first saw this at MWC earlier in the year I had a genuine rush of excitement at witnessing something so futuristic. Months later, and even having used the Galaxy Fold since its launch, I’m no less excited about the way the Huawei Mate X bends. 

Trust me when I say that from the moment you get it out of the box, you’ll want to fold and unfold the Mate X time and time again. Your friends will want to have a go, your colleagues will want a go and even random strangers in bars will want a go.

But there’s more to like about this foldable phone than just its ability to draw attention on a night out. By folding backwards as it does, that big screen is essentially split in half, giving you a 6.6-inch display in its regular, “closed” phone format, outsizing all but the biggest phablet giants. (You get full use of the screen only when you unfold the phone.) As a result, videos and photos look great, particularly because there’s no notch interrupting the view — something I’ll come back to later.

Having a big outer screen in “phone mode” makes it much more usable than the closed Galaxy Fold. In my several months with the Fold, I’ve found its 4.6-inch outer screen to be so narrow that typing on it can be extremely difficult. As a result, I almost always use it in its large, folded-out tablet mode. I’ve been forced to ask myself, do I really have a foldable smartphone or do I have a tablet that can be folded away for easy storage?

With the Huawei Mate X, I don’t need to ask myself the same question. The Mate X’s design is comfortable to use and while it’s wider than the Fold, it’s much thinner in its closed form, so it sits in my jeans pocket more easily and didn’t feel at all awkward to keep there as I paced the busy Parisian streets. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

To allow it to bend, the display is covered in plastic, not glass (as are all of today’s foldable phones) and, like we’ve seen on the Galaxy Fold, there are some noticeable ripples on the screen’s surface when it lays flat. But they’re best described as “ripples” rather than the more pronounced “crease” on the Fold. This is likely due to the fact that the screen doesn’t bend at such a sharp angle, thereby causing less of a crease in the display material. In my extended hands-on throughout the day, I rarely noticed these ripples and never found them to be a distraction. 

If I were really nitpicking (which, of course, I am), I’d say that the folding hinge is a bit stiff. Bending it backwards from its tablet mode feels like you’re having to force it more than it really wants, and on my first few attempts I wasn’t sure if I was doing it properly. But it’s something I’m sure you’d get used to once you got over the initial jarring sensation of basically trying to bend a tablet in half. It does mean that you’re not likely to accidentally close it while using it as a tablet. I do like that a physical clasp holds it securely in its phone form and there’s an easy-to-reach button that you’ll press to release it and fold back out. The Fold and Razr use magnets to remain shut, but I believe the Mate just relies on the clasp. Time will tell which is better

The cameras are housed in a vertical side-bar, which I found to be a handy gripping point when unfolded in tablet mode (when closed, the phone folds back, sitting flush against this sidebar). It also means the cameras don’t interrupt the display with notches, not even for selfies, as you simply turn the phone over and take those with the main camera. 

The camera lineup is much the same as Huawei’s P30 Pro: a standard lens, a zoom lens that offers 3x and 5x zoom, a super wide-angle lens and a fourth “time of flight” sensor for depth processing. Having used the cameras extensively throughout my time with the smartphone, I’m pretty pleased with the results, particularly the portrait mode, which gave an extremely accurate bokeh around my willing subject. Exposure seemed good across the board and it uses the same night mode that’s impressed me so much on Huawei’s previous flagship phones, being able to capture bright, sharp images in dark night-time scenes.

Other specs are pretty much in line with what you’d expect from any top-end smartphone. It runs Huawei’s latest Kirin 980 octacore processor, has a 4,500-mAh battery with all-day battery life, 512GB of internal storage and 8GB of RAM. 

But it’s not internal specs that are important here. The Huawei Mate X is all about that bend and having spent all day with the phone I’m confident in saying that this is my favorite foldable phone I’ve used so far. Given that it’s only available in China, I’m not likely to add one to my permanent collection anytime soon, and that’s a real shame, but my time with it has left me extremely excited about what we’ll see from folding devices in the years to come. 



The NHS robots performing major surgery

Credit for this article goes to BBC News

How would you feel about a robot performing major surgery on you?

2019 has seen a boom in the use of cutting edge robotic technology and there is more to come.

Evidence suggests robotic surgery can be less invasive and improve recovery time for patients.

That could be good news with ever growing demand on health services.

At the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, I watch an operation taking place with three robotic arms operating on a patient where a surgeon’s hands would normally be.

The robotic arms are seeing, feeling and manipulating with incredible precision.

In this case, they are removing the patient’s thymus gland from between the lungs.

The surgical robot takes this operation a step beyond traditional keyhole surgery.

Stephen O'Reilly
Stephen O’Reilly said he hoped it would speed up his recovery

The patient is Stephen O’Reilly, whom I spoke to 20 minutes earlier as he prepared to put his trust in robotic assisted surgery, hoping it would mean he could get back to work more quickly.

“It sounds quite interesting,” he said. “The surgeon says it speeds it up. If they cut you open you could be in hospital for a week but I could be away in a day or two.

“It helps your recovery and stops them having to open you up. The last time I got surgery was in 1992 when I broke my leg. It’s a lot different now.”

Once he is in the operating theatre and under anaesthetic, the £2m Da Vinci robot takes over from the human team.

But control is still in the surgeon’s hands – just remotely via a console.

Alan Kirk operates the robot via a console
Consultant thoracic surgeon Alan Kirk has control of the robot from a remote console

Consultant thoracic surgeon Alan Kirk went through additional training to operate in this way.

Ordinarily Mr Kirk would be hunched over the operating table for two or three hours performing a procedure like this.

It is physically and mentally demanding. The use of robotic technology can relieve some of that pressure but it takes a period of adjustment to get used to being at the controls, at some distance from the patient.

Mr Kirk said: “The selling points for robotics are improving patient outcomes by having smaller holes and incisions that are less painful.

“The vision we get is also far better than any keyhole procedures we have already, so it’s 10 times magnification, 3D, high definition vision – and with the technology of the instruments with 360 degree articulation, and 7 degrees of freedom, it allows us to do things that we couldn’t do even with open surgery sometimes.”

Alan Kirk
Mr Kirk went through additional training to operate in this way

The American-made da Vinci robot has dominated robotic surgery in the UK for 15 years.

But as the new decade approaches, more versatile models are arriving on the market – such as the British-designed Versius robot that is coming on stream.

For more routine surgery like hip and knees – a robotic arm called Mako is helping create incredibly precise replacements based on individual anatomy.

A robotic arm called Mako is helping create incredibly precise replacements

Orthopaedic surgeon Nick Ohly said: “We can give every patient a customised or personalised knee replacement, based on their own specific anatomy and the only way to do that is with technology like this.

“We have a 3D virtual image of the anatomy, we can plan the operation virtually before we’ve even cut the bones and then execute it exactly as per the plans, so we know that what we do is exactly what we wanted.”

Surgeons clearly believe that robotics will be a big part of their future.

But with a growing choice of technology available, it will mean careful, evidence-based decisions about what provides the best value for money, for the NHS’s long-term investment.