Gone Digital March 20th

That’s it, then. No more Go Digital on the BBC World Service. From next week when the new World Service schedule starts we will be ‘Digital Planet’.

Some of the emails we had in response to our announcement of the change on last week’s programme were cynical, claiming that it was just a marketing-inspired rebranding. However I think it does go deeper than that, and marks a change in focus which will, over time, lead to significant differences in the sorts of stories we cover and the approach we take.

Although the show is about digital technologies and the latest developments in things like computers, robots, modelling, AI, networks and gadgets, our focus has always been on the people rather than the technology: we tell stories about how people are using these new tools and about how digital technologies are – or could be – changing people’s lives for the better.

When we do it well the focus is on the person and not the tool, and we seek to help our audience understand the significance of the technology by giving them an insight into how it affects real people. For this reason we are at our best when we get out of the lab, tradeshow or product showroom and talk to people in their homes or workplaces.

And we are best when we get away from the Western industrial world where most of these technologies are commonplace and their potential to make a real difference is significantly reduced – an SMS-based AIDS information service is a radical programme in Kenya, but it would barely change anything in Brighton.

The new name will make it easier for us to do that, and it will encourage the production team to think in this way – we’re not about moving to digital, we’re about living in a digital world, on a ‘digital planet’.

At least, that’s the idea – only our listeners will be able to tell us if we’re getting it right, and I’m sure that you all will.

On the show

Meanwhile, we ended Go Digital with some serious discussion about how we break down the digital divide, including an interview with Pierre Gagnier from the International Telecommunication Union (http://www.itu.int/) whose World Telecommunication Development Conference had just come up with an Action Plan for implementing the Millennium Development Goals adopted at WSIS.

We also had an interview with Mark Anderson of Project Inkwell, a project which aims ‘to accelerate the deployment of appropriate technologies onto K-12 desktops worldwide’ – by K-12 they mean kindergarten to 12th grade.


Mark doesn’t think much of the MIT $100 Laptop and the ‘one laptop per child’ initiative, arguing that market solutions based around an agreed standard educational computer specification are the way to go. However I feel that there are some areas – and this is one of them – where intervention is needed, and that the $100 laptop provides a way to change the way we think about computing power and deserves support.

Our last item was a report on a Quasi, an animatronic robot
created by a team of Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center. Our reporter Molly Bentley talked to the team about how their ‘robot’ – it’s actually controlled by a human operator – engages with people and how they respond emotionally to a machine that seems to empathise.

More at

And, after a few emails, that was it. Next week we’re back with Digital Planet – but I think this will still be ‘gone digital’.