Welcome back to C8’s top stories of the month! It is our recurring blog where members of the C8 team are invited to explore a story they found particularly interesting or ‘game-changing’ in the world of tech or surrounding areas.
In August, the C8 team explored a wide range of stories, from the rising cost of going to university to the lack of grease on a propeller shaft embarrassing the Navy. Read below and let us know what you think. What was your top story of August? Use #C8storytellers and explain why!
HANNAH RICHARDS – JUNIOR PR EXECUTIVE
Throughout the pandemic, everyone found a ‘new’ hobby to master, whether it was the flute, knitting, or learning a language. For some, gardening was their vice. In this article however, an agritech business, Lettus Grow, has gone a step further and developed its own horticultural tech that allows plants to grow using 95% less water than outdoor crops.
As highlighted in the article, indoor farming can be more reliable, due to controlled weather conditions. Plants are hung vertically, and mist is used to water them, developing a constant, healthy growth for fruit and vegetables. Lettus Grow has also started a project with HM Prison Hewell, teaching prisoners how to grow organic products utilising the bespoke technology. The aim is to help prisoners develop horticultural skills for the world beyond their sentence. Not only has this relatively young company found a solution to weather-induced crop failure, but it is also teaching valuable skills to prisoners and giving them an insight into working life; with the additional attribute of perhaps providing a solution to a workforce shortage that is causing nationwide problems for farmers.
MEGAN MACKINTOSH – SENIOR PR EXECUTIVE
It is no secret that the tech industry, along with many others, is facing a talent shortage. It is also no secret that the world of IT and cybersecurity is predominantly male, although female professionals are finally making inroads to improve gender diversity and equity in these workplaces. This background is why the news of young women taking Computing at A-Level and receiving great UK-wide results is my news story of the month.
Alongside the steadily rising number of students taking A-level Computing year-on-year, this year’s results day saw almost 80% of female candidates achieve above a C grade; higher than male candidates. Of course, it’s not a competition, but after reading and writing about the importance of diversity in the sector and the need to shape new talent, it is heartening to read that young women are carrying the torch for STEM careers, setting their sights on this thriving industry, and achieving already.
NATALIE YOUNG – JUNIOR PR EXECUTIVE
Our client, BlueVoyant, recently released its latest report, ‘Media Industry Cybersecurity Challenges’, analysing vulnerabilities in the media industry. It received some great coverage including this piece from InfoSecurity Magazine. The story caught my attention, not only because it is my client but also because media is an industry that I hadn’t considered particularly vulnerable previously, after mainly focusing on cyber risk in the supply chain.
The findings revealed that 30% of the media companies analysed were found to be susceptible to compromise via vulnerabilities discovered. This level of vulnerability is twice that of a multi-industry benchmark monitored by BlueVoyant. Also, 60% of identified vulnerable systems are left unprotected six weeks after a patch has been issued – highlighting the issue the industry has with speed of patching.
It will be interesting to watch this story play out and monitor how the media industry tightens up its cyber hygiene.
PAULA ELLIOTT – MANAGING DIRECTOR
Ex-BBC journalist, Emily Maitlis’ keynote lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival caught my attention as she warned of the perils of fake news, and the consequences when the agenda is highjacked by people in powerful positions. She talked about cronyism in the BBC and the importance of impartiality as a journalist. She also said the job of being a journalist is getting harder.
She called on journalists to challenge those in power, asking why many are “so afraid of scrutiny”, and namechecking politicians. She urged journalists to catch up with the altered political landscape and told the festival audience: “We’re becoming anaesthetised to the rising temperature in which facts are getting lost, constitutional norms trashed, claims frequently unchallenged.
“We – journalists, management teams, organisations – are primed to back down, even apologise, to prove how journalistically fair we are being. That can be exploited by those crying ‘bias’. If it suits those in power to shut us up – or down – they can. Critically, it’s lose – lose for the audience.
“When we hear those in power talking about ‘a witch-hunt’, our senses should be primed. This is often a precursor to the rejection of legitimate checks and balances. We should ask why they’re so afraid of scrutiny.”
Emily also touched on fake news and the power of social media, calling it exceptionally favourable to the language of populism because it benefits simplistic, emotional messages that suit the elevation of grievance. I welcome your opinion on the state of reporting, the use of social media and Emily’s strong views on impartiality.
AMEESHA PATEL – SENIOR PR EXECUTIVE
I originally found this story about tuition fees on Twitter, but it caught my eye as a person who was one of the first in my family to be hit with the new rise in tuition fees back in 2014, when it went from £3K in 2006 to £9K in 2012, and now at the frozen rate of £9250 since 2017. The story from iNews states university bosses are calling for tuition fees to be raised closer to the £24K-a-year average that foreign students pay.
According to a YouGov opinion poll, 69% of graduates believe that university tuition fees of £9,250 are “bad value”. This is only part of the cost for university, there are also significant costs for food, accommodation, and bills. At least some of these costs are also likely to rise because of the cost-of-living crisis. This rise in tuition fees is likely to further deter disadvantaged students from applying and getting the education they deserve. Following this announcement, it would be interesting to see the amount of young people choosing now to not go to university and to seek an alternative route into their career, such as apprenticeships. This is a lot of debt for someone so young to get into and probably find themselves paying off for the rest of their lives.
JOHN VIGNAUX – JUNIOR PR EXECUTIVE
This story from IT Pro really struck me. You often hear of the lack of opportunities the majority of academy football players are faced with when they are unable to turn professional. They are left hung out to dry, in often a quick and brutal fashion, with limited hard skills to appeal to new employers.
The story focusses on a new initiative by Liverpool FC in partnership with BIT Group, Hack The Box, and CompTIA to offer cybersecurity training to academy alumni. Footballers are not a group of people I would often associate with cybersecurity, but it makes sense. Academies teach a wealth of valuable soft skills, with initiatives such as this by Liverpool FC able to provide the hard skills needed to boost alumni’s employability. I look forward to seeing where this goes and hope other clubs follow suit with greater support for their alumni.
JIM POPLE – PR DIRECTOR
You could argue that the story of a ship failure isn’t really about technology, but perhaps this is what makes it so amazing. Only hours after HMS Prince of Wales, the second aircraft carrier in the Elizabeth-class of juggernauts, sailed out of the Solent, bound for the United States, it ground to a halt. All £3bn of it.
And the reason for the sudden stoppage? Something wrong with her hundreds of miles of cabling? Nope, it was a lack of grease on a propeller shaft. Cue huge embarrassment for the Royal Navy, and another reason for the UK’s naysayers to point towards our diminishing military might. Furthermore, she will likely have to be towed north to Scotland for repair, which could run into the weeks and months.
It goes to show that it’s not always about complicated algorithms and software. Let’s hope everything is properly lubricated should it need to actually defend our shores.
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