Dear reader,  

This is Eke! You may know me as the Vice President for Public Affairs at Liberty Global or as the President of the WICT Network Europe, which is dedicated to empowering women in the media, entertainment and technology industry. I’m thrilled to be the guest editor of TechAways for March, also recognised as Women’s History Month. Having worked in the telecoms industry for over 20 years, I’m passionate about increasing diversity, equality and inclusion for women within our sector. During this time, I’ve noticed the challenges women face in the tech sphere, starting with the most systemic one – the digital divide. It’s an obstacle women in society face that boils down to inequality within digital literacy, online safety and access to the Internet and technology. 

The digital divide starts at an early age and compounds into other forms of gender inequality. It’s connected to lower levels of education, fewer employment opportunities and less workforce participation for women, according to UNICEF. Women’s exclusion from the digital sphere is also tied to a loss of about $1 trillion in GDP of low- and middle-income countries, reminding us that the digital divide is intersectional. Factors like age, ethnicity and economic background play a major role. 

So, what’s the solution? Speaking from a telecoms perspective, the industry is on a mission to improve access to the Internet for all, with Liberty Global leading the way with a digital equity strategy. As a technology, media and telecoms company, we have a pivotal role in closing the digital divide – our digital equity programmes include providing digital skills training starting at a young age and improving access to the internet for vulnerable communities. At the EU level, we can also use platforms like the European Year of Skills to improve digital skills and bridge the gap between men and women. Finally, initiatives like WICT Network Europe, an organisation that focuses on developing women leaders and highlighting how technology is an exciting and challenging landscape to work in, can help in paving the way for a more equal future. 

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AI to diversity-wash your jeans 👖 [Mashable] 

Jeans industry models, update your CVs and learn new skills. Soon, you will no longer be needed! Your unemployment may be the necessary sacrifice to live in a more sustainable and diverse world. Last week, the American clothing staple Levi’s announced its partnership with AI studio, which creates AI-generated fashion models. The company’s aim is made to increase the number and diversity of its models in a sustainable – aka cheaper – way. While the company said that AI will likely never fully replace human models, this time last year it laid off 700 employees, or 15% of its workforce, so stay tuned! 

Colourless like squids 🦑 [ArsTechnica] 

The Discovery Channel has taught us that cuttlefish, octopuses, and squid can camouflage by making themselves transparent or changing their colours. Because squid skin cells cannot be cultured in the lab, researchers at the University of California have discovered a viable solution to unlocking the key to camouflage: replicating the properties of squid skin in human cells. In 2015, Gorodetsky Group developed squid-inspired invisibility stickers to help soldiers in disguise. The stickers were thin, flexible layers of camo that could form a pattern to help blend soldiers with their surroundings. The Gorodetsky team has now extended the scope of the study by inserting squid-derived genes into human cells. Finally, we will be able to match our skin tone to our clothing without relying on Seasonal Colour Analysis! 

Mammoth mia! 🦣 [Gizmodo] 

With the mammoth meatball, it’s all in the name: huge and made of mammoth meat. The meat itself has not been conjured up in a Jurassic Park-type scenario, thankfully. All it took was a cultivated meat company, woolly mammoth muscle protein, lab-grown sheep muscle cell, African elephant DNA and a group of crazy scientists to rustle it up. Described as “a symbol of loss” and simultaneously “the future of food”, the stunt is supposed to bring attention to climate change, animal extinction, with a not-so-subtle undertone of “science can solve all of it”. Ironically, you won’t find the resurrected meatball on mukbang channels anytime soon – it’s inedible for now. You can say hi to it at the Nemo Museum and hope it doesn’t talk back, though! 

The Metaverse has an antidote for restlessness 💤 [MIT Technology Review] 

Biologically speaking, humans need to feel safe to fall asleep – and since the isolating effects of the pandemic, loneliness is another common impediment to catching some Zs. Insomniacs struggle to fall asleep for a variety of reasons, but luckily, VR sleep rooms are here to save the day. Aesthetically pleasing surroundings, the option to cuddle with others and a soundtrack of lo-fi beats make for a perfectly peaceful atmosphere in which you can drift off at your ease. These sleep havens are dotted throughout the Metaverse and are designed to help the more wakeful among us find sleep easier. One slight drawback: the VR goggles weighing you down in the real world may be a source of slight discomfort. And how comfortable are you really, cuddling with a virtual stranger online? 

In case you haven’t had enough: 

Mathematicians Excited About New 13-Sided Shape Called ‘the Hat’ [Gizmodo] 

What if we could just ask AI to be less biased? [MIT Technology Review] 

Google is going to show a new ‘Perspectives’ carousel in search results [The Verge] 

NASA’s plucky Mars helicopter eyes another flight record [Digital Trends] 

Finally, there’s a girlfriend simulator that can also file your taxes [Mashable] 

About this week’s editor, Eke Vermeer: I am responsible for public policy at Liberty Global, a world leading telecom and media company with a footprint across seven countries within Europe.  I have worked in the telecom sector for over 20 years and I am passionate about increasing diversity and equality for women within our sector. I currently chair The WICT Network Europe, an organisation that focuses on developing women leaders and highlights how technology is an exciting and challenging landscape to work in, regardless of your background, ethnicity or gender. If you’re curious to find out more, click here.