[Image: Martha Raddatz]
A newsletter about technology feels a bit beside the point when structural racism is lacerating a country, and a virus is tearing the world apart, and climate change looms in the background. But technology is a catalyst, enabling and amplifying what’s happening.
“We know we can’t go on like this. A world where people are judged, discriminated against and die due to the colour of their skin is not the world I want, that any of us want. Even though we are not in the USA we all have a part to play.
"Some of you experience judgement and discrimination every single day. Both in work and outside of work. I know I can’t get close to knowing what this feels like, but I want you to know that my ears are pinned back, my eyes are open and, as uncomfortable as it may be, I won’t look away. I know this is happening and it’s unacceptable and intolerable. It must change. We can change it.
"The inclusive culture that we, together, are trying to build at the Co-op will only live through actions. Not words alone. There is no doubt we’ve got more to do. We’re well underway but I’m not naive enough to think that we’re even nearly done. We need to go further and faster.”
That’s from a thread on Twitter by Co-op’s leader Steve Murrells. The killing of George Floyd by police officers was appalling. The protests in Minneapolis and other cities across the US and elsewhere - and the responses by law enforcement and government - show that structural racism must no longer be suffered by some while being politely ignored by others. Action is needed. Here are some good reads that point at resources to understand, and action to take:
Related: Public Health England quietly published their Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 report, which found that age and sex, deprivation and ethnicity were all significant factors in the variance of COVID death rates.
Trump vs social media
Twitter flagged one US Presidential tweet as needing fact-checking and another as glorifying violence. Trump wasn’t at all happy, and issued an executive order to prevent “powerful social media companies censor[ing] opinions with which they disagree”. Twitter and other social media platforms are now doing more content policing than Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg has remained carefully neutral, prompting employee walk-outs and criticism.
There’s a long-standing debate over whether online companies have a responsibility for the content their users post (as if they were making editorial judgments and publishing the content). Or whether they’re neutral platforms (in the same way that your mobile phone company isn’t responsible for what you say in a phone call).
Half a decade of social media being politicial weaponised suggests that Big Tech needs to take more responsibility, and maybe that does mean it acting more like a publisher. Big Tech has been able to ignore the unintended consequences and the harms to society it created. Big Tech needs to design responsibly and design for society.
Also: you wonder if increased partisanship in US politics (and elsewhere!) eventually means that many companies will be forced to pick political sides more explicitly.
Local and online grocery growing
Online grocery, local shopping have all seen a lot of growth recently:
“Online shopping now accounts for 11.5% of all grocery sales, gaining more ground and attracting more new shoppers in 2020 than the channel has in the previous five years. Online specialist Ocado saw sales rise by 32.5%, with its market share increasing to a new high of 1.6%, up from 1.3% last year.
"Shoppers staying closer to home and avoiding queues at large supermarkets benefited both Co-op, up by 30.8%, and independent retailers, up by 63.1%. Co-op reached 7.0% market share, a level last achieved in 2011, while the 2.5% of sales taken by independent grocers was last seen in 2009.”
“It’s been a crash course in retail. We’ve had to perfect a completely new kind of service, using bike couriers to get great products to customers at Amazon speeds. But we’ve also learned it can be a viable business, which will be part of our long-term plans, even when we reopen.”
Selling the company to the community
Instead of IPOs and acquisitions, exiting to community is one alternative.
“The idea with exit to community is how can you create a model where the whole point is to create a vibrant community that will become its eventual stewards. It seems like a natural fit, especially in a moment where we’re looking for increased accountability and the wealth distribution problems in the startup economy.”
Privacy vs pandemic
Developing for privacy in the pandemic - interesting book excerpt, and very timely.
Supporting garment industry workers
Lost Stock is “a clothing box for you, containing clothes that high street retailers have cancelled because of COVID-19”.
Happy birthday GDPR
Two years under the EU GDPR (pdf file) - more enforcement needed?
Co-op Digital news
How a voice user interface could help our Funeralcare colleagues - interesting prototypes.
Federation House’s online events:
Free of charge
Thank you for reading
Thank you, beloved readers and contributors. Please continue to send ideas, questions, corrections, improvements, etc to the newsletter’s typist @rod on Twitter. If you have enjoyed reading, please tell a friend!
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