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Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

Welcome to dot.Rory - these are my thoughts about how technology is changing the world and shaping our lives

Facebook expands Africa push

31 July 2014
Screen grab

It's the new frontier for the internet - connecting billions of people in Africa and Asia who have yet to sample the delights of the digital world. Through an organisation called Internet.org, Facebook has put itself at the forefront of this mission.

Today it unveils a clever plan to get millions of people in Zambia online. It is without doubt a laudable philanthropic mission - but in the long run it could also be hugely important to Facebook's growth.

As Guy Rosen of Internet.org explained to me over a video link from Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters, 85% of those people who aren't connected to the internet are in places with mobile phone coverage. There are two reasons why, despite the widespread use of mobile phones, they have not tried the internet - affordability and awareness. In other words, data use on a mobile phone is far too expensive for most people and they have no idea of what advantages it might offer them.

The plan in Zambia is to address both those issues. The mobile operator Airtel - like a number in Africa - has been offering a simple Facebook experience for free on mobile phones. Now in Zambia it will offer an Internet.org app which will supply Facebook but also a number of other web services. Users will get access to Wikipedia, job sites, weather forecasts, and information about health, all without paying any data charges.

Phones with Internet.org

Users will be able to access these web services from simple feature phones by visiting the internet.org website, and they will get a warning if they stray onto sites where data charges apply. Only 15% of the 15 million people in Zambia have used the internet so far - now it is hoped that many more will try it. If the pilot is successful, the same method will be used with other mobile operators in other parts of Africa.

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Hype and hi-tech

29 July 2014
3D printer creating figurine

Predicting the future shape of technology is a fool's game. If you believed the forecasts of future-gazers when I was growing up, we would all be taking holidays on the moon, consuming our meals in tablet form and enjoying a 10-hour working week by now.

And even very recent predictions seem to be going awry. Figures last week from Apple showed iPad sales slowing, and growth in the overall tablet market is looking less than spectacular, so the idea that the conventional desktop PC is in its death throes now seems to be a bit oversold.

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National roaming - a bad call?

3 July 2014
David Cameron with mobile phone
Difficulty getting a signal?

It sounds a great idea - allow anyone finding it difficult to connect to their mobile phone network to roam to another network to make a call.

It's called national roaming but from what I'm hearing the mobile operators will fight tooth and nail to stop something they regard as impractical and counterproductive.

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Tweeting the World Cup

27 June 2014
Dove released at the World Cup opening ceremony

This has been the week the United States finally got football - or soccer, as they still insist on calling it.

As the USA team progressed to the knock-out stage, the story has led the breakfast TV shows and been the subject of a diatribe by right-wing columnist Ann Coulter, who sees US interest in the game as a sign of the nation's moral decay.

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Android everywhere at Google I/O

26 June 2014
Google i/o

Put a couple of thousand developers from around the world in a huge hall, show them some under the bonnet improvements in the software tools they use every day, and pause after each sentence to bathe in the applause. That's the basic recipe for Google I/O which is aimed at the development community, not at consumers.

But Google knows that these days the world is watching too - so it has to sprinkle the conference's opening keynote with a little stardust in the form of some stunts and a few product announcements. Two years ago a live demo with skydivers jumping out of planes and streaming video from Google Glass set the bar very high indeed.

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Can you make a giant dance? Facebook tries to innovate

25 June 2014
Facebook sign, Menlo Park

Big established companies that dominate their industries often find it gets harder to innovate - so is Facebook now about to face that same problem? I've just spent three hours at the social network's headquarters trying to work out whether it can stay ahead as it grows ever bigger.

Life must look good if you're one of the nearly 4,000 people who turn up for work at the sprawling campus in Menlo Park in California, where the central plaza Hacker Square is dotted with cafes and people stroll in the sunshine toting their laptops as they head for the next meeting.

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Uber and Indiegogo - tales of disruption

24 June 2014
Indiegogo Ping-pong table

It's a word despairing teachers use to describe the class troublemakers, but in Silicon Valley "disruptive" is what everyone wants to be.

The whole theory behind disruptive innovation - cheaper, sometimes lower-quality technologies which come along and destroy the business models of established industries - is a subject of ferocious academic debate at the moment, after an article in the New Yorker questioned the concept.

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Will the British take to Google Glass?

23 June 2014
Prince Charles tries on Google Glass

It has been the most talked-about new gadget of the last year (not always in a good way) and now Google Glass is coming to the UK.

Anyone with £1000 to spare can order the wearable computer that delivers smartphone information into a screen above your right eye. Then they can reach their own conclusion about whether it is the future of communication - or computing's equivalent of the Sinclair C5.

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California dreaming: London's hi-tech aspirations

16 June 2014
Boris Johnson at London Technology Week launch

London is blowing its tech trumpet in a big way this week.

Boris Johnson, along with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and the venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz, have just launched London Technology Week - a series of events designed to boost the reputation of the capital as a technology cluster. And if you were to believe some startling research commissioned for the week, London is already hitting it out of the park.

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The $7m question - how did a broke Icelander create a world-beating app?

13 June 2014
QuizUp logo

In a luxury hotel north of London yesterday you could find one of the wealthiest and most influential tech crowds ever assembled.

There was the chairman of Google, the chief executives of many of Europe's biggest telecoms firms, politicians from the UK and across Europe, founders of companies ranging from Carphone Warehouse and ARM, to the machine-learning business Deep Mind.

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About Rory

Rory has been watching the technology scene like a hawk for the last 15 years.

From the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s to the rise of Google and Facebook, from the Psion organiser to the iPad, he's covered all the big gadget and business stories, and interviewed just about everyone who's played a part in the story of the web.

Dot.Rory, his previous blog, was named among the Top 100 blogs by the Sunday Times.

He aims to look at the impact of the internet and digital technology on our lives and businesses. Rory has been described as "the non-geek's geek", and freely admits that he came late to technology - but he aims to explain its significance to anyone with an interest in the subject.

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