Global tech roundup:

UN elects first female tech agency secretary-general

Doreen Bogdan-Martin has become the first woman to be elected as secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The ITU is the main technology agency with in the UN.

Originally founded in 1865 to manage the first international telegraph networks, the ITU now has an important role in facilitating the use of radio, satellite and the internet.

Ms Bogdan-Martin beat her Russian rival Rashid Ismailov by 139 votes to 25.

The American will succeed Houlin Zhao, who has been in the role since 2014, when her term begins on 1 January 2023.

She will be taking the reins of the oldest UN agency, which is responsible for many facets of international communications. These include assigning satellite orbits globally, co-ordinating technical standards, and improving infrastructure in the developing world. BBC

How a massive data breach has exposed Australia

Last week, Australian telecommunications giant Optus revealed about 10 million customers – about 40% of the population – had personal data stolen in what it calls a cyber-attack.

Some experts say it may be the worst data breach in Australia’s history.

But this week has seen more dramatic and messy developments – including ransom threats, tense public exchanges and scrutiny over whether this constituted a “hack” at all.

It’s also ignited critical questions about how Australia handles data and privacy.

Optus – a subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd – went public with the breach about 24 hours after it noticed suspicious activity on its network.

Australia’s second-largest telecoms provider said current and former customers’ data was stolen – including names, birthdates, home addresses, phone and email contacts, and passport and driving licence numbers. It stressed that payment details and account passwords were not compromised.

Those whose passport or licence numbers were taken – roughly 2.8 million people – are at a “quite significant” risk of identity theft and fraud, the government has since said. BBC

Asthma app aims to reduce attacks in children, say Norfolk hospitals

Two Norfolk hospitals have teamed up with a technology company to trial a phone app that aims to reduce asthma attacks in children and young people.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the James Paget University Hospital are providing patients with an inhaler tracker that connects to the app which then monitors their lungs. The app then alerts patients when they need to take action to stop an attack.

Dr Bikalpa Neupane said the trial had “huge potential” to prevent admissions, adding that he hoped the project would enable families to “self-manage” asthma better.

The consultant paediatrician at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital said the app provided “powerful data which allows us to intervene when needed”. The data is sent to clinicians who can review it remotely and act when necessary.

The two hospitals have worked with Cambridgeshire-based company Aseptika, as well as a consultancy firm and the Eastern Academic Health Science Network on the project.

The trial has been opened to children and young people who have been taken to hospital after an asthma attack in the last 12 months.

Tim Cook: ‘No good excuse’ for lack of women in tech

Apple chief executive Tim Cook says there are still “not enough women at the table” at the world’s tech firms – including his own.

Mr Cook said technology “will not achieve nearly what it could achieve” without a more diverse workforce. He said there were “no good excuses” for the lack of women in the sector.

He also said he thought Augmented Reality (AR), and the concept of the Metaverse, were “profound.”

“In the future people will wonder how we lived without AR,” he says. “We’re investing a tonne in that space.”

Augmented Reality is a mixture of digital content and the real world – a very simple example might be using the phone on your camera to insert virtual furniture before you buy it, to see how it might look in your house.

The metaverse is the concept of entire virtual worlds – and big tech is investing heavily in it, not least Meta, formerly Facebook, which re-branded itself to reflect its new priority. BBC

Tech IPO market faces worst year since global financial crisis

Initial public offerings by US tech companies have sunk to their lowest levels since the global financial crisis of 2008, as stock market volatility, soaring inflation, and interest rate hikes have soured investor sentiment towards new listings.

According to Refinitiv data, only 14 tech companies have floated their shares on stock exchanges so far this year, compared with 12 in 2009. The IPOs this year have raised $507 million, the lowest amount that has been raised through flotations since 2000.

Total IPO volumes fell 90.4% in the first nine months of this year, compared with last year.

Analysts interviewed by Reuters said a steep drop in stock market valuations has deterred tech firms from pursuing stock market launches.

The forward P/E (price-to-earnings) ratio of the S&P Information Technology index was trading at 20.18 — the lowest level since April 2020.

“Institutional investors have been shifting capital allocations while retail investors have been licking their wounds,” said James Gellert, chief executive officer at Rapid Ratings.

“This is a terrible backdrop for IPOs, in particular tech IPOs, which rely on bull markets and momentum investors to bolster their market entries.”

The Renaissance IPO index, which captures the largest and most liquid U.S IPOs, has slumped 50.4% this year, compared with the S&P 500 index’s drop of 23%. Reuters

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