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Review of the 2020 technology news featuring Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter and QAnon

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Garry Moore, the managing director of Bishop's Stortford's Genmar IT, writes for the Indie...

With a worldwide death toll of over two million from the pandemic and some of the worst natural disasters in history, it seems odd to look back at the tech news of 2020.

But it is obvious that technology played a considerable role in all our lives this last year.

Folding phones

Introduced in 2019 with some obvious flaws, Samsung refined their offerings with the new Galaxy Flip and the Galaxy Fold.

Arguably just expensive toys for now, this technology stands to set the trend. They are also very cool – take a look online.

Apple and chips

Apple make a big deal of making their own hardware and software, but until now have used Intel processors in all their Macs. In 2020, they announced they are building their own based on those in the iPhone.

Called the M1, early reviews are very encouraging, reporting a doubling of battery life and speed. Very impressive and available to buy now!

Tech elite embarrassed

The private Twitter accounts of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and others were hacked. Luckily they were only used to promote a Bitcoin scam.

Space race

Elon Musk’s SpaceX took two sets of astronauts to the International Space Station in one of 23 missions in 2020 including a good chunk of the planned 1,000 low-Earth-orbit Starlink satellites that will cover the globe in 2021 and offer high-speed internet on the planet. A truly incredible feat.

Space X founder Elon Musk
Space X founder Elon Musk

Mind the gap

The digital divide, a term used to denote the disparity in accessible broadband, has grown wider still during the pandemic.

Access to reliable broadband has been a long-standing issue in the UK, with various governments failing to meet their targets over the years. The pandemic forced many of us to work or study from home, hitting those on low incomes the hardest.

With 22% of the population lacking basic digital skills and a proven link between poor GCSE results and digital exclusion before the pandemic, the fall out will not be good.

Amazon growth

2020 saw Amazon increase its UK workforce from 30,000 to 40,000, mainly off the back of the huge increase in online sales due to the pandemic.

This has provided an opportunity to upscale its Amazon Fresh online grocery portal. Currently available only in London and a few other highly-populated areas, it is due to be rolled out across the UK for its 15 million customers and is set to take a slice of the huge upsurge in demand.


Black Lives Matter and tech

While not an obvious link between the two, it was the video footage of the George Floyd incident and the way it spread across social media that fuelled an international debate over racial justice. It also proved a useful tool in organising demonstrations, with tech firms backing the BLM movement.

Trump tech

There is no doubt Donald Trump had a bumpy relationship with tech and Huawei took the brunt of his wrath, having a huge negative effect worldwide for the Chinese tech giant.

He then turned his attention to TikTok – a video streaming app mainly used by pre-teens to show off their dance moves – as apparently he was concerned it posed a security risk due to its collection of private data on US citizens. He issued an Executive Order forcing them to sell itself to US-based Oracle, but then seemed to lose interest after the elections, leaving them in limbo.

Most recently we have seen the worm turn with Twitter and others blocking or issuing warnings regarding the authenticity of his posts. Shame it took so long!

Donald Trump at Stansted Airport. Picture: Vikki Lince
Donald Trump at Stansted Airport. Picture: Vikki Lince

From zero to hero

Fact: there is a recognised condition called ‘Zoom fatigue’ from the overuse of the video chat app. Not something that anyone would have guessed this time last year.

In April 2020 it reported a 2,000% increase and, despite some initial and ongoing concerns over the platform’s security, it is impressive how it has kept going through all this. Not many businesses could meet such a huge uptake in demand so quickly.

A shot in the arm

Arguably not really tech, but the development of multiple effective vaccines across the globe in such a short timescale is, to me, miraculous.

Recognised as revolutionary, the use of mRNA to instruct human cells to build proteins producing harmless fragments of the coronavirus that in turn promotes the production of antibodies providing lasting immunity opens up a route to produce new vaccines in the future.

Technology has also had its critics this year. Targeted use of social media by conspiracy theorist groups like QAnon have seen stories widely adopted and shared by seemingly normal people across the globe. The power of technology at its worst.

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