The Download April 14 2022: Kenya’s mobile gambling problem and earthquake algorithms

This is today’s edition of The Download, our daily newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the world of technology.

How mobile money supercharged sports betting addiction in Kenya

Mobile money has mostly been hugely beneficial to Kenyans. But it has also boosted the country’s sports betting industry.

Since the middle of the last decade, pundits and public figures across the African continent have sounded the alarm about the growing popularity of sports betting. The practice has produced stories of riches, but it has also broken up families, consumed college tuition and even driven some to suicide.

Yet nowhere is the madness more acute than in Kenya, the country often dubbed Africa’s “silicon savanna” for its status as a regional tech powerhouse. But while Kenya’s mobile money revolution has played a well-documented role in boosting savings and democratizing access to finance, today it’s easier than ever for those in fragile economic circumstances to blow it all. Read the full story.

—Jonathan W. Rosen

A deep learning algorithm could detect earthquakes by filtering out city noise

Cities are noisy places. Traffic, trains and machinery create a lot of noise. While it is a mere inconvenience most of the time, it can become a deadly problem when it comes to detecting earthquakes. That’s because it’s hard to discern an approaching earthquake amidst all the usual vibrations in bustling cities.

Stanford researchers have found a way to get a clearer signal. They have created an algorithm trained on tens of thousands of samples of seismic noise in cities. They assure that it could improve the detection capacity of earthquake monitoring networks in cities. Places like South America, Mexico, the Mediterranean, Indonesia and Japan could especially benefit. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams

The must reads

I’ve searched the internet to find today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 TikTok has created an echo chamber in favor of the war in Russia
While the hashtags and anti-war content have disappeared. (WSJ$)
+ Ukraine’s intelligence services are deceiving Russian soldiers. ($ wiring)
+ The Russians hide bombs and landmines all over Ukraine. (NOW $)
+ The state of Russia’s trucks suggests that its troops are struggling. (CNN)

2 million are grieving loved ones lost to covid
And their mourning is made even harder by the public’s desire to “return to normality”. (The Atlantic $)
+ Two omicron subvariants are sweeping upstate New York. (NOW $)
+ Pfizer’s booster shot is effective in children between 5 and 11 years of age. (NOW $)
+ Robot dogs are patrolling Shanghai to ensure residents comply with their lockdown. (FT$)

3 Plastic batteries are cheaper and more durable than lithium-ion batteries
So it makes sense that they can store renewable energy on the grid. (TR)

4 Elon Musk has offered to buy 100% of Twitter
He says that if his offer is rejected, he will reconsider his position as a shareholder. (FT$)
+ It’s been a rollercoaster week for both Musk and the platform. (The edge)
+ But he is still being sued over claims that he was too slow to reveal his actions on Twitter. (Heaven News$)

5 How The Birds Aren’t Real Joke Conspiracy Theory Took Flight
Real conspiracy theorists seem to have a hard time spotting satire. (The Guardian)
+ A rioter on Capitol Hill blamed Trump for ordering him to storm Congress. (NOW $)

6 Mark Zuckerberg wants you to see the metaverse through his AR glasses
He thinks they will go on sale in 2024, but even that sounds very optimistic. (The edge)

7 A Travel Influencer Mistakenly Claimed To Be The First Woman To Visit Every Country
She it was, however, the first to boast about it on social networks. (WP$)

8 endangered animals are still being trafficked through Facebook
That’s despite Meta’s promise to crack down on the practice years ago. (The Guardian)

9 At what age should we talk to children about cryptocurrencies?
What question. What a time to be alive. (vox)
+ The guy who bought an NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet for $2.9 million is struggling to sell it for anything other than a giant loss. (Coin desk)
+ Wikipedia has voted against receiving donations in cryptocurrencies. (Arstechnica)
+ Soccer clubs and cryptocurrencies are not a good combination. (FT$)

10 Vending Machines May Exist Until The End Of Time
They are mostly unloved, but millions of us rely on them every day around the world. (The Guardian)
+ No, please, not an NFT vending machine. (axes)

quote of the day

“I couldn’t live with myself if not come. I had to couldn’t sleep.

—An American tells The Guardian of his decision to travel to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Do you have any idea? drop me a line either tweet them to me.)

+ A fascinating look at what might be the world’s oldest dessert, though it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
+ Whatever you do, watch out for these fighting geese.
+ This Smiths x Flo Rida mashup lives in my head rent free.
+ If you hate buying jeans as much as I do, this guide is a must read.
+ Wait, what—mushrooms talk to each other!?
+ This marine mammal live stream is healing my soul. + May your weekend be as relaxed as this capybara living his best life with some duck friends.

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