Edition 127: A new trend - companies providing interpreters for online conferences

Well, hello (and welcome to the bunch of you that trusted me enough to sign up in the last few months - maybe you reached here through the Sweathead podcast episode I was in recently?!). In the gap since my last email, summer and autumn came and went, I had a baby, a new year dawned and the UK remained (and continues to remain) in lockdown for the majority of that time. In the US, no one really knows quite what’s happening because it’s basically still in 2020…this made me smile amidst the chaos this week:

Back to business though - this newsletter is about what’s happening outside of the UK and the US, so let’s go.


Ruda is a collective of Latin American feminist, non-binary photographers who banded together to showcase what is happening in that part of the world from their point of view. Something I learnt: the name of the collective comes from the potent rue plant, which in ancient Roman times was recommended as an antidote to snake bites. Here’s an NPR piece on Ruda’s work, with some amazing photographs.

From a poor family in Orissa, India, Dule’s rapping has attracted attention from Bollywood musicians and others online - but the Dalit youngster wants to use his talents to highlight the condition of the Dalit community in India.

Vanessa Carballido and Paola Pagnán are just two of the inspiring women changing Puerto Rico through renewable energy, accelerating their work even through Covid. Noteworthy facts from this Forbes piece: “At 22 to 27 cents per kilowatt hour, Puerto Rico residents pay higher electricity bills than households in any state of the United States. The average energy bill for a five-person household in Puerto Rico stands at $300.00.”

Stripe acquired Paystack, a startup that similar to Stripe integrates payments into online or offline transactions via an API, for what is said to be the biggest acquisition of a Nigerian startup. An interesting point in this Techcrunch piece is the exposure to risk that this could bring to Stripe, which has a large range of fraud protection tools which may need to be built on as it forges into Nigeria, which is “the biggest economy in Africa, but it is also one of the more corrupt on the continent, according to research from Transparency International.”

India has become an unlikely fan hotspot for Korean dramas and K-pop, with viewership of Korean boy band BTS and Korean films and TV shows significantly increasing in viewership over the pandemic: BTS’ total streams on the streaming platform JioSaavn went from 0.78 million in January to 2.3 million in October 2020.

Important news in Africa: Alphabet’s ‘moonshot factory’ X has partnered with Econet Group to roll out Project Taara wireless light-beam broadband in Africa. Also interesting is that Taara came about when the X team were investigating solutions to a problem they found while deploying Project Loon, which aimed to create Internet connections through balloons flying above areas in India and Africa: they needed to create a data link between the balloons, and thought they could bring that technology from the sky closer to the ground. Read more on X’s website.

I hadn’t heard of Taihei Kobayashi, but now I’ll remember him: a Japanese homeless high-school dropout who is now the CEO of Sun*, a $1 billion company based in Vietnam.

Starting today, I’m going to be seeing a steady stream of elderly people being vaccinated against Covid-19 in the surgery across my street, which is one of the vaccination centres in the UK. In Indonesia, the government is however trying something completely different: they are vaccinating working-age people between 18 and 59 first. It’ll be worth noting how that approach goes, because as Peter Collignon, professor of infectious diseases at Australian National University says, “I don’t think anybody can get too dogmatic about what is the right approach.”

China has started construction on a $898 million e-sports arena in Shanghai as it strives to become a leader in competitive gaming. The rise of e-sports is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by people working in the marketing industry, and one can’t help but be impressed by China’s commitment to what will be a huge industry in the years to come. E-sports was estimated to have generated $1.1 billion in revenue in 2020, according market research firm Newzoo.

Netflix has spent $700 million on Korean content in the last 5 years, and is now leasing at least 9 stages in two production studios in Korea to ramp up production of Korean content.

If you’re based in India and are in the market for tote bags, check out these hand-embroidered ones by these rural artisans - they’d appreciate your business.


WeFarm, the ‘largest farmer-to-farmer digital network’ especially focussed on helping farmers in Asia and Africa, is hiring for a number of technology and product roles in London and remotely.

Thinkerbell Labs, which helps make products that improve learning outcomes for the visually impaired, is hiring for a number of roles in technology and management, as well as 4-6 month internships, all to be based remotely.

Etsy is looking to hire a Director, Business Operations in Mexico City, and they’re open to remote candidates as well.

Friends at Brink are looking for Innovation Managers to work with them on a range of technology and data projects to benefit Africa and South Asia, with the roles to be based in London.

From the community

The team at Parlia wrote in to say hello and introduce their product, which I think some of you may find interesting; they call themselves the ‘encyclopedia of opinion’ whose mission is to ‘serve the public conversation by showcasing issues around the world and sharing them with our global audience.’ They’ve showcased stories from the global South, such as the Palghar lynching and the growth of Islamophobia during Covid-19. Crucially they want to end polarisation through education - really necessary if the events of the last few months are anything to go by. Check them out. Thanks to Nushy Rose from Parlia for sending this in.

Based in Bologna, Italy, Cubbit is a distributed cloud, which provides for a higher level of security (zero-knowledge encryption), lower costs of maintenance and less pollution centred in data centres. Fun fact: it started as one of the top 1% of Kickstarter projects of all time. Thanks to Francesco Bianchi, one of the founders of Cubbit, for writing in.

The title of this newsletter

…is from this BBC piece about the surge in people learning new languages during lockdown. No I didn’t know about the existence of Luwian, a language written and spoken in ancient Turkey 3000 years ago, either.


Regular programming should be back this year, so thanks to those of you who’ve stayed loyal subscribers. If you think this newsletter is worth sharing with others, please do by clicking the button below:

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Stay safe and healthy in 2021,