Call for English councils to be given powers to regulate Airbnb | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Local councils in England must be given powers to regulate Airbnb and other short-term letting sites in order to alleviate the “intolerable” pressure they put on the availability of local housing, the Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, has said.
Her intervention followed a Guardian investigation that found one Airbnb listing for every four residential properties in some hotspots across Britain. Airbnb has disputed the finding.
Meanwhile, an organisation representing landlords has warned that imminent tax changes will drive an increasing number of landlords towards Airbnb and its rivals, depriving renters of long-term, stable tenancies.
Last month Lucas asked the government to make it easier for councils to impose a 90-day cap on homes let out on Airbnb and other online platforms. Airbnb says the vast majority of properties on the platform are already rented for less than 90 days a year.
She wants the UK government to follow Scotland’s lead. In January Holyrood announced new measures giving local authorities in Scotland powers to regulate short-term lets. This includes a licensing scheme with health and safety stipulations, which would also allow councils to address the concerns of local residents. A tax on short-term lets is also being considered.

“Brighton and Hove city council should be given the powers to regulate this industry, which is having such a serious impact on an already overstretched private rental sector and on more highly regulated hotels and B&Bs, which are being undercut. There needs to be a level playing field,” said Lucas.
“The pressure put on the availability of local housing by Airbnb in some areas of UK is intolerable. Local councils must be given powers to regulate this, so local housing needs are not squeezed out,” she tweeted on Friday.
Airbnb said the Guardian’s data was flawed and that some listings were for hotel rooms, single rooms in homes, and unusual properties such as caravans, meaning their rental did not affect housing stock.
Patrick Robinson, the company’s director of public policy, said: “Airbnb is a good partner to cities and we were the first platform to limit how often hosts in London can share their homes. We are also working with cities across the UK on proposals for a host registration system that we will proactively put to the government later this year to help ensure that rules work for everyone.”
But some critics of the company in hotspot areas say the saturation of their neighbourhoods is changing their way of life. Chris Hayes, a 55-year-old train driver who lives in the North Laine area of Brighton, said his life was being made a misery because five of the 29 cottages in his row were being advertised on Airbnb and similar sites.
“Residents have no way of stopping noise without confrontation. The owners are unknown or uncontactable, the ‘hosts’ do not have contact numbers for out-of-office hours, the council does not have noise abatement officers at night, the police treat it as very low priority,” he said, complaining of being woken by parties and the sound of suitcases being trundled along the alleyway in the middle of the night.
He added: “Airbnbs should be a planning change of use from residential. You need a change of use to convert a home to an office, hotel or shop. Why not to Airbnb?”
In 2018, up to 2,000 homes were being used as short-term holiday lets in Brighton, according to the council – a figure that is likely to have increased since. Between May 2019 and January 2020, the number of active UK listings on the website increased by 14% to 257,000.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) warned on Friday that renters were finding it harder to access long-term homes to rent because taxation changes are driving landlords to move into the holiday lettings market.
Last month, research from ARLA Propertymark found that nearly half a million UK properties could be left unavailable for longer-term rent as more landlords exit the market in favour of short-term lettings. Many landlords blame the government for restricting mortgage interest relief to the basic rate of income tax, claiming they will be significantly worse off or even unable to make a profit on their lettings.
The change does not apply to short-term lets, encouraging more landlords to move into that market, according to the RLA. Anyone buying a second home or buy-to-let property has also been hit with a 3% stamp duty surcharge since April 2016 under changes introduced by George Osborne as chancellor.
David Smith, the RLA’s policy director, said: “Government policy is actively encouraging the growth of holiday homes at the expense of long-term homes to rent, which many families need. This is completely counterproductive, making renting more expensive and undermining efforts to help tenants save for a house of their own.
“The chancellor must use his budget to give tenants a better deal by supporting good landlords to provide the homes to rent that they want to live in.”

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TORO launches its first Technology Center in India- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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The Toro Company, a 105-year old global company announced the launch of its first technology center in India. The Company is known for developing innovative solutions for the outdoor environment including turf and landscape maintenance, snow and ice management, underground utility construction, rental and specialty construction, as well as irrigation and outdoor lighting solutions. This captive technology center will primarily assist in accelerating innovation with respect to Toro’s products as they become smarter, more connected and autonomous. Toro’s Technology Center in India will also play a role in improving operational efficiency by assisting in various initiatives for global sourcing, manufacturing, and improving supply chain efficiency. Skills ranging from web and mobile app development, cloud computing, machine learning, analytics, embedded and mechatronics controls development, industrial engineering, and quality assurance – to name a few – will be employed at this center. The new center adds to the existing R&D locations of the company in the United States, Europe, China and Australia.
Speaking at the center’s inauguration ceremony in Pune, Kurt Svendsen, Vice President, said “At Toro, we have a long history of developing innovative solutions to our customers’ challenges.  This center, and its employees, have a great opportunity to be part of our global development team and help write our story of success in India.  Our focus at the center will be technology, and we expect significant contributions to the development of Toro’s next-generation products – products that are smart, connected and part of today’s digital world.”
Toro and its partners have been serving the Indian market for over three decades with a strong market presence in the golf and cricket markets.  Toro has strong market share in golf turf equipment and irrigation and is well positioned as the game grows in popularity. Toro is also the official provider of turf equipment and irrigation for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).  Today, you will find Toro on all grounds used for International and IPL cricket – in total more than 70 venues. 

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AI systems claiming to ‘read’ emotions pose discrimination risks | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems that companies claim can “read” facial expressions is based on outdated science and risks being unreliable and discriminatory, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of emotion has warned.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, said that such technologies appear to disregard a growing body of evidence undermining the notion that the basic facial expressions are universal across cultures. As a result, such technologies – some of which are already being deployed in real-world settings – run the risk of being unreliable or discriminatory, she said.
“I don’t know how companies can continue to justify what they’re doing when it’s really clear what the evidence is,” she said. “There are some companies that just continue to claim things that can’t possibly be true.”
Her warning comes as such systems are being rolled out for a growing number of applications. In October, Unilever claimed that it had saved 100,000 hours of human recruitment time last year by deploying such software to analyse video interviews.
The AI system, developed by the company HireVue, scans candidates’ facial expressions, body language and word choice and cross-references them with traits that considered to be correlated with job success.
Amazon claims its own facial recognition system, Rekognition, can detect seven basic emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust, calmness and confusion. The EU is reported to be trialling software which purportedly can detect deception through an analysis of micro-expressions in an attempt to bolster border security.
“Based on the published scientific evidence, our judgment is that [these technologies] shouldn’t be rolled out and used to make consequential decisions about people’s lives,” said Feldman Barrett.

Speaking ahead of a talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Seattle, Feldman Barrett said the idea of universal facial expressions for happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust had gained traction in the 1960s after an American psychologist, Paul Ekman, conducted research in Papua New Guinea showing that members of an isolated tribe gave similar answers to Americans when asked to match photographs of people displaying facial expressions with different scenarios, such as “Bobby’s dog has died”.
However, a growing body of evidence has shown that beyond these basic stereotypes there is a huge range in how people express emotion, both across and within cultures.
In western cultures, for instance, people have been found to scowl only about 30% of the time when they’re angry, she said, meaning they move their faces in other ways about 70% of the time.
“There is low reliability,” Feldman Barrett said. “And people often scowl when they’re not angry. That’s what we’d call low specificity. People scowl when they’re concentrating really hard, when you tell a bad joke, when they have gas.”
The expression that is supposed to be universal for fear is the supposed stereotype for a threat or anger face in Malaysia, she said. There are also wide variations within cultures in terms of how people express emotions, while context such as body language and who a person is talking to is critical.
“AI is largely being trained on the assumption that everyone expresses emotion in the same way,” she said. “There’s very powerful technology being used to answer very simplistic questions.”

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Creator of copy and paste command, Larry Tesler, dies aged 74 | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Tributes have been paid to Larry Tesler, the computer scientist who introduced the cut, copy and paste commands, after his death at age 74. The Stanford University graduate, who was a pioneer of early computing, died on Monday in San Francisco.
He worked for blue-chip firms including Apple, Amazon and Yahoo. Tesler appropriately began his Silicon Valley career at photocopying company Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (Parc) before being recruited by Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs.
Xerox wrote on Twitter: “The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more, was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler. Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas.”
Tesler worked at Apple for 17 years and rose through the ranks to become chief scientist.

Esther Dyson, from EDventure Holdings, looks over the shoulder of Larry Tesler, from Apple Computer, as he uses a pen tablet computer at the annual PC Forum in 1992. Photograph: Ann E Yow-Dyson/Getty Images
The scientist was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1945, and worked in the genesis stage of computers in the 1960s, aiming to make them more accessible and intuitive.
He specialised in user interface design and is most famous for devising the cut and paste command alongside his colleague Tim Mott at Parc. It updated the old method of editing in which people would physically cut portions of printed text and glue them elsewhere.
The command was incorporated into Apple’s software on the Lisa computer in 1983 and on the original Macintosh the following year.
A young Jobs visited Parc in 1974 and was shown around by Tesler. The scientist showed the future Apple boss the firm’s prototype Alto personal computer and moved the cursor across the screen with the aid of a “mouse”.
Whereas directing a computer had previously meant typing a command on the keyboard, Tesler just clicked on one of the icons on the screen. He recalled: “Steve started jumping around the room, shouting, ‘Why aren’t you doing anything with this? This is the greatest thing. This is revolutionary!’” He also introduced the scroll bar on the Macintosh computer.
Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum said Tesler “combined computer science training with a counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone”.
One of his strongest principles was that computer systems should stop using “modes”, which allow users to switch between functions on software and apps but make computers time-consuming and complicated. His website was even called “nomodes.com”, his Twitter handle was “@nomodes”, and his car registration plate also read “No Modes”.
In a 2012 interview with the BBC, he spoke of the culture at Silicon Valley. He said: “There’s almost a rite of passage. After you’ve made some money, you don’t just retire, you spend your time funding other companies.
“There’s a very strong element of excitement, of being able to share what you’ve learned with the next generation.”

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Revealed: quarter of all tweets about climate crisis produced by bots | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

The social media conversation over the climate crisis is being reshaped by an army of automated Twitter bots, with a new analysis finding that a quarter of all tweets about climate on an average day are produced by bots, the Guardian can reveal.
The stunning levels of Twitter bot activity on topics related to global heating and the climate crisis is distorting the online discourse to include far more climate science denialism than it would otherwise.

An analysis of millions of tweets from around the period when Donald Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement found that bots tended to applaud the president for his actions and spread misinformation about the science.
The study of Twitter bots and climate was undertaken by Brown University and has yet to be published. Bots are a type of software that can be directed to autonomously tweet, retweet, like or direct message on Twitter, under the guise of a human-fronted account.
“These findings suggest a substantial impact of mechanized bots in amplifying denialist messages about climate change, including support for Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement,” states the draft study, seen by the Guardian.
On an average day during the period studied, 25% of all tweets about the climate crisis came from bots. This proportion was higher in certain topics – bots were responsible for 38% of tweets about “fake science” and 28% of all tweets about the petroleum giant Exxon.
Conversely, tweets that could be categorized as online activism to support action on the climate crisis featured very few bots, at about 5% prevalence. The findings “suggest that bots are not just prevalent, but disproportionately so in topics that were supportive of Trump’s announcement or skeptical of climate science and action”, the analysis states.
Thomas Marlow, a PhD candidate at Brown who led the study, said the research came about as he and his colleagues are “always kind of wondering why there’s persistent levels of denial about something that the science is more or less settled on”.
The researchers examined 6.5m tweets posted in the days leading up to and the month after Trump announced the US exit from the Paris accords on 1 June 2017. The tweets were sorted into topic category, with an Indiana University tool called Botometer used to estimate the probability the user behind the tweet is a bot.

In terms of influence, I personally am convinced that they do make a difference, although this can be hard to quantify

Stephen Lewandowsky

Marlow said he was surprised that bots were responsible for a quarter of climate tweets on an average day. “I was like, ‘Wow that seems really high,’” he said.
The consistent drumbeat of bot activity around climate topics is highlighted by the day of Trump’s announcement, when a huge spike in general interest in the topic saw the bot proportion drop by about half to 13%. Tweets by suspected bots did increase from hundreds a day to more than 25,000 a day during the days around the announcement but it wasn’t enough to prevent a fall in proportional share.
Trump has consistently spread misinformation about the climate crisis, most famously calling it “bullshit” and a “hoax”, although more recently the US president has said he accepts the science that the world is heating up. Nevertheless, his administration has dismantled any major policy aimed at cutting planet-warming gases, including car emissions standards and restrictions on coal-fired power plants.
The Brown University study wasn’t able to identify any individuals or groups behind the battalion of Twitter bots, nor ascertain the level of influence they have had around the often fraught climate debate.
However, a number of suspected bots that have consistently disparaged climate science and activists have large numbers of followers on Twitter. One that ranks highly on the Botometer score, @sh_irredeemable, wrote “Get lost Greta!” in December, in reference to the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
This was followed by a tweet that doubted the world will reach a 9-billion population due to “#climatechange lunacy stopping progress”. The account has nearly 16,000 followers.
Another suspected bot, @petefrt, has nearly 52,000 followers and has repeatedly rejected climate science. “Get real, CNN: ‘Climate Change’ dogma is religion, not science,” the account posted in August. Another tweet from November called for the Paris agreement to be ditched in order to “reject a future built by globalists and European eco-mandarins”.
Twitter accounts spreading falsehoods about the climate crisis are also able to use the promoted tweets option available to those willing to pay for extra visibility. Twitter bans a number of things from its promoted tweets, including political content and tobacco advertising, but allows any sort of content, true or otherwise, on the climate crisis.
Research on internet blogs published last year found that climate misinformation is often spread due to readers’ perception of how widely this opinion is shared by other readers.
Stephan Lewandowsky, an academic at the University of Bristol who co-authored the research, said he was “not at all surprised” at the Brown University study due to his own interactions with climate-related messages on Twitter.
“More often than not, they turn out to have all the fingerprints of bots,” he said. “The more denialist trolls are out there, the more likely people will think that there is a diversity of opinion and hence will weaken their support for climate science.
“In terms of influence, I personally am convinced that they do make a difference, although this can be hard to quantify.”

John Cook, an Australian cognitive scientist and co-author with Lewandowsky, said that bots are “dangerous and potentially influential”, with evidence showing that when people are exposed to facts and misinformation they are often left misled.
“This is one of the most insidious and dangerous elements of misinformation spread by bots – not just that misinformation is convincing to people but that just the mere existence of misinformation in social networks can cause people to trust accurate information less or disengage from the facts,” Cook said.
Although Twitter bots didn’t ramp up significantly around the Paris withdrawal announcement, some advocates of action to tackle the climate crisis are wary of a spike in activity around the US presidential election later this year.
“Even though we don’t know who they are, or their exact motives, it seems self-evident that Trump thrives on the positive reinforcement he receives from these bots and their makers,” said Ed Maibach, an expert in climate communication at George Mason University.
“It is terrifying to ponder the possibility that the Potus was cajoled by bots into committing an atrocity against humanity.”

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Bell rings on S&P/ASX All Technology Index – Finance – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The bell has rung on Australia’s first dedicated index of locally listed tech stocks, the S&P/ASX All Technology Index, with the dedicated basket primed to start officially operating from market open next Monday morning.
A landmark for both the local market operator and tech sector, the index, which will carry the code XTX, will carry a combined market capitalisation of more than $100 billion with Australia’s best know tech heavyweights and unicorns making up the top ten.
Making the initial cut, in order of market cap as of Friday (and a lot can change in a day), the list was as expected topped by Xero (XRO) followed by registry stalwart Computershare (CPU), buy-now, pay later darling Afterpay (APT) , REA Group (REA) and then Altium (ALU).
They were followed by Carsales (CAR), Wisetech Global (WTC), Link Administration Holdings (LNK) NEXTDC (NXT) and then Appen (APX) to round out the top ten.
(We’ll get an updated fuller list shortly.)

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Karen Andrews presided over the bellringing with trademark humour and enthusiasm, saying the new tech index would “play a big role in increasing the tech sector’s visibility and will make it easier for everyday Australians to invest in tech companies, and share in their success.”
“How exciting is this?! I keep joking that I feel like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City,” Andrews quipped at the launch, prompting the odd blush from besuited fundies in attendance.
“I’ve also had Ring My Bell by Collette stuck in my head for months!”
(Andrews rang the bell with such enthusiasm one cheeky fundy suggested she could get a job on new Sydney light rail after politics.)
Aside from being a crucial market tracker, the index also substantially bolsters the supply of capital to existing and emerging tech companies because it provides a gateway to institutional funding and an important alternative to often expensive private venture capital.
Banks, including the CBA, Westpac and NAB have thrown hundreds of millions at the venture sector, usually as a hedge to gain a foothold in emerging disruptors and competitors.
“We know that Australia has a strong pipeline of smaller tech companies considering how and where to raise capital,” Andrews said.
“The Index creates an opportunity for them to access later stage capital, raise their profile and fuel their growth.”
Executive general manager of listings, issuer services and investment for the ASX, Max Cunningham, also revealed that the XTX had already attracted its own exchange traded fund (ETF) that will launch with weeks through Betashares, which Cunningham described as “Australia’s largest home grown ETF provider”.
“BetaShares will launch an ETF over the S&P/ASX All Technology Index and if all goes to plan we expect that the BetaShares S&P/ASX Australian Technology ETF will commence trading just over a week after the index – on Wednesday the 5th of March – with the ticker ATEC,” Cunningham said.
Apart from Australian companies, on launch the All Technology Index will include three New Zealand companies two US companies and one Irish company, Cunningham said.
“Given recent listings in December and a very healthy pipeline for 2020, that cohort is likely to grow.”
It’s also not hard to see why an tech-based ETF might prove attractive when interest rates are in the gutter and mining stocks bouncing around because of the Coronavirus.
For the main, the leading Australian tech stocks have handsomely rewarded investors who know a thing or two about IT.
Cunningham put it this way.
“To put it into perspective, over the last three years the S&P ASX 200 annualised total return has been around 10 percent – while over the same period the technology companies who would have been in this index if it had existed, would have returned over 20 percent.”
Compare that to the market leading depositor rate of 2.25 percent from neobank Xinja and it’s not hard to see why the ASX is getting into tech with bells on.

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Western Sydney Uni makes Assistive Technology available to all – Strategy – Projects – Hardware – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Credit: Western Sydney University

Western Sydney University created a more inclusive learning environment and workplace by making it easier to access and get IT support for Assistive Technology.
Assistive Technology (AT) refers to “any device, system or design that provides people with practical solutions to enhance learning, working, and daily living for people with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions”, according to the university.
“In university contexts, AT can lessen or remove barriers experienced by staff and students in or out of the classroom, office, laboratories, or during exams,” Western Sydney University says.
“AT can help improve a whole range of difficult situations from access to materials, to research or study skills, to creation and presentation of content, right through to hearing and visual augmentation.”
To foster inclusivity in its learning and working environments, Western Sydney University set about “normalising” and “mainstreaming” Assistive Technology solutions, making them easily available to all staff and students.
It maintains a detailed list of Assistive Technology products “that can be useful in a university setting”, covering areas such as note-taking, mind mapping, literacy, numeracy, dictation, organisation and time management, hearing augmentation and vision assistance.
While at other universities, students may be funneled through Disability Services for support, even if IT handles the installation of the Assistive Technology, Western Sydney University was determined to create a new model.
“We strive to empower all staff and students to reach their potential, whether they have a disability or not,” it said.
“That is why we make various Assistive Technologies widely available across all our campus computers, with specialised devices and programs available, as required, in our Access Rooms or assigned to staff with workplace adjustment plans. 
“Some Assistive Technology is also available for installation on a staff or student’s personal device.”
To create its model, the university’s Disabilities Services and Information Technology and Digital Services (ITDS) departments collaborated to write a “compelling business case for the establishment of a full-time dedicated position focused entirely on driving the adoption and awareness of Assistive Technology at Western Sydney University.”
There is now also a large, centralised support structure available to staff and students seeking help with Assistive Technology.
Anyone can now contact the regular IT Service Desk and speak to a subject matter expert for installation and support of specialised Assistive Technology.
Driving access and support through mainstream channels is one way the university has been able to normalise the use of Assistive Technology, driving up adoption and fostering inclusivity.
Several Assistive Technology software vendors – including TextHelp, Read&Write and EquatIO – provided expert advice and support in relation to their products as part of the project.
Vendors and internal staff helped train subject matter experts within ITDS that can then act as advocates in their specific domains.
The project team also maintained a visible presence at functions such as staff orientation and the professional staff conference, demonstrating the technology and providing basic guidance on how it might meet staff’ needs.
The university says it is “anecdotally clear that increased uptake is occurring” on the back of the initiative. 
It plans to conduct more detailed measurement of the impact of the initiative in the future.
The project aligns with an “Equity and Inclusiveness” value in the university’s Strategic Plan, ‘Securing Success’.
This project is a finalist in the Diversity category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2020.

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Easy rider: compare which rideshare app offers passengers and drivers the best deal | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

On 16 March, Chinese ridesharing app Didi will launch in Sydney. Already available in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, the app promises “a safe, reliable and value-for-money way to get around”, according to Lyn Ma, Didi Australia’s general manager.
That “value-for-money” statement will certainly be true in the first few weeks following the app’s launch – it is offering riders who sign up before launch a 50% discount on their first four weeks of rides, up to the value of $1200.
Didi is one of four major players in the Australian ride hailing market, alongside American giant Uber, Indian-based Ola and Estonian company Bolt, which was previously known as Taxify. All four apps vary slightly in their base pricing, ride offerings and compensation for drivers. But for consumers and drivers, there’s not a clear answer for which app is “best”.
The cheapest ride hailing app in Australia
“In your particular city, the cheapest one is going to be the new one on the market,” says Graham Cooke, the insights manager at comparison site Finder. Uber is typically slightly more expensive than its competitors, but “in terms of the base price they tend to be pretty similar”.
The real savings with ride sharing come from discount codes and offers, which are most aggressive when an app is new to an area and trying to win market share. For Sydneysiders, that means Didi is currently the best value for money, while in Melbourne, Cooke suggests looking to Bolt, which only recently arrived in that market.
After the initial launch period, ride hail prices will even out – at which point checking emails and texts for regular discount codes and offers will give riders the best value for money. “If you sign up for Ola and Bolt, you’ll tend to get regular discount offers and emails,” Cooke says. “Especially if you’re using the service for a while and stop using it. They’ll send you tailored discount offers.”

Even if you don’t currently have a discount code, the best way to get the cheapest fare is to “sign up for all four and play them off each other” by getting an estimated fare from each app and then selecting the cheapest option.
Cooke suggests all ride hailing apps tend to be cheaper than taxis, although large surges can change that. “Without surge, [ride sharing] is 30-40% cheaper than a taxi.”
Many ride hailing apps still have surge pricing – where prices rise when demand is higher – but Cooke says they are no longer transparent about surges. Instead, each app will present customers with a fare estimate. “The only way to tell is to jump into the apps and get a quote at the time.”
While the cheapest door-to-door ride hail service fluctuates with every trip, Cooke notes that UberPool, which routes trips with multiple passengers and drop-offs, “is quite probably the cheapest way to get to A to B” if you’re prepared to sacrifice a bit of convenience.
The ridesharing app that’s best for drivers
Like riders, ridehail drivers are offered incentives like lower fees to sign on to new apps. However, Les Johnson, secretary of the Ride Share Drivers’ Association of Australia, suggests that these are not all they’re cracked up to be. “They all practise the art of smoke and mirrors. It doesn’t matter which company you look at, the rate’s at a level where it’s not sustainable for drivers, and that’s why we have such a high turnover of drivers in Australia.”
Johnson says the commission rates vary between apps, but “the companies that have the lower rates of commission are struggling for market share, so slowly but surely they’re cutting the rates. They’re saying the drivers are earning more money but that’s not completely true.”
Johnson says that as with riders, who should be checking each app before a trip, “at the moment the only way a driver can maximise his or her earnings is to be on multiple platforms, so they’re getting the maximum number of jobs”.

Johnson believes that none of the major platforms currently offer drivers a fair rate after commission, GST and vehicle operating expenses. Licensing and regulations vary from state to state, but in Johnson’s home state of Queensland, he says, the most financially sustainable way to drive a private vehicle is to build up a loyal clientele and book work directly with customers whenever possible, rather than relying on ride hailing apps.
He says new drivers “come in, they’re told that there’s a rainbow at the end of the street. After a couple of months they realise that it’s not that and they opt out.”
The most convenient ride hailing app
Uber is the most established ride hailing platform in Australia. “They came in before it was even technically legal,” Cooke says.
Because Uber has been in the market for longer, has strong name recognition and is available in far more areas, it is often the only available option. “It’s more reliable in that way,” Cooke says. He also notes that Uber offers functionalities the other apps do not yet have, such as synchronisation with expense reporting software like Concur for SAP.
However, as the ride hailing market matures and grows, he adds, “the more competition there’ll be – and that should be better for consumers”.
The safest ride hailing app
The most important safety rule of using any ride hailing app is to ensure the vehicle and driver match the name and description supplied at the time of booking, Cooke says. “They all have insurance on the rides. As long as you make sure that it’s the correct car, it should be safe enough.”
However, ride hailing services have a far-from-spotless record on assault, for passengers or drivers. One service that places safety at the heart of its business is Shebah, an Australian ridesharing company that only hires female-identifying drivers, and only accepts rides from women, or men who are travelling with children. Shebah is also the only ridesharing app that is able to transport unaccompanied minors.
“We chose to do it. Taxis can take children as well,” says Georgina McEncroe, Shebah’s CEO. “There’s nothing lawfully stopping other rideshare drivers from offering that service. It’s a policy decision of theirs not to transport unaccompanied minors.” All Shebah drivers “meet our regional leaders face to face. They have contact with us. They’ve all completed working-with-children checks. It’s a very different set-up.”
Shebah cars are also equipped with child seats, which the drivers have been trained to properly fit. Shebah does work like a traditional ridesharing service, with real-time hailing, but it is still a small company and McEncroe recommends customers book rides in advance, “especially if they’re travelling with children”.

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The government’s sudden passion for climate technology is newfound and insincere | Simon Holmes a Court | Opinion – Blog – 10 minute

If you’re committed to the Paris agreement – to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees – then at a minimum, logically, scientifically, you’re committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
So far, at least 77 countries have committed to the target, as has every state and territory in Australia. The fact that prime minister Scott Morrison is pushing back hard against the calls for such a target sends yet another strong signal that his government still denies the need to tackle climate change.
Sensing it must be seen to do something, but committed to doing nothing substantive, the government is arguing that investing in technology is the superior pathway to… to… to what? Are billions of dollars of public funds about to be allocated to a strategy that delivers on an unspoken goal?
This passion for technology is newfound and insincere. In truth, our government has a long history of undermining climate technologies.

In the three years to 2016, the government ripped just shy of $1bn from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), the body charged with helping early stage technologies through to commercial launch.
The funding of a feasibility study for a coal power station in Collinsville and the foreshadowed gift of $11m to extend the life of the 42 years old Vales Point coal power station in the Hunter, demonstrate just how reluctant the Coalition is to let go of last century’s energy technologies.
One of the most promising and critical new technologies is the rapid maturation of the electric vehicle, but who can forget the government’s pushback against EVs during last year’s election?

Angus Taylor MP (@AngusTaylorMP)
pic.twitter.com/GIvJffJ5EJ
April 6, 2019

Last November I visited the Leilac zero carbon cement project Belgium – an exciting project given that cement is responsible for 7% of global emissions, more than twice as much as aviation. The new process captures most of the carbon dioxide that’s ordinarily released to the atmosphere during cement manufacture. The technology, which can be powered by renewable energy, was developed in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria and was lured to Europe on the back of a €12 million grant and a price on carbon.
In the alternate universe where Arena and our carbon price weren’t smashed by ideological attacks, that world-changing technology would be proudly Australian made.
While there’s plenty of valuable research and development in our future, especially for the difficult to decarbonise sectors of cement, steel and aviation, the truth is that we already have the technology to deal with around 70% of global emissions.
The pathway is simple – electrify everything and swap fossil fuels for renewables. These technologies have come down in cost not because of boffins in laboratory coats, but because of innovation born of sustained deployment and ruthless competition.
Mike and Annie Cannon-Brooke’s Resilient Energy Collective is a case study for how far we’ve come. In just a handful of weeks the group has put together an emergency power product for restoring power to bushfire affected communities. The solar-powered, battery-backed system can be installed in a single day, and will be rolled out to 100 communities in as many days. The energy supply companies partnering in the project are stunned that the infrastructure is being rolled out in hours not months. Community members are amazed that they’re using solar power at night.

Likewise, Aemo, our grid operator, has just released a blueprint for reducing electricity sector emissions by 85%, using existing technologies and without compromising reliability. Industry is champing at the bit to implement such a plan — they just need a minister who believes in the end goal and is committed to resolving the roadblocks.
In reality, the call for technology before action is a specious distraction designed to paper over the plan to take no action. The greatest proponent of the frame is Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg, one of a small cadre of almost respectable climate obfuscationists.
In the lead up to the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, Lomborg handpicked a panel of ancient Nobel laureates to rank 16 climate solutions. The four proposed carbon tax schemes were ranked dead last, and the top three projects deemed worthy of consideration were “marine cloud whitening”, energy research and development and “stratospheric aerosol insertion”.
The top-ranked solution would involve a global fleet of “1,900 unmanned ships spraying sea water mist into the air to thicken clouds” and reflect the sun’s rays back into space. The third solution involves fleets of planes spraying sulphur dioxide into the sky. The chemical would mimic the effects of volcanoes “reacting with water to form a hazy layer … spread around the globe … scattering and absorbing incoming sunlight”.

Ranking of proposals
The first three years of the Coalition government focussed on tearing down climate policy. The next three used endless reviews that came to nothing – as intended.
In July 2014, Tony Abbott finally made good on his promise to dismantle Australia’s carbon price mechanism, our most effective and efficient climate policy. In doing so, not only did he throw away the best tool we had, he cheated Australian farmers out of earning billions from exporting carbon credits to Europe.
In 2015, Abbott managed to slash the renewable energy target – assisted in the background by Angus Taylor, the man now charged with reducing emissions – cutting future activity under the target by 40%.
The only half decent action has been the emissions reduction fund, called a fig leaf of a policy by the party’s once and future leader Malcolm Turnbull in 2009, whereby taxpayers, not polluters, buy carbon offsets. To date, the ERF has bought just 50m offsets, which doesn’t even cover the increase in emissions from just the LNG sector during the last 5 years.

Now the government is talking about a “technology investment target”, whatever that means. Will we be subjected to another barrage of lies that some magical technology exists to cut coal emissions? Remember CCS and HELE? Hopefully by now we all now know that “clean coal” is as real as healthy cigarettes.
If Scott Morrison is genuine about climate action, then sure, he should start by restoring the billion dollars ripped out of Arena. In fact, let’s give them a few hundred million a year to help Australian ideas reach their potential and give us a whole new export sector to replace the inevitable decline in coal exports. We have the resources, people and smarts to position Australia for great success in a carbon-constrained global economy.
At this point, the roadblocks to effective and affordable action are social and political, not technological.
So here we are again. Another strategy to kick the can down the road. The Finkel review bought the government a year of doing nothing in 2017, as did the national energy guarantee in 2018. The hollow climate solutions package helped the government escape scrutiny in 2019, however the “Black Summer” and the approaching November’s COP26 conference in Glasgow – where countries are expected to lift their commitments in the direction of the Paris agreement’s goals – leave the government with nowhere to hide.

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Revealed: the areas in the UK with one Airbnb for every four homes | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Revealed: the areas in the UK with one Airbnb for every four homes | Technology – Blog – Tempemail.co

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Airbnb has become so prevalent in Great Britain that some parts of the country now have one listing for every four properties, prompting concern that the rapid expansion in short-term lets is “out of control” and depriving communities of much-needed homes.
Exclusive analysis by the Guardian identified Airbnb hotspots in both rural areas and inner-city neighbourhoods, where the ratio of active Airbnb listings to homes was more than 20 times higher than the average across England, Scotland and Wales.
The highest incidence of Airbnbs was in Edinburgh Old Town, where there were 29 active listings for every 100 properties.
The north-west of Skye had the second-highest concentration, at 25 listings per 100 properties, including a seafront bothy (£50 a night), a modern cottage clad in corrugated tin (£190) and an isolated cottage with ocean and mountain views (£160).

Guardian graphic.
In England, the area with the highest rate of Airbnb lets was Woolacombe, Georgeham and Croyde, in Devon, with 23 listings for every 100 properties.
In one area of the Lake District: Windermere North, Ambleside and Langdales, there were 19 listings per 100 properties. Local MP Tim Farron described the growth of Airbnb in an area already dominated by second home owners as “a really disturbing issue”.

Airbnb questioned the accuracy of the findings, emphasising that unusual listings such as caravans or large manor houses, used for events, may not affect the local housing stock. It said some listings may be booked for only a few nights a year.
But others warned that the growth of Airbnb played to wider concerns about the effect of short-term lets. “The unchecked growth of online holiday lettings is depriving communities of much-needed homes,” said Dan Wilson Craw, the director of housing pressure group Generation Rent. “In rural areas and cities alike, the story is the same: young adults can’t afford to settle down in the areas they grew up in.”

How prevalent is Airbnb in my area?

Active listings per 100 properties

Sources: Inside Airbnb, Valuation Office Agency, statistics.gov.scot

“>In 2014 30% of homes in some parts of the Lake District national park were classed as second homes. In Chapel Stile, a picturesque village in the Langdales, research from the local school found 70% of houses were not regularly occupied.
Six years on, a two-bed terrace in the village now sells for £325,000, way out of the reach of working locals, who earn on average just £345 a week. Such properties are now listed for £130 or more a night on Airbnb – much more during the peak tourism season.
Cumbrian county councillor Jonathan Brook said he did not object to people renting out their homes on a short-term basis, when it could be argued they are “actually contributing to the viability of a community, as the guests will use the local services at a time when the owners themselves are not”.
However, he added: “If properties are being bought and are being exclusively used for Airbnb lettings, they should be registered as a business. There is some evidence that properties are being purchased for Airbnb lettings in areas and housing estates that have not previously appealed to the rental sector. These are homes that should be used as homes for local families, especially when we currently have over 3,000 families on the housing waiting list.”
The Guardian cross-referenced a database of more than 250,000 Airbnb listings with government housing stock figures to calculate the “penetration rate” of Airbnbs in 8,000 areas across England, Wales and Scotland. Across the whole of Great Britain, there were 0.8 Airbnb listings for every 100 homes.
Listings data – covering the six months to January – was provided by Inside Airbnb, a non-commercial project that aims to highlight the impact of the service on residential housing markets.
The dataset covers entire homes, private rooms and shared rooms, although two-thirds of active listings (67%) are for entire apartments. Private rooms – including a small number of conventional hotel rooms – made up about a third of listings while less than one in 300 ads (0.3%) was for a shared room.

In absolute terms, London and Edinburgh have the most Airbnbs

Source: Inside Airbnb

“>The analysis included active listings only. A listing was considered active if the host had updated its availability calendar in the last six months.
Airbnb says the findings are based on “unreliable scraped data and flawed methodology”.
“Airbnb has long led the way on home-sharing rules and we are currently working with government and stakeholders across the UK on proposals for a host registration system to ensure that rules work for them too,” a spokesman said.
In the most touristic areas, hotels and conventional B&Bs also now advertise on the site, as well as campsites offering mobile homes, camping pods or wigwams. But they make up a small minority of listings.

Alistair Danter, the project manager of the Skye tourism management body SkyeConnect, says Airbnb listings on the island represent a variety of interests.
“The trouble with any headline figures relating to Airbnb is that you don’t know which categories they relate to: some of these listings will be established businesses – B&Bs, self-catering hotels – that use the Airbnb platform listing when they have a gap, some will be listings for two or three pods on the same croft and others may well be new start-up businesses taking advantage of the opportunity that the Airbnb platform offers. Many of these options will not be housing stock from locals,” he said.
Danter describes the company as “both saint and sinner”.
“It’s an effective platform that has given people an opportunity to start a viable business or earn some extra money in an area of the country where wages are low. The downside is that it is grossly unfair that you can open up your house to guests without needing a single check, certification or public liability insurance. Some form of regulation is required.”
In St Ives, Cornwall, where there are 18.5 Airbnb listings per 100 homes, independent councillor Andrew Mitchell said he worried about the lack of regulation. “All those B&B owners and small hoteliers are having to pay £5,000 to £10,000 for a fire alarm system, £500-£1,000 a year for refuge collection, so there’s a bit of resentment from those operators that there isn’t a level playing field.”
Airbnb says that it is working to make it easier for local authorities to enforce existing legislation and said this week: “We want to be good partners to cities and work together on a clear and simple host registration system that works for everyone.”

In January, as a direct response to concerns raised by local residents of popular tourist destinations, the Scottish government announced that councils would be given new powers to introduce licencing schemes for short-term lets from 2021.
Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman, whose campaigning work on short-term lets was prompted by stories of “mental anguish” from his Edinburgh constituents, welcomed the plans, but warned that there was still no clear picture of how many former homes had been given over to commercial uses. Wightman estimates that there may be as many as 5,000 in Edinburgh alone, and has recently launched an online tool which allows people to report short-term let properties operating in their community.
“The growth in short-term lets is out of control in Edinburgh and of increasing concern across Scotland,” Wightman said, emphasising that Airbnb was only part of the problem.
Between April 2016 and May 2019, the number of active listings on Airbnb tripled, from about 76,000 to more than 225,000, across the UK. Since then, the number has increased by a further 14%, reaching 257,000 in January 2020.

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