Fourth Industrial Revolution

UK proposal to ban smartphones for kids, and other technology stories you need to know

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A recent survey by Parentkind indicated that around 58% of parents are in favour of such a measure. Image: Unsplash/ROBIN WORRALL

Cathy Li
Head, AI, Data and Metaverse; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva
  • This regular round-up brings you compelling digital technology stories from the last fortnight.
  • Top digital technology news: UK proposes ban on sale of smartphones to minors; Cloud computing grows; Are LLMs lazier in the holiday months?

1. UK considers under-16s ban on smartphones

Under-16s may soon be prohibited from purchasing smartphones in the UK.

A government proposal to ban the sale of smartphones to children has gained wide public support. A recent survey by Parentkind indicated that around 58% of parents are in favour of such a measure, The Guardian reports. And more than four in five parents view smartphones as "harmful" to young people, the national charity said.

If implemented, this regulation would essentially create two smartphone product categories: “children’s phones” without social media apps for those under 16 and “adult phones” with full functionality.

An official spokesperson declined to comment on the proposal but confirmed the government’s “commitment to making the UK the safest place to be a child online is unwavering, as evidenced by our landmark Online Safety Act”.

2. Cloud computing growth rebounds

A Reuters analysis suggests that artificial intelligence is helping drive reinvigorated interest in cloud computing at some of the world's biggest tech firms.

Amazon Web Services grew 17% from January to March, Microsoft Azure grew at 31%, and Google Cloud at 28%, with all three beating growth expectations.

Cloud computing grew at rates as high as 60%, with demand jumping during the pandemic as more businesses shifted to online, remote working models. However, growth had fallen given increasingly challenging business backdrops.

Executives suggest big customers have started to spend on cloud computing again, following pauses last year, with AI investment helping to drive optimism and increased interest.

Cloud computing growth
Cloud computing growth has increased in the last quarter. Image: Reuters

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3. News in brief: Digital technology stories from around the world

Large language models (LLM) like GPT-4 may do less work during holiday months tests conducted by a US tech professional show. Posting on his X account, Rob Lynch, Head of Product at UniCourt, confirmed the LLM wrote more code when instructed it was being prompted in May versus December.


Microsoft says it is opening a new AI research and development hub in London and plans to hire top AI engineers and scientists in the coming weeks and months. The technology company’s AI chief, Mustafa Suleyman, cited the “enormous pool of AI talent and expertise” in the UK as the reason behind this long-term investment.

AI is now being used in China to create digital avatars of deceased loved ones for as little as 20 yuan ($2.76). This trend reflects China’s fast-growing AI industry and market for “digital humans”, which was valued at 12 billion yuan in 2022 and is expected to quadruple by 2025, The Guardian says.

OpenAI’s latest GPT-4 model is close to matching doctors’ expertise in analyzing eye conditions, according to research published in PLOS Digital Health. During tests, AI surpassed or achieved the same scores as medics in assessing ocular problems and suggesting treatments, the Financial Times reports.

Meta has launched what it calls “the most intelligent AI assistant you can use for free”, which will be integrated into its platforms and apps. It will also include an image generation functionality, allowing users to produce images as they type, create artwork, animated custom GIFs and more.

The UK’s Northamptonshire Police force used AI to identify 114 drivers on mobiles and 180 without seatbelts in a one-week trial, showing how commonly drivers flout phone and seatbelt laws.

4. More about technology on Agenda

Stanford University has released its seventh AI Index report, which covers trends such as technical advancements in AI and public perceptions of the technology.

Four million professionals are urgently needed to plug the talent gap in the global cybersecurity industry – this shortage could reach 85 million workers by 2030. Read more on how to tackle the problem.

From governance to creativity, here's your guide to all of the World Economic Forum's podcasts on AI.

Related topics:
Fourth Industrial RevolutionEmerging Technologies
1. UK considers under-16s ban on smartphones2. Cloud computing growth rebounds3. News in brief: Digital technology stories from around the world4. More about technology on Agenda

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