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Restart Radio: Global supply chains and The Virus


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For March’s show we take a look at perhaps the most unavoidable topic in our world today, coronavirus (COVID-19). We took this as an opportunity though, to discuss the issue in light of a topic that is relevant all the time, the supply chains that are integral to the electronics industry and how sustainable they really are. Janet was joined by long-time Restart volunteer, Panda Mery, to delve deeper into the unseen complexities of tech supply chains and what we may not realise is going into the production of our devices.

Good and bad news for repairability

Before diving into this massive topic, we had a couple smaller, but still important stories to discuss. We returned to tech-giant Apple and $500 million settlement in the US following a class-action lawsuit over ‘Batterygate’ and the purposeful slowing down of iPhones. Is this such a minuscule fine in the grand scheme of things that it is almost ineffectual? And how ethical is this practice that Apple employed? Then some good news from our friends at iFixit about electronic repairability standards – a major victory for the Right to Repair movement. And finally, some questionable tactics in the UK government’s approach towards e-waste collection, which indicate divergence from ambitious EU targets.

What the Virus means for tech supply chains – and the world

Approaching our main topic of the day – the Virus – we want to take caution and recognise that focusing on the issue in a tech-centric way does stand to erase some of the bigger issues at stake, those of how this will impact citizen autonomy and increase the control that governments have over us and our bodies.

In terms of tech, we discuss how international and complex supply chains have become and the way that a pandemic of this kind is already having sufficient impact on the global economy and tech industry as a whole. This proves the advantages of making electrical components more reusable to leave us less beholden to these supply chains. We also look at how the environment has been impacted by a sudden decrease in production and travel.

Overshadowed issues

Finally, we close with two shocking stories that have managed to be all but buried by other news this month. We discuss an investigation into forced labour of Uighurs in China in factories that produce components that are almost certainly in your devices. We think about what action consumers can take, and how far we can actually help to solve these issues.

Then a look at a White House cover up of information on the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), and how Brexit may impact access to technical information on risks associated with chemical usage in industry, that bears great influence over public health.

Although there is certainly much more to say about supply chains, with all of these topics we aim to encourage you to educate yourself on all of the steps it takes for a device to be in your hands and how you can support those involved along the way, and our planet as a whole.


[Featured image courtesy of the CDC]

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