Very few girls took computing A-level

Girls with laptopImage copyright Getty Images Image caption The problem begins at primary school, according to the BCS

A worrying statistic for the tech industry was revealed in freshly-released A-level data - only 9.8% of those completing a computing course were girls.

It comes amid a storm in Silicon Valley over the number of women employed in the tech industry.

Experts agree that the world faces a digital skills shortage and that a more even gender balance is crucial.

One industry body worried that too few boys were also choosing the subject.

"Today's announcement that nearly 7,600 students in England took A-level computing means it's not going to be party time in the IT world for a long time to come," said Bill Mitchell, director of education at the IT Chartered Institute, BCS.

He said that it fell well short of the 40,000 level that "we should be seeing".

But he added that the fact so few girls were taking the subject was particularly worrying.

"At less than 10%, the numbers of girls taking computing A-level are seriously low."

"We know that this a problem starting at primary school and it's something that we need to address at all levels throughout education.

"As a society, we need to make sure that our young women are leaving education with the digital skills they need to secure a worthwhile job, an apprenticeship or go on to further study."

The figures, from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), are not all bad news.They reveal that there has been a 34% rise in the number of female students sitting the computer science exam, up to 816 from 609 in 2016.

Uphill battle

Google engineer James Damore caused controversy this month when he penned a memo suggesting that there were fewer women at Google because of biological differences.The search giant sacked him over the remarks, saying they were "offensive".

A recent survey of 1,000 university students conducted by audit firm KPMG suggested that only 37% of young women were confident they had the tech skills needed by today's employers.

A total of 73% said that they had not considered a graduate job in technology.

Aidan Brennan, KPMG's head of digital transformation, said:"The issue here isn't around competency - far from it - but rather how businesses understand the underlying capability of an individual and how to unlock it.

"I think this research highlights the work that needs to be done to show the next generation that when it comes to a career in tech, gender isn't part of the equation.

"Competition for jobs is tough and we know that female job seekers can be less likely to apply for a role than their male counterparts if they don't feel they already possess every prerequisite the job demands."

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who founded the charity Stemettes to persuade more girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths has her own view about the low number of girls taking A-level computing.

"Girls often don't want to be the only one in the class so they tend not to pick the subject when it is an option," she said.

"Also, it's often not even an option in a lot of schools so it's an uphill battle but fortunately, a lot of computer science courses take A-level maths students, so there is a very viable route for girls into the course itself and related courses."...

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Chatbot helps students choose courses

The Leeds Beckett chatbotImage copyright Leeds Beckett University Image caption Students can chat to the AI about the options available to them

Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course.

It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said.

But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process".

The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said:"We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."

Pamela Clark-Dickson, an analyst at research firm Ovum, thinks it is a good use of the technology.

"More and more organisations are using chatbots and for quite simple tasks they can be useful and effective."

"It frees up human agents to deal with more complex enquiries."

Leeds Beckett is not the first university to employ chatbot technologies.

Georgia Tech University used a chatbot to answer questions from students enrolled in an artificial intelligence course last year.

It is dubbed Jill Watson because it is based on IBM's Watson technology.

The chatbot was one of nine teaching assistants answering thousands of questions on the course's online forum.

And Prof Ashok Goel, who hired Jill Watson, did not reveal that she was not human until after the students had completed their final exams....

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China cracks down on VPN vendors

Chinese net userImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Much web content is denied to Chinese users

China's latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs).

Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs.

It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content.

Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet.It allows users in China to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked in the country.

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Media captionEXPLAINED:What is a VPN service?

China's cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate "self-examination and correction".

"The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account..and submit a rectification report by a deadline," the regulator said in a statement.

Authorities in China have already taken down popular celebrity gossip social media accounts and extended restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed by online platforms.

As well as clamping down on dozens of local VPNs, the authorities have ordered Apple and other app stores to remove foreign VPN apps that allow users to access websites censored by the Chinese government....

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HBO social media hacked in latest cyber security breach

Jon Snow and DrogonImage copyright HBO Image caption The hack is the latest to hit HBO and its titles, which include the popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones

HBO's Facebook and Twitter accounts have been compromised in the latest cyber security breach to hit the firm.

A group called OurMine appeared to take control of the main HBO accounts, as well as those for the network's shows including Game of Thrones.

One posts said "OurMine are here.we are just testing your security".

It is the latest cyber security headache for the entertainment firm after hackers released Game of Thrones scripts and company data.

Image copyright Twitter:HBO

Some of the social media posts were removed quickly afterwards.

HBO did not immediately respond to the BBC's request for comment.

OurMine has a reputation for hacking high profile Twitter accounts.

Last year it compromised Netflix[1], as well as Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg[2] and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

Image copyright Facebook:HBO

Security woes

The hack is the latest in a string of security setbacks for HBO in recent weeks.

Unidentified hackers claim to have stolen 1.5TB of data from the company in July.

Out of the haul they released Game of Thrones scripts, company documents and unbroadcast episodes of HBO's other shows including Curb Your Enthusiasm[3] and Insecure.

Separately, four people have been arrested[4] for leaking an episode of Game of Thrones before it aired.The accused were current and former employees of a Mumbai-based company that stores and processes the series for an online streaming service.

Next came a leak in Europe.An episode of the fantasy show was mistakenly released[5] on to its broadcaster's Spanish and Nordic streaming platforms days before it was scheduled to be broadcast.

The episode, titled Death is the Enemy, has since been withdrawn, but not before it was copied and circulated on several file-sharing platforms....

References

  1. ^ compromised Netflix (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ Curb Your Enthusiasm (www.bbc.co.uk)
  4. ^ four people have been arrested (www.bbc.co.uk)
  5. ^ mistakenly released (www.bbc.co.uk)

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HBO social accounts hacked in latest cyber security breach

Jon Snow and DrogonImage copyright HBO Image caption The hack is the latest to hit HBO and its titles, which include the popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones

HBO's Facebook and Twitter accounts have been compromised in the latest cyber security breach to hit the firm.

A group called OurMine appeared to take control of the main HBO accounts, as well as those for the network's shows including Game of Thrones.

One posts said "OurMine are here.we are just testing your security".

It is the latest cyber security headache for the entertainment firm after hackers released Game of Thrones scripts and company data.

Image copyright Twitter:HBO

Some of the social media posts were removed quickly afterwards.

HBO did not immediately respond to the BBC's request for comment.

OurMine has a reputation for hacking[1] high profile Twitter accounts.

Last year it compromised Netflix, as well as Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai....

Image copyright Facebook:HBO

References

  1. ^ reputation for hacking (www.bbc.co.uk)

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