Spotlight's articles of the year

What is "new municipalism"? How is Big Tech shaping the debate on AI ethics? Our editor's picks of 2019 from the New Statesman's policy supplement.

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As the UK went from Brexit impasse to new prime minister to yet another snap election in 2019, the New Statesman's policy supplement Spotlight journeyed from Finnish libraries to municipalism to AI ethics. Along the way, our readers also learned that London is replete with fraudulent Wi-Fi networks, that gambling might become a public health crisis, and that policymakers should listen more to the next generation of voters. 

Finland’s new library speaks volumes about the world’s most literate nation: While Brits watch their libraries disappear, a new library in the Finnish capital Helsinki combines reading, skills and recreation. Augusta Riddy visits the Oodi library in the centre of the city. In Helsinki – home to almost 650,000 people – there are 36 public libraries.

Microsoft’s Brad Smith on holding big tech to account: “Snowden and Cambridge Analytica are the two big tech inflection points this decade,” the company president tells Oscar Williams. 

What is “new municipalism”, and can it really combat austerity?: New municipalism uses local government procurement as a powerful tool for reshaping local economies, as councils and public sector institutions such as universities and hospitals are encouraged to prioritise buying goods and services from local businesses and workers’ co-operatives over corporate outsourcing giants. But without central funding, Jonny Ball asks, is this a lost cause?

Tom Watson: gambling may become a “public health emergency”: The deputy Labour leader and gambling experts talk to Rohan Banerjee about the industry that has created nearly half a million addicts.

The Scotland effect: why is life expectancy lower north of the border?: Scottish citizens of the United Kingdom can expect, on average, to die approximately two years younger than their English counterparts. Glaswegian men have a lower life expectancy than men in Algeria, Mexico, Jamaica or Iran. This stubborn discrepancy between Scottish and English life expectancies has flummoxed public health experts and policymakers since it was first identified in the 1980s. Jonny Ball asks what explains it.

How Big Tech funds the debate on AI ethics: The Silicon Valley giants are spending billions developing artifical intelligence, but they are also funding the people setting the technology’s most fundamental principles. Oscar Williams investigates.

Julian Richer: Britain’s biggest small businessman: The retail entrepreneur, who recently gave the majority of his company to his employees, tells Will Dunn why “responsible capitalism” is better for business. 

How to tell your customers you’ve been hacked: Communication in a crisis is a key part of cyber resilience, writes Rohan Banerjee

For school strikers, this general election is all about the climate: Young people have been calling for action on the environment all year, writes Alona Ferber. With the UK voting this week, they urge politicians – and the electorate – to listen to them. 

The age of usership: how subscriptions changed our lives: Companies reliant on clicks and footfall are becoming a thing of the past, writes Rohan Banerjee. 

The weaponisation of WiFi: New research shared with Oscar Williams reveals how hackers launched nearly 1,600 fake WiFi networks in central London to spy on the public.

A warehouse full of drugs reveals the true scale of the UK’s self-medication problem: Where people lack access to help, self-diagnosis and self-treatment of mental health issues are filling in. Will Dunn investigates. 

For private renters, the housing crisis is a more pressing concern than Brexit: An Ipsos MORI poll of over 2,000 UK adults found that rising housing costs were more of a worry than exiting the EU, writes Jonny Ball.  ​