Globetrotting: news from around the world — April 2015

New smartphone apps let tourists generate their own audio tours. Plus, India is building the world’s largest solar power plant.


From the museum to the street

Until now, audio tours came mainly in the form of bulky headsets that you wore when you went to a museum. But now the concept is taking to the street, in the form of smartphone apps that help tourists discover cities, reports Fast Company magazine.

Audio tours could transform the way tourists experience their surroundings, allowing them to discover monuments and sites they would otherwise miss.  But the routes chosen need to be imaginative enough to keep them engaged while they are walking down busy streets with a smartphone in hand.

Plenty of companies have already risen to the challenge. For example, a startup called Detour offers an app that uses GPS technology to guide customers through a city. And yapQ relies on computer-generated speech to plug into huge numbers of geocoded Wikipedia pages, giving tourists the ability to generate their own audio tours around the world.


More power to them

Solar plants 

India has said no to putting a ceiling on its greenhouse gas emissions, but it is currently constructing the largest solar power plant in the world, reports French magazine L’Expansion.

The plant, to be located on a 1,500-hectare site in Rewa, in the district of Madhya Pradesh in central India, is set to open in August 2016 and will produce 750 megawatts of electricity. In comparison, China’s Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydro plant in the world, produces 22,500 megawatts.

With 300 million citizens who don’t yet have access to electricity, India still depends mainly on coal-generated power. It expects to produce 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2020 — a plan that will require a total of US$100 billion in investment, mostly from foreign sources.


Around and around they go


Traffic in space is already on the heavy side, but if calculations from Northern Sky Research turn out to be true, it will be even heavier in 10 years with the addition of another 1,800 Earth-orbiting satellites, reports

The new craft will range from 50- kilogram "mini-sats" to six-ton tele-com giants, and entrants will include Google as well as the constellations of orbiting satellites backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin group.

The past two years have seen strong demand in the sector, with a total of 149 new satellites ordered in 2014. Last year, commercial orders surpassed government and military orders for the first time since 2010.


Do the wheels of government turn more quickly and smoothly with a little bit of grease? It would seem not, according to a Brookings Institution study, as reported by The Fiscal Times.

According to the study, firms that were asked for bribes (which they presumably granted, although it is impossible to know) had to wait longer for results than firms that were not approached. Statistical analysis indicates that construction permits, operating licences or electrical connections took about 1.5 times longer to obtain, while customs clearances took 1.2 to 1.4 times longer.