Does anyone actually make any use of the list of recent tags?
Does anyone actually make any use of the list of recently awarded badges?
The recent tags is constructed from the last (n) questions with at least 1 upvote, aggregated by tag -- so it's a walk down "what topics is this website generally about" without having to read and parse each question.
The recent badges is an invitation to discover why badges exist, and what they are for.
These elements exist to familiarize new users who may be encountering the homepage for the first time -- and also as shortcuts (particularly recent tags) for experienced users.