Three busy days, a total of 65 sessions and hundreds of conversations meant NetHui 2013 gave everyone who took part plenty to think about. It’s an open conference, organisers encourage delegates to participate. That makes it New Zealand’s biggest technology learning experience.
There’s no way to squeeze all the insights into a single, simple blog post. However a few big themes emerged:
1. We can change the internet
If I came away from NetHui with just one thought, it is that New Zealand’s internet community wields the power to change things. The message came up again and again in different guises. Monday’s InTAC workshop was specifically about influencing New Zealand’s internet future, many of us attending committed to small tasks pushing those goals forward.
#nethui an architecture that entitled outsiders – this is what drives change. We must save it.
— Jordan Carter (@jordantcarter) June 30, 2011
2. We can change politics
A remark from Labour communications spokesperson Clare Curran may have sparked a movement. She suggested the audience adopt an MP to tell them about matters like copyright law and other online issues. Within a couple of hours a team of NetHui geek women, Aurynn Shaw, Merrin Macleod and Megan Bowra-Dean whipped up a site to make that task easier. Brilliant work.
3. Information security and privacy hot button
People may feel powerless to do much about information security and privacy, but that doesn’t mean they are happy with the status quo and it doesn’t mean they aren’t groping for ways to regain control. While they may have belonged to geeks in the past, I sensed a definite mood that these issues are moving onto the broader political agenda. That’s something our leaders need to watch closely.
"Ban the NZ government from requiring backdoors into systems and software, and there is no trade off between privacy and security" #nethui
— Get On (@GetOnNZ) July 10, 2013
4. The establishment position on surveillance isn’t monolithic
The panel on state surveillance didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but it’s clear New Zealand’s establishment doesn’t present a united front when it comes to spying on citizens. Meanwhile there were clear and well articulated objections from delegates. Going by the mood at NetHui the government is out of touch with popular feeling and with the expert security community on this one – that’s a politically awkward place to be.
Great session on state surveillance, particularly for Sir Bruce Ferguson to share his insights (and some blame) #nethui
— Peter Griffin (@petergnz) July 10, 2013
5. Poorer schools have more to gain from the internet than rich ones
Technology can do wonderful things for education. As Point England principal Russell Burt made clear, it can transform the lives of those students at the bottom of the economic heap and give people a voice.
Russell Burt — let's all get in the waka together, it's about partnership #nethui
— Chris Lipscombe (@chrisredeye) July 9, 2013
6. There’s little love for Sky TV
I lost count of how many negative things people said about Sky TV at NetHui. I didn’t hear one remotely positive comment. Does this matter? More than you might imagine. While people at NetHui like to think of themselves as ordinary New Zealanders, in reality they are in the technology vanguard. Many, if not most, live post-TV lives. Soon the rest of New Zealand will catch up.
— H.A.D.Y.N. (@hadyngreen) July 10, 2013
7. Limited optimism on rural broadband
We’re seeing real traction getting broadband out to remote areas of New Zealand, but huge barriers remain to filling in the “nooks and crannies”. The biggest issue seems to be dealing with low income consumers and places like marae. There are parts of this job that simply can’t be left to market forces. My gut feeling is that politicians and industry players are putting the more difficult rural connections in the “too hard” basket. This may not be fixed without more public money.
If we don't get fibre into our rural communities they will die #nethui
— Jane Hindle (@janeinrussell) July 9, 2013
8. The future is uncertain, that’s not a bad thing
Blogger and keynote speaker Quinn Norton is watching the social changes driven by an open Internet. She talks of an “emergent and feral collective”. While this functions far better than you might expect, it is unpredictable and chaotic. There’s also uncertainty about what the UFB network will deliver, discussions on possible “killer apps” hit a brick wall – although I have an opinion on that:
#Nethui being able to have THIS discussion with 30,000 people, not 300 would be good use of UFB
— Bill Bennett (@billbennettnz) July 9, 2013
9. New Zealand recorded music is a worse shape than we thought
Everyone knows the recorded music industry is in a bad way and that digital sales in no way make up the shortfall. What wasn’t obvious until NetHui is the utter collapse of recorded music sales. Music lawyer Chris Hocquard says even The Warehouse isn’t trying any more. Retail music sales have collapsed with shift away from physical. NetHui’s music panel isn’t sure if the sales have gone digital.
'free' now a relevant component of starting a buzz for new music. Artists still need the ability to manage what & how free happens #nethui
— Paula Browning (@PaulaJBrowning) July 9, 2013
10. The people have spoken
Participation is NetHui’s greatest strength. Delegates don’t just get to hear from industry experts and gurus – there are many chances to contribute. I suspect this is especially true for women and other groups which can at times struggle to get a hearing at technology-focused events. I’m convinced I learned more from the crowd than from the stage over the three days of NetHui.
— Carolyn D (@CarolynD_NZ) July 9, 2013