NetHui 2011 – my top 10 takeaways

Here’s my take on the top 10 things I learned from the excellent last three days at NetHui. Your take may be quite different, so please comment.

1: There is general alignment on the important issues

While the participants at NetHui from diverse backgrounds, and had diverse agendas, the basic and strong alignment was compelling. We want the Internet, and we want more of it. We want copyright legislation that works to help creators earn income, and yet is fair and reasonable to society. We want governance processes that are more open, more online and easier to engage with. And so on.

2: We need to hear from the main carriers

They were absent at NetHui, and much that is discussed relies on them continuing to ramp up their provision of high speed internet with caps, if any that are very high. It would have been great to hear from them, to understand their concerns (loss of telephony revenue for example) and to see them immersed in some of the key messages from the other stakeholders.

3: We have made tremendous progress

We have made tremendous strides in the last few years. The UFB and RBI programs, while we may disagree on the process or  implementation,  are now set in place. The industry can now get on with the task of delivering fibre to the premise.

The Copyright Commissioner led a session where it became clear that Open Data is now the default for national Government (small n, big G), and increasingly so for local government. Open Government is increasingly a catch-phrase and there is wider general acceptance of the concept. These are tremendous changes from two years ago when advocates were struggling to be heard.

The S92A and rest of the copyright law is in place, and nobody is happy with it- which is perhaps a good sign. There is also, however, recognition that it needs to be revisited in the next few years, and increasing understanding of the implications of restrictive laws and that creators need to be able to earn a decent return. Why not engage Laurence Lessig to help draft those Copyright 2.0 laws?

We in NZ are recognised for our functioning democratic process, by Lawrence Lessig no less, and the presence of so many MPs at NetHui was good evidence of that. We are able to engage with lawmakers and law writers easily, in public and in private, and there is plenty of evidence that they listen. Above all we have a process that prioritises good and sustainable outcomes for New Zealand and we use logic and reason to get there. We may squabble at the margins, but the main thrust of change is towards a common goal.

4: We have unlimited potential

We are a tiny country, and so we have to look outwards. Our free trade addressable market is about 2 billion people strong, we have a wealth of talent, both here and offshore and we top the rankings on both lack of corruption and ease of doing business. People like us and trust us, and our diaspora is quietly influential across the world, pushing our values through their behavior rather than through preaching. Our internet infrastructure might have issues but we are making tremendous progress towards that. The internet brings us closer to the rest of the world, and the future has huge possibilities.

5: The focus for change has moved to the next tier

While we may not be universally happy with UFB, Copyright and open data progress, those battles are fought, and we are moving on to the next layer. The focus is now on helping Government procurement save money for the country, deliver better value for the country and help our own companies start and grow. It’s also moving towards how we wire up houses and schools to take advantage of the fibre, and on how we ensure teachers are use the connectivity to create transformation in and out of the classroom. There is more unsolved, not the least the low data caps, and we need to keep the pressure on all of these processes.

6: Change is coming and constant – so let’s plan for it

The community at NetHui recognises, as Larry Lessig so eloquently pointed out, that the Internet drives continuous change and places pressure on existing institutions. We can’t be sure of what is coming, but we should support and nudge new endeavours, nudging them in the right direction rather than taking a negative stance.

The continuous change has implications for our lawmakers and enforcers, who must structure and implement laws that are practical and enduring.

7: Things are better when there is genuine multiparty engagement

NetHui itself worked well as the sessions were interactive, with the session leader being a facilitator rather than a lecturer. This resulted in a genuine exchange of views, work towards alignment and mutual respect.

It’s that same with crafting laws, starting and growing businesses,  ensuring equal accessibility and with creating content.

The more people that are genuinely engaged, that more companies we have attacked the gaps in the market, the more we participate the better the outcomes.

8: The market should be the first answer – but not necessarily sufficient

A Government’s role is a custodian, but not the owner of, amongst other things, an economy and people. That means that they should monitor and intervene only where there are unfair or inefficient outcomes. The UFB program addressed a market failure, but as Minister Joyce said the backhaul market is being monitored but no Government action is happening – yet. It means helping monopoly situations turn into competitive ones, and a constant focus on the best outcomes for New Zealand.

The New Zealand Government is increasingly aware of this – from most parties it seems – and the start-up ecosystem is thriving. The Commerce Commission and the FMA  approach otherwise get out of the way, make sure it’s fair, comcom teeth, transparency so we can see that it’s fair

The Government can also support industry and individuals with targeted policy and spending. The REANNZ international capacity commitment, announced about a month ago, is a good example of something that has been genuinely helpful to Pacific Fibre, and creates tremendous value for the research, educational and innovation communities. The future work on procurement promises much.

9: We care about the internet, and it’s incredibly important

NetHui attracted a high quality participant list – and this was a conference that was open to anyone. We saw several school age people, the occasional aging walrus, MPs, technologists, business people, educators, NGO representatives and more. We were united by a single cause – and all agree that internet is vital infrastructure and that the access, skills and technology required to take advantage of it are crucial.

10: Internet NZ has played a central facilitator role

NetHui was a genuine meeting of the Internet ecosystem, and a genuine success. Credit goes in particular to Vikram Kumar for driving the effort, one that I confess as a Councillor I was initially sceptical of. It helped that the name was changed from Internet Governance Forum to NetHui (Vikram’s idea). It also helped that we gained valuable sponsorship from Google, FX Networks, Trade Me, Scoop Media Cartel, Alcatel-Lucent, TelstraClear, CatalystIT, Citylink and webdrive.

But it was the considerable support from Internet NZ that allowed us to drop the entry price to a level that everyone could afford. The Council were aggressive and unanimous in its stance around the entry price, and the team delivered a fantastic outcome. InternetNZ is a relatively small organisation, membership wise, but we do have a steady income from the dot nz mandate. I would encourage all NetHui attendees to join, to take part in the policy and member conversations and to  stand for Council if that’s your thing.

Supporting NetHui was an excellent use of our income – and for sure we’ll be doing this again.

Published by Lance Wiggs


15 replies on “NetHui 2011 – my top 10 takeaways”

  1. Lance I think you nailed it.

    Thank you Internet NZ.

    My frustration was the lack of a NZ strategy. NZ is unique in that we know each other and it feels to me that we are loosing an enormous opportunity not working together across industry and Government.

    We’re not asking for money, but asking for coordination. The private sector can bring resources but in big infrastructure there does need to be some Government involvement.

    I guess we realized over the 3 days that the Government is not going to lead on strategy so it would be good to discuss how to do that in an absence of leadership when we all have day jobs.

    One way might be to lobby for a NZ Chief Technology Officer who is empowered to talk to industry but regularly checks in with Cabinet. They could own the list of things we need to work on and connect the Private sector to Government. Similar to the Science Advisor.

    Would love to hear other thoughts.



  2. I think we’re all aware that private industry (of whatever flavour) is full of vested interests and ulterior motives. Government on the other hand is slow to react, sometimes doesn’t understand the issues and is severely constrained in what it can achieve unilaterally.

    I think a public/private advisory group (or alternatively a NZ CTO as Rod suggests) would be a great way to bring the best of both groups together… the only questions are;

    1) How to find someone who isn’t constrained by their own ulterior motives
    2) How to achieve something that has persistence beyond the crazily short 3 year electoral cycle


  3. Oh one more thing… as one of the card-carrying followers of #NetHui on Twitter, I’m mindful that this discussion needs to be had outside of the construct of the early adopter/cognoscenti set. This is a conversation that is of great importance to everyone in New Zealand and those of us who (to use an appropriate term) “grok it” need to be sure we don’t drown out the voices of the rest of society,…


  4. Agreed Rpd and Ben, although there were perhaps more non-early adopters there than you might suspect.

    But total props to INZ for the decision on the cost, enough to make it a commitment from those who needed to be there, not enough to stop, pretty much, anyone. To, almost quote (who WAS it), thanks to INZ’s policy and practise we were all able to dine at the Ritz for 3 days.


  5. Re #2 , by my count I was one of three Telecom people there (as well as one from Chorus).

    Was great to hear the community’s concerns and enthusiasm expressed first hand, and I’ll do my best to convey them to the team back at work.

    Agree this was a fantastic event and forum, kudos to Vikram and team.


  6. Nice wrap up. Like the comment about positive nudges, so here’s one;

    Good on you Google for contributing to NetHui. Now how about contributing your fair share to the NZ tax base ? You are too big a part of the eco-system to play free-rider forever, sooner or later you will become a handbrake.

    You too facebook.


  7. I did not attend NetHui and this comment is not about the national network and therefore may be ignored at will :)

    I wish I had some confidence that an NZ CTO would be able to “fix things” but watching the behaviour of Minister Joyce in respect of Open Data and Open Government I think he or she would have their work cut out to influence the government, its “My way of the highway” with the Minister ! Unfortunately not the data highway usually.

    I am of course horribly biased based on the experiences we had with Carjam (months of attempted engagement, 25,000 signatures ignored, 6,000 emails without a single substantive response and casual dismissal in Question Time) with a resulting “double taxation” on data access (yes you’ve paid to create the data and now you can pay to get it back). I am not the only one (Interesting to see Telstra’s name in sponsor list) my sincerest wishes of good luck but beware the smiles and platitudes.


    1. The CarJam example did come up in one of the sessions – and I’m sure I was not the only one to hear that the excellent service has been whacked by fees. Overall the sessions on open data were encouraging, but it is, as you show, very early days.


  8. Rod, your point above “I guess we realized over the 3 days that the Government is not going to lead on strategy so it would be good to discuss how to do that in an absence of leadership when we all have day jobs.”

    This is something that has come up in our business planning discussions at 2020 Communications Trust.

    The question is whether the trust could be a vehicle for this discussion, whether it would be the right vehicle for it and how we might roll it into our plan.

    It would need a reasonable variety of organisations and individual actors to buy into the process and we would need some sector leadership to help flesh out what is needed to be done in those areas and how it needs to be done, but we might be able to provide the neutral “venue” and the operational services needed to keep things rolling and produce actual outcomes.

    The plus is that we have no barrow to push beyond the broadest, most effective access to, and use of ICT. We would be more than happy if the poutcomes included not just some paperwork, but potentially some collaborations that could be negotiated within that neutral environment.

    If someone wants to take it up we will be happy to take part part as needed and to encourage, applaud etc, but if its not in anyone else’s mandate or interest to run it, we would certainly be interested to see if we could make it work.

    While the costs would not be zero, they need not be significant either. We are hardly an expensive organisation and our overheads are pretty minimal.

    We would probably see it as part of our commitment to a strategic partnership with INZ that we are still fleshing out.


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