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NetHui 2017 - it's a wrap

Andrew Cushen, Guest Post. 23 November 2017, 10:13 am
NetHui 2017 - it's a wrap

Over 400 people discussing the benefits and uses of the Internet in New Zealand. The first speech of the new Minister for Communications; a keynote from the Electronic Freedom Foundation; a vision for the New Zealand Government's role in promoting freedom and trust online. These were the highlights of NetHui 2017.

For those of you that haven't heard of it: NetHui is hosted by InternetNZ as a meetup of the Internet Community of New Zealand. The goal of NetHui is to bring everybody and anybody that wants to talk about the Internet together. It isn't a conference and speakers don't talk at you all day. NetHui is a community event - made for the community, by the community.

If that sounds interesting to you - well, unfortunately you've missed it for 2017. It was held in Auckland at the Aotea Centre from the 9-10th of November. Here's a bit more detail about what went down:

The new Minister for Communications, Hon. Clare Curran, came to NetHui to give her first major, scene setting speech in her new portfolio. The Minister demonstrated that she's been listening to the Internet and technology communities of New Zealand and is committed to try out some new things. She talked about how the hallmarks of her approach will be:

  • Taking a joined-up, aspirational approach to our digital economy, seeking to increase productivity and the economic benefits of the internet;

  • Addressing the digital divide to reduce the gap between the internet "haves" and "have nots";

  • Strengthening protection of New Zealanders' digital rights;

  • Enhancing the voice of independent public service media, to improve plurality of broadcasting and underpin growth of our culture;

  • Driving the ongoing transformation towards a more open, digital Government.  

NetHui was also host to an International Keynote from Jillian York, who is the Director of International Freedom of Expression for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Jillian gave a fantastic address to NetHui about the increasing power of global platforms to mediate debate, censor voices and limit free expression, and about how challenging it is for all of us to be connected with each other via these platforms and still communicate openly.

We also had a great National Keynote from the inimitable Pia Waugh, about what Government's role could be in securing greater trust and freedom online. She explored how some of the big challenges and opportunities relate to how information isn't sacred and secret anymore; but how do we enable the sharing and utilisation of information in a way that allows all individuals to thrive.

On top of those keynotes, there was also the usual dozens of discussion groups, panels, meetups and side events. Here's some of the highlights from those:

  • We explored the Digital Divide in New Zealand, and discussed what it is and how to solve it. Is it about making sure everyone, everywhere can buy Internet access? Is it about affordability? What about the skills to use the Internet? Or access for those with disabilities? Access in languages other than English? These are questions that InternetNZ will be following up on, building off the Digital Divide Map we launched earlier this year, and to feed into the new Government's goals to close this divide.

  • There were sessions exploring new technology, like drones, artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrency. There were lots of different perspectives about how these can lead to new opportunities, risks and challenges - and how we balance those to make the most of this tech in NZ.

  • We celebrated the 10th birthday of Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand, and were pleased that their International Chief Executive, Ryan Merkley came to join in all the way from Canada. They also hosted a lively discussion of the value of our home-grown Open Access movement: where we're at and where we're headed.

NetHui doesn't end at the end of the event though. We look to encourage these conversations to keep going, and for new meetups, groups, projects and ideas to emerge following the connections and inspirations made.

If all of this has left you gutted that you missed NetHui, then I'm sorry - but I also have good news. NetHui will be back in 2018, and we will be talking about where in NZ we will go next early next year. Our goal is to have as many voices and perspectives come together as possible, so if you have ideas about what you'd like to explore at a NetHui, then please get in touch with the team at InternetNZ and we will get you in the mix.

NetHui 2017 is a wrap, folks. See you next year!


Andrew Cushen is the Deputy CEO of InternetNZ.


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