NetHui before Netflix


Back when NetHui first started, it was 2011. New Zealand didn’t have Netflix… and we really wanted it…

We talked about a lot of things at that very first NetHui, but that lack of Netflix was something I recall came up a few times. The streaming service had been introduced to an international market in 2010. But not to us. Downloading content, including illegally, was a much bigger topic of conversation then, compared to now with so many streaming options. We talked about if and when would all New Zealanders have the infrastructure to use streaming services. It was back in the dark days before UFB, as Chorus’ fibre plans only first launched in 2012. Even if we had a network that allowed it, would international streaming come to a small market like ours? What would that mean for us and a service like that legally, financially, socially? What content would we get and what impacts could that have? Things were different then. But also, as I reflect on the first NetHui, a lot of the conversation topics have merely changed and developed. 

NetHui was modelled on the UN Internet Governance Forum and designed to be truly for New Zealand, even though we didn’t know if many people would get together to talk about ‘Internet policy stuff’. But enough people wanted to try, and InternetNZ supported the creation with funding and a lot of hard work. 

The first NetHui was in a different format: there were streams focused on specific topics for the first two days. Each of those streams had a stream leader from the community. Back then, I wasn’t InternetNZ staff, just an InternetNZ member who was teaching and researching on Internet policy as my day job. I led the Access and Diversity stream, and there were other streams which focussed on things like education, government and openness, digital citizenship, innovation, globalisation, the Internet and the law. 

Before I agreed to be Access and Diversity stream leader that year, one of my biggest concerns was that the event should be accessible and inclusive in every sense of the word. People needed to be able to participate - not just afford conference fees, attend and listen to experts. And that is how NetHui began, with low-cost registration, livestreaming, fellowships, and a range of growing and changing work over the years to make NetHui more and more accessible and inclusive.

So that first NetHui happened! It was accessible (we’ve done better on that every year) and people came - more than some imagined might. It was new, it was fresh, and it had some big names: Laurence Lessig as a keynote, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English as well as the Leader of the Opposition David Cunliffe. What I remember most is getting to the end of the three days, exhausted, my brain full and buzzing with new ideas, new perspectives, and many new connections. 

Helping organise the first NetHui, and then being at the event, I got to meet some of the people, and know about organisations who have shaped the event and the Internet in New Zealand: NetSafe, ITP, librarians, CoreEd, developers, policymakers, teachers, people who use the Internet, among many others. NetHui, since that first year, really is a special place that brings people together to help shape the future of the Internet.

One thing we learned from that year was we tried the third day of the first NetHui as ALL PANELS. A bit much, maybe. So we don’t make everyone sit in a big room all day anymore, as after that things started to be mixed between small sessions and big ones. They were not all MANELS, but I think we did end up with one or two. Never again! 

Anyway, if you’re interested, some of the NetHui content from that first one is still online, including videos, and some are worth a watch. In fact, there are still many of the NetHui videos online, so if this cold weather continues and you’ve clocked your NetFlix account atm, you can binge watch those this weekend in preparation for 2019 NetHui :).

And I also highly recommend you register for NetHui 2019 today and be a part of the buzz and help shape the future of the Internet. 

A blog post by Dr Ellen Strickland, Chief Advisor, International at InternetNZ

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