NetHui 2011 is over for this year, but the excitement generated by it continues in the Twitterstream and in blogposts etc. Standout presentation for me was from Lawrence Lessig, founding board member of Creative Commons, and a professor of law at Harvard Law School. His presentation demonstrates the brilliance of a message that is profound, but made accessible through the captivating use of powerpoint. Part one of his message is embedded above, click here for part 2 and part 3. I had the privilege of interviewing Lawrence during the conference for a couple of EdTalks videos, and these will be available on that site shortly.
Now that I've had a chance to process my thoughts from the event, I thought I'd summarize what, for me, were some of the key points:
- The imperative of internet access – Rod Drury's opening keynote reminded us all that if New Zealand is to be a place where future entrepreneurs and business people can thrive, then we need fast, reliable access to the internet. He illustrated how, in trying to run a multi-million dollar, international business from NZ, he is currently significantly disadvantaged in terms of the level of connectivity taken for granted by his competitors in other parts of the world. Rod's thoughts were echoed by several other speakers at the event, many emphasising that we can't afford to pull back on NZ's commitment to rolling out UFB to all areas of the country.
- Internet access as a human right – echoing the sentiment of the recent UN declaration, many speakers referred to the need to consider access to the internet as a basic human right. Several spoke of the growing digital divide between those with access and those without – emphasising the fact that so much of what it means to participate in society now and in the future will depend on having access to the information, communities etc. as well as most everyday services and support that is increasingly online. Lessig also drew this point well with his discussion on the notion of 'entitlement'; that he explores in the video above.
- Copyright is dead (?) – A stong emphasis at the Hui was placed on the move towards 'open-ness'; at a number of levels, not least of which applies to content. The issue of copyright was explored in depth in a number of sessions, with reference to Creative Commons being made as a viable alternative to the current system of copyright that we've adopted historically. A compelling case for this is made when considering the fact that, in the increasingly participatory and contributory environment of the Web, knowledge will be created and shared through the use and re-use of digital content, thus an appropriate licensing approach is essential.
- Education as an essential focus – In each of their speeches Steven Joyce and Bill English spoke convincingly about the importance of education in our approach for levering the benefit of UFB roll-out, emphasising the fact that it is the students currently in our schools who will expect to be able to work and live in a highly connected world, and that this will be essential for the future success of NZ as a productive, knowledge-based economy. Of course, it's not only those in our schools for whom education is important. Access to high quality, relevant educational opportunities will be essential for all who participate in our knowledge economy, to ensure that skills and knowledge are kept current and new horizons are constantly scanned.
- Who'll teach the teachers? – I had the privilege of leading the Education Stream, with my colleague Douglas Harre, at the Hui. In our opening session we explored the major issues and obstacles we face in Education with regards to the adoption and use of the Internet, and the one thing that surfaced above all others for those in the group was the challenge of bringing teachers up to speed with all that is happening. One of the thoughts that arose repeatedly was that, while it is OK for those at the Hui to be convinced that businesses must adapt to the use of the internet to thrive in the future, the situation for most schools is that the use of the internet is still largely an 'additive' or 'optional' part of what occurs, and teachers are not compelled therefore to engage with it in the ways many at the hui feel is important as we look to prepare our young people for the future.
- We need a strategy for moving forward – throughout the Hui there was reference made to the fact that we are, as a nation, missing a coherent strategy to provide us with a common set of aims and objectives as we move forward. Calls were made for revisiting the concept of a national digital strategy, such as we had eight years ago. Reference was also made in the education stream that the current 'e-Learning action plan' is now out of date, and that we no longer have a future focused strategy to guide our efforts in this area. it would appear that we're again at a cross-roads where a coordinated, cross-sector approach to developing a national strategy would be a very good idea.
Congratulations to Vikram and his team at InternetNZ for bringing together this excellent event – I'm pleased to hear that there is already talk about holding a similar event again next year.