2019 — a big year comes to a close

Jordan Carter16 December 2019
A blog from Jordan Carter, Chief Executive of InternetNZ

2019 has been a big year for New Zealand, for the Internet, and for InternetNZ. I wanted to share a few thoughts as the holiday season arrives, and to wish you well for the break.

15 March 2019 was a day that will have complex layers of meaning around Aotearoa and around the world for a long time to come. A terrorist shot and killed fifty one innocent people in their places of worship in Christchurch, targeting them because of their faith, and aiming to use the Internet to propagate his message of hate and fear. 

New Zealand’s response was not a standard one, and there are aspects of the response that have been for the better. One of those has been how Internet issues have been dealt with. Rather than rushing to unilateral action, Jacinda Ardern and the Government chose to work with other — countries, companies and civil society — to tackle the challenge of terrorist and violent extremism online through the Christchurch Call.

I was pleased to be able to step up and play a small role in this process, through InternetNZ helping to convene civil society voices alongside the Christchurch Call Summit in Paris in May. Since then, whether through our policy work, through the discussions at NetHui and in many other ways, we have remained a voice for the positive potential the Internet can bring. 

This work won’t stop with the turn of the year, of course, but the sense that the Internet can bring both great good and great harm is now unmistakeable. The harm side is something we, in the .nz environment, are looking at through the .nz policy review running through to mid 2020. I hope you’ll share your thoughts with that process.

Part of the nationwide response to Christchurch has been to recognise the challenges we have as a country around social inclusion. We have a lot of work to do on that front as a country, I’d say, but others are better qualified on that front than me.  

InternetNZ’s angle on this has been digital inclusion. We set as a strategic goal this year the aim to really inspire concrete improvements to digital inclusion, including stimulating government investment. Without digital inclusion, there is no social inclusion. If you are cut off from jobs, socialising, culture, news, information, sport, entertainment, banking…. you are cut off, and that isn’t what we should expect — or accept — in a country as small and rich as this one.

If wellbeing is a goal for the Government rather than a slogan, then action on digital inclusion is not an optional extra. It has to be at the heart of government’s efforts in preparing for the 2020s and beyond. 

Beyond the excellent work that our team is doing on this, we all have to demand more action on this from the coalition government as the 2020 budget looms. This has to get better, and action has to be a thing in 2020. No doubt this debate, among others, will be part of the national conversation as we head into the general election in the second half of the year. 

Let me turn to InternetNZ as an organisation. This has been a second year of huge change. We went through a big restructure in 2018, and spent that year putting together our new team.

In 2019, we’ve seen a lot of maturing of our capability. There have been adjustments to our teams, we’ve grown in terms of people and in terms of what we can do, and things are starting to hum.

I won’t do a list of “things achieved” in 2019, but I do want to acknowledge and thank all of the staff who have been part of the work we have done this year. For those who moved on during the year, thank you for all that you contributed. For those who are here now and looking forward to 2020, thank you for your ongoing commitment.

The work of InternetNZ has arguably never been more important. The Internet and our society are inextricably tangled up together. Understanding how the two can work together in the public interest, and for everyone’s good, got a whole lot more demanding in 2019.

2020 therefore is a big year for us. Helping New Zealanders harness the power of the Internet for good is going to be a big theme. 

To that end, after the summer break we’ll be consulting with the public, stakeholders and members about an adjustment to our strategic framework and goals. We want to know your views on a proposal for us to focus on the “Internet for all”, and making sure that the Internet is an “Internet for good,” across all our work. The specific goals we will pursue in helping that happen will also be up for comment. 

That story, to us, lets everyone around InternetNZ — council members, staff, members, supporters and stakeholders — tell a simple story. The Internet needs to be truly for everyone, and it needs to be a force for good in the world.

Making those two things real requires work. Not just from InternetNZ, but from everyone who thinks the Internet has something positive to offer the world — or that it poses challenges we need to tackle together.

Please join us on that journey next year. Incidentally, 2020 is InternetNZ’s 25th birthday too. So we’ll have that as a theme for the year — inviting you to celebrate a quarter century of achievements, and to contribute to the next twenty five years.

For now, I wish you a peaceful summer holiday season. If you have some time off, I hope it is a time to recharge with the people close to you. If you have to work through, hopefully some snippets of summer fun (or at least summer sun!) will make their way towards you.

 

See you in 2020!

Jordan Carter
Chief Executive, InternetNZ


Comments

Well done, Jordan, for listing 'digital inclusion' in your top three!  This has been a 20year+ journey for many of us in the community sector and now that Government has an official digital inclusion strategy in the form of the Blueprint, we really have to ensure this is operationalised.  The support of InternetNZ makes a powerful statement to Government, so thank you for that.

I am also impressed with your work on evaluating digital inclusion projects.  This was one of the most important recommendations in the Pulse of the Nation report - we simply have to give policy makers the evidence they need to develop budget bids and your work in this area is a great first step.  

So well done on both counts - acknowledging digital inclusion as a priority and doing something really practical about providing robust evidence of projects, initiatives and programmes that work and change people's lives.

Laurence Zwimpfer MNZM

Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa