Andrew’s predictions for the Internet in 2019

Andrew Cushen17 January 2019

A blog post by Andrew Cushen, Outreach and Engagement Director at InternetNZ. 

Welcome to 2019 everyone! 

Here’s what I think could be some of the big stories for the Internet in 2019.

1. The Rugby World Cup proves the Internet is ready for primetime

Spark is taking a huge punt on becoming the primary partner for RWC 2019 - particularly given how Optus messed up broadcasting the FIFA World Cup over the Internet in Australia. Spark says they’ve learned as much as they can from that incident, and RWC is just part of an ever larger suite of sports rights that they now hold.

I’m happy to go on the record and predict that Spark is going to do a good job of this. In doing so, they’ll fundamentally reshape the landscape of NZ broadcasting, and take a whole pile of everyday New Zealanders along for the ride in terms of what Internet infrastructure in NZ is capable of. 

Implications: A fundamental shift of interests and balance of powers, away from traditional broadcasting, and towards more on demand style content via non-traditional players. What does that mean for content regulation; for public broadcasting; for access and usability and inclusion - and will it help the All Blacks win (lol)? 

2. Social media faces a regulatory smackdown

Lots of questions were asked during 2018 about the role of social media in our lives. Who remembers the stories about Cambridge Analytica, fake news, election interference? Many of the responses to these questions from the likes of Facebook were a bit underwhelming. 

As a result, more New Zealanders are thinking about what it means to have our information used by these platforms, and to have that much power centred in these organisations.

All of these are in addition to the long lingering questions about these platforms and jurisdiction, taxation and public accountability.

As a result, 2019 may well be the year that either the United States or the European Union decide it's time for the people and our governments to set the rules, rather than letting these platforms be laws unto themselves. 

Implications for NZ: Privacy, the power of platforms and fake news have all been on New Zealanders minds too. The problem is that NZ doesn’t warrant a lot of attention from the likes of Facebook. We need one of these larger markets and jurisdictions to step up to the plate if the lot is going to get better for little old NZ.

3. New Zealand comes under pressure to weaken encryption

At the end of last year, the Australians pushed through new law that fundamentally weakens encryption. That’s another one of the “five eyes” folding to National Security interests instead of preserving the sound, trustable foundations of the Internet for all of us. It looks like there’s a lot of pressure on NZ to “do something” about encryption too. 

It doesn’t have to be like this. We think NZ can demonstrate that encryption and national security aren’t mutually exclusive, and there are ways that we can keep New Zealanders safe and preserve confidence and security online. We have to talk about it together though, and find solutions to that challenge.

Implications for NZ: Encryption is an important part of what makes the modern Internet workable, usable and trusted. Weakening encryption seems to me a high price to pay - particularly when I haven’t seen honest, open conversations about other approaches that may be workable. I hope we have the opportunity to talk about these challenges and try to solve them together. 

4. New Zealand commits to closing digital divides

We know there are a number of different divides stopping New Zealanders from using and benefiting from the Internet. The Government’s thinking about it; there’s an entire Ministerial Advisory Group thinking about it. We at InternetNZ are going to keep doing something about it. 

I hope 2019 will finally be the year we see plans come together showing how these divides can be closed. We will see new approaches be proposed that deal with capability, access, motivation and trust and propose real plans that will help to close these divides.

Maybe I’m an optimist here. But the thing is that this is a solvable problem now. All it takes is commitment, resourcing and a plan. 

Implications for NZ: Imagine being the first country in the world where everyone is able to get online, and use it to create value for themselves, their families and their community. Imagine what that would mean for social and economic innovation; for education, capability and creativity. We can be that country. I reckon 2019 is the year we commit to that potential. 

What do you reckon?

Look, I dunno how good my predictions are going to be. I do think though that these are going to be stories and issues that will come up during 2019. I also think that New Zealand will come up with better answers to these questions when we all have a chance to work on them together.
I’d love to hear what you reckon may come up for the Internet in 2019. You can share your thoughts via our social pages!

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