At the very first panel of a brand new event hoping to bring the Australian internet community together, the mood was flat.
Speakers representing digital rights groups and businesses in the technology sector sounded bruised, not energised, as they reflected on how they felt ignored by the government in their efforts to shape recent internet policy in Australia.
“We’ve felt excluded from the conversation,” Digital Rights Watch board member Lizzie O’Shea told the room. “We often lobby to what feels like no effect.”
Another speaker lamented Australia’s lack of “tech billionaires” and blamed a lack of resources.
The panels were part of the inaugural NetThing, an event that organisers hoped would fill the vacuum left by the Australian Internet Governance Forum which last ran in 2016.
More than 150 people from across community, private and government sectors attended the forum, which was created to facilitate “robust Australia-based Internet policy exploration and discussion” on themes of governance, inclusion, security and the rise of digital platforms.
Organisers noted this year marks three decades since Australia joined the global internet via a trans-Pacific link from Hawaii.
“The internet is pervasive and it’s in all of our lives whether we like it or not,” said NetThing chair Sandra Davey. “There are complex challenges and opportunities and they’re too complex for single entities, organisations or even governments to solve.”