Derek Handley: Dotcom's party will shake things up

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The big launch event might be off but in politics a new 'game of thrones' has begun, writes Derek Handley

Kim Dotcom will unleash the power of digital, social and internet media into the electoral and democratic process, says Derek Handley.
Kim Dotcom will unleash the power of digital, social and internet media into the electoral and democratic process, says Derek Handley.

Kim Dotcom's political party will be unleashed soon and, like him or not, something fantastic is brewing for New Zealand. I for one am watching happily as it unfolds. A lot of people from the industry that Kim and I work in, which involves technology, the internet, and innovation of the future, have thus far stayed quiet, preferring to sit on the sidelines.

So as a self-appointed member of that unofficial club, I thought I'd come out and say something.

There is no doubt that controversy and hype surrounds Kim Dotcom. But if you can look beyond this for a moment and imagine that he could possibly play an important part of the political process, you might find yourself surprised.

Three reasons why:

1. The vision vacuum

People buy vision - it's why they follow business icons like the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; it's why they vote Obama; it's why America went to the moon (despite Colin Craig's take). The common consensus among voters I know across all parties, is that there isn't an ounce of vision within 1000 miles of the Beehive.

What we desperately need during the debate on who earns the right to run our country is clear and breakthrough vision about very important long-term things: about the future of sustainable farming, the future of energy; the future of drug policy; the future of the internet.

We need true vision about where New Zealand needs to boldly head, beyond Sunday's front page and into the next 10 years - cycleways and smacking don't qualify.

Kim Dotcom definitely won't have the answers to most things and may not have the right vision for New Zealand - but I'm betting his party will at least have one about a few vital things this country needs to address: our vision on technology as a fundamental part of the economy of the future; universal broadband access as a public service right for everyone alongside access to clean water, air and shelter; and full transparency and protection of our privacy, freedom of voice and individual human rights fit for purpose for the digital era we live in.

As it stands, we are heading down a dangerous spiral across all those fronts - with a Government that spies on us and uses helicopters to take down people without due process; with an internet that crawls along at toddler speeds and in some places not at all; and a public referendum process that doesn't seem to matter, in the face of a "mandate".

New Zealand needs leaders with the courage to do things differently, say things differently and have visions bigger than their terms. The choices on offer at the moment struggle in all departments and like him or loathe him, Kim Dotcom is going to have a crack at changing some of the conversation.

2. Digital democracy

Kim Dotcom will unleash the force of innovation and the internet in the electoral and democratic process. None of the existing political parties have any real grasp of the power of digital, social and internet media in creating movements, and accelerating change - let alone using it as a tool to win elections, as Obama did.

We don't have a chief digital officer for most of our cities nor the country; we don't have an army of digital savvy special advisers surrounding our Cabinet, or the Opposition (if they exist then I'm not aware of them). If they do, they should be using the internet in ways that reach, educate and inspire our young people to vote. With Dotcom's party, I'm betting 2014 will see all that change and some of them will be woefully outgunned.

3. The young and indifferent

These two constituencies are seldom inspired to get off the couch and go to the polls because to date what's been offered is of little relevance to them.

We have a Government that doesn't really listen to the people and has increasingly grown comfortable in a quasi-arrogant swagger. And now, here comes somebody larger than life, fearless and controversial who has decided to swagger alongside them.

Because of the way our political system works, and the disproportionate power fringe parties can have, you don't even have to like or care about Kim's politics to know that a new "game of thrones" has begun.

And that's why his Internet Party is so vital for 2014 and New Zealand. The irony of his outsized personality and continual but well-executed self promotion is that by his very existence, by the fact he'll try to turn the game on its head, he will force his opposition to think.

He'll make them sharper, more responsive, less arrogant, more digital, more relevant. More useful. More humble. And that's good for all of us. So bring on the party party.

Derek Handley is an entrepreneur, investor and author. He has been the founding CEO of Sir Richard Branson's leadership collective The B Team, advancing the future of capitalism; is an adjunct executive professor at AUT University.

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- NZ Herald

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