news Internode founder Simon Hackett has exhorted Australians to think about their legacy and how they can “leave a good result behind”, in a heartfelt speech given on the eve of his departure from the Internet service provider he founded and arrival as a board director at the National Broadband Network Company.
Hackett is one of the most recognisable faces in Australia’s technology sector, courtesy of his role leading Adelaide-headquartered national broadband provider Internode for several decades, as well as involvement in numerous technology-related endeavours such as bringing the first Tesla electric car to Australia and more. In November last year, a year after his company was acquired by iiNet, Hackett was invited by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to join the board of NBN Co. He accepted the role, which required him to resign any involvement with iiNet or Internode.
Today Hackett published the audio and transcript from a speech he gave at a live performance event in Adelaide on 27 November last year — the day of his departure from Internode and the day before he took up the new role at NBN Co.
In the speech, the Internode founder said he wanted to challenge those listening to find those things around them in society — whether that be helping a neighbour, building a new thing or anything that played to their own skillsets and desires — and spend time on them to leave a good result behind them.
Personally, Hackett said the “longest unbroken single relationship” he had had in his life hadn’t been with a person, but with a company — Internode. “I’ve spent my business career through that company connecting people to this thing called the Internet,” said Hackett. “I became, in effect, a ‘high technology plumber’. And through that ‘plumbing’ I have found a lot of personal pleasure because I really like making people happy – and that turns out to be a way that I found that my particular skill-set allows me to make people happy.”
The Internode founder said he would be sad about leaving Internode, but the reason he had left was very much about being a “good ancestor” (the theme of the event) and leaving something behind.
“I’m doing that because I’m conceited enough to believe that twenty years of skills that I’ve learned in the past can be applied in the future to try to produce more social equity and that’s something that I happen to care about,” said Hackett. “This very abstract notion of hooking us all on the Internet is something I’m deeply involved with, obviously.”
“I happen to believe that that next big utility, that next big way of connecting to our homes and our businesses beyond power, water, gas and sewerage – that next set of ‘pipes’ – can be tremendously important to us if they are available to everyone, if they work properly, and if they cost the same for everyone. They’re actually things that have a social equity.”
“So I care a lot about that, and so I’m devoting the next few years of my life to trying to make that environment better, precisely in the hope that the National Broadband Network can be a part of the ‘ancestry’ of this country in its future, that’s a positive one for all of us. It lets us do new things in our future that weren’t possible in our past. And I think as I get older I’ve found that more and more I want to do things in my life that are capable of leaving a trial behind me that is about more than just my own needs and more than just about what I want to do.”
Another example of the way Hackett was pursuing in this vein was his creation of the Base64 startup incubator in Adelaide, based in a historic building which Hackett is refurbishing.
This isn’t a normal story for Delimiter — no controversy, not much technical stuff, etc. It’s more about emotions and about Hackett’s thoughts on his (extremely interesting) life and his choices.
However, I wanted to post something about this on Delimiter because I think technologists of all stripes often get a little bit too caught up in the technology they they are deploying or using, and don’t stop to think about the wider implications of what they’re doing. It’s because as a rule, we all find technology itself so fascinating that it’s hard to be interested in the bigger picture. I often do this myself. How often have I wanted to upgrade my desktop PC to the latest specification … despite the fact that what I mostly do on it all day is merely type text for people to read on the Internet?
Hackett’s comments are a timely reminder that technologists matter — we matter deeply — to society. In the 1980’s, the 1990’s and even the 2000’s, technology was often seen as a geeky thing which only nerds would be interested in. However, in this period of intense technological change in which we are enmeshed, it’s going to be very important for technologists to think about the impact we are having and the legacy we are leaving. We need to help others understand this new reality we are continually entering.
I think we can all agree that Hackett’s work has been tremendously important over the past several decades in bringing the Internet — the universal communication and knowledge-sharing network — to all Australians. Perhaps it’s a good time to think about what each of us plans to do for the next two decades. If we think about it in a deep enough manner, perhaps we’ll be able to find a path as meaningful as Hackett’s.
For my own part, I’ll be writing. That’s my thing. Mainly about technology, but also about other things. Enough people seem to think that’s a good idea so far, and it’s working well for me at the moment. I suspect they will need to pry my keyboard from my cold, dead hands in about 60 years ;)
Image credit: Internode