Internet Mana champions young talent

When Kim Dotcom and the Internet Mana roadshow hit Invercargill last night, there was never much prospect of a spontaneous F-chant.

The tone was more of frank curiosity, mixed with a sense of fun. The crowd of about 150 at Southland Boys' High School featured a mix of youth and greyhaired adults.

Among the front-row youngsters - "some of us are old enough to vote"- interest in hearing what Dotcom had to say went hand in hand with the prospect of a cool close-up photo.

He was, they said, "kind of like Robin Hood". Jacob Bielski added: "I've used that website [MegaUpload], to be honest."

At the more middle-aged end of the spectrum, Bryan Campbell was there to listen. "I'm a National person but open-minded," he said. "And I'm very much pro-tech. They've taken the time to come here and explain themselves . . . in a very flamboyant way.

"It's got my attention."

Murihiku Maori Wardens were present too, though Mandy Reti was quick to assert it was not out of partisan sentiment.

"We're not here supporting any particular party," she said.

"We are here supporting the community."

Dotcom made no grand entrance, slipping in quietly while Sheree Freeman sang Dave Dobbyn's Welcome Home and dancing - mercifully just a bit - during Happy.

He drew particular applause when he spoke of the party's policy of free tertiary education, declaring: "the biggest crime in my opinion in this country" was that young people finished their degrees deeply indebted to the Government and headed overseas as a result.

He drew big laughs when he linked the need to better harness youth talent with an account of his own convictions as a 19-year-old computer hacker in Germany.

He hacked Nasa "because I wanted to know if aliens really exist". He hacked a bank "because I wanted to donate $20 million to Greenpeace because I really like what they are doing". He also hacked to bring the German prime minister's credit rating down to zero "because I didn't like the guy".

The sentencing judge, Dotcom added, described this as youthful foolishness and advised him to use his talent to help agencies and the government, on the grounds they clearly needed his help.

He said he submitted a plan to the German Government which did, then, give him a $1m start-up interest-free loan. Within a year he had created 50 jobs and the following year paid the loan back.

"Why don't we have this kind of incentive programme for our young bright minds in New Zealand?" Instead we were so far behind in the digital age.

It was ridiculous that 200,000 children were going to schools without internet connection.

"We are not providing them with the basic tools to participate in what is going to be the most important contributor to our economy in New Zealand."

The opposition he faced to his MegaUpload site was "kind of like the candlestick maker protesting the lightbulb innovation".

Mana representative Angela Greensill described flying over Southland pasture land into Invercargill. "We have to start looking further than that," she said.

However, Southland should "give yourself a pat on the back" for its approach to youth training.

The Southland Times