WAIA Founding MembersIt’s with an enormous amount of gratitude that we acknowledge the ground-breaking work of one of WAIA’s founding members, Kim Heitman.

“In 1985, I plugged a 1200/75 Nice Modem into my Commodore 64 and joined the online community. This was the start of a fascinating journey…”

As a Barrister and Solicitor with his own practice, Kim developed a professional interest in online legal issues and technology. He was front and centre when the Internet became publicly available in Perth in 1993. He saw the shift in perspective over the decade, as individuals and organisations started to realise the potential of this new communication platform.

“One by one, all the institutions stopped treating the Internet like a gimmick and began building it into their service provision. It was similar to the way institutions are adapting to social media at present,” said Kim.

The 1990’s marked the start of the technology revolution in Australia. The internet industry faced enormous challenges as it emerged as a new service technology in its’ own right.

“The industry was consolidating at a feverish pace, with massive churn from one provider to another depending on service offerings and cost in a changing market.”

Kim remembers there were hundreds of ISPs in Perth, a few with points of presence in regional areas, and some entirely focused on small country towns.

“The industry was threatened with B-party charging by Telstra, draconian censorship at a State and Federal level, and the difficulty in getting people online given so many different computer and modem protocols,” he said.

In July 1995, a group of Internet enthusiasts and the State’s first ISPs met at the Dialix offices to form the WA Internet Association, to promote the use of the Internet and represent businesses and users.

A journalist and an ISP at the time, David Kitson remembers that initial meeting well-

“It was an interesting meeting – standing room only, with dozens of people in a room barely big enough to fit a dozen people. It was hot, stuffy and difficult, but nearly every ISP was there at a time when Western Australia had more ISPs per-capita than any other part of the world.”

Kim remembers the key individuals driving innovation in this era- “Michael Malone, Mark Dignam and Andrew Milner were each building successful Internet businesses, but saw the benefits of the WA industry co-operating to create infrastructure such as WAIX, lobbying as an industry and reaching out to other States to help their progress. They were generous with their time to the Association and smaller ISPs.”

As WAIA’s inaugural spokesperson, Kim answered enquiries from the public and represented the Association at parliamentary inquiries and in the media.

David was WAIA’s first Secretary and remembers Kim as a driving force within the steering committee and the inaugural elected committee-

“Kim greatly influenced the structure that meant WAIA would represent not only ISP interests, but the greater internet community as well, with some members moving between Industry and Non-industry representation over time.”

The irony of a geographically isolated association being the one to build a successful Australia-wide infrastructure – from WAIX to IX Australia – is not lost on Kim-

“Perth computer enthusiasts knew well the experience of being isolated and having to travel a long distance to network.

I believe this made the WA Internet industry embrace an “us against the world” perspective, and a determination not to be at the mercy of big telcos or a single source of bandwidth.

WAIA worked with colleagues in South Australia and Tasmania to build industry capability which thereafter enabled national peering capacity,” he said.

The same year as founding WAIA, Kim was Elected Chairperson of Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc and launched the EFA Women committee and mailing list to promote women becoming involved with online services.

“Kim was involved with the newly formed Electronic Frontiers Australia which had modeled itself after the Electronic Frontiers movement in the US at the time. His guidance and support was pretty much critical to the progress and establishment of WAIA,” said David.

In 1999 Kim became Group Legal Counsel and CEO of iiNet Technologies Pty Ltd and continued on the Board of iiNet Limited following a successful public listing.

Kim served on the boards of several public companies including the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Limited and Australian Domain Administration Limited.

Kim’s expertise has seen his opinions appear in national and international media including Time Magazine, Wired, The Age, The ABC, Internet Australasia magazine and many other industry publications, on topics such as net censorship, encryption, cyber terrorism and email privacy.

He lectured at Curtin University, the University of WA and Edith Cowan University, Melbourne and Monash Universities and internationally on Internet regulation and computer science and regularly spoke on intellectual property, strategic risk management and online issues.

Kim continued to serve on the WAIA committee in various roles, including President, until 2004, and thereafter as the WAIA nominee to the auDA Board.

In 2010 Kim returned to work after treatment for lymphoma and was elevated to Full Member and Certified Technologist by the Australian Computer Society.

David remembers Kim as a highly respected individual- “Without exception, and we were grateful for his influence and support at the time.”

Always the innovator, in 2017 Kim brought the World Wide Web conference to Perth as part of the Festival of the Web, exploring the ways in which the internet has changed the way we do business.

With a passion for music, Kim has been a Board Member of TURA New Music and having ‘retired’ to Nannup in the State’s south west, he is now a committee member for the Nannup Music Festival, as well as a volunteer firefighter.

In thinking about the decade to come, Kim hopes we will see the industry grow with bandwidth and spark the start of the next boom-

“We need to get back to the aspiration of providing “always-on” high-speed broadband to everyone in Australia, and developing mobile Internet to power new mobile services.

I hope that IX Australia continues to create solutions for members, and will prosper at the cutting edge of Internet services,” he said.

When we asked Kim what advice he would give himself if he could travel back in time to 1995, he replied, “Get yourself an ergonomic chair. No other misgivings, it’s been a wild ride.”