Mapping Digital Divides in New Zealand

Friday 8 December 2017

A week for government announcements on digital inclusion

This week Communications Minister Clare Curran released "Digital New Zealanders: The Pulse of Our Nation", a report outlining the digital divide in New Zealand. 

On the heels of this release, yesterday the Government released the BIMs (Briefing to Incoming Ministers), which outline what their portfolios cover and what Ministers need to know. What struck our team was that when we searched various BIMs from MBIE, DIA, MSD and other relevant organisations no-one used words like Digital Divides or digital inclusion. Not once. Which struck us as odd.

Yes, the Communications BIM calls for: "continuing to support New Zealanders to harness the social and commercial benefits of increased digitalisation [to] remain a key focus". Yes, the Economic Development BIM proposes a document outlining government's direction and next steps for responding to digital inclusion in New Zealand (we look forward to this document).

We are highly motivated to work with officials and Ministers on digital divides -in fact we're busy writing our own position paper on digital divides that builds off of the Pulse of the Nation report and other reports over the last two years.

We welcome the look at how New Zealanders experience digital divides and what we can do as a nation to overcome them. Given the release of the Pulse of the Nation report, our boss Jordan on the radio talking digital divides and then the BIMs coming out - we thought it would be timely to reshare the Digital Divide map we launched in August.

The Digital Divide Map

InternetNZ has developed the Digital Divide Map (available at https://digitaldivide.nz) as a way to visualise the nature of Digital Divides in New Zealand. The map has three data sets overlayed :

  • A social deprivation index developed by Otago University researchers to indicate social wellbeing in an area.
  • A digital inclusion index developed by InternetNZ, which looks at access, affordability and skill level for people in the region.
  • The Digital Inclusion Map from 2020 Trust

Screenshot of digital divide map

We can use this map to understand the correlations between social wellbeing and digital inclusion, and see where digital inclusion interventions are operating. As the map matures and we can add more resources and information to it, we will be able to see where digital inclusion interventions are being successful, and can understand how to scale them up to impact more people's lives.

 

What digital divides does the map show us?

The digital divide map allows us to compare infrastructure availability, home access rates, digital skill and levels of social deprivation. We've taken two main lessons from the process of building the map.

  1. The map shows us that infrastructure availability is not the primary digital divide affecting the vast majority of New Zealanders. Building another network by pushing a wifi system out from a school isn't necessarily solving the issues urban, low socioeconomic communities are facing
  2. A lack of Internet access is the highest indicator that a household is socially deprived. It's more highly correlated that educational attainment, housing status (renting or owning) and so on. Lack of Internet access at home is the single biggest red flag that a household has social inclusion challenges.

Here are a couple of examples of regions and the particular digital divides they are facing as revealed by the data:

Tiroa's digital divides

Tiroa is a rural areal unit in the central North Island and home to Tiroa Station. With a population of only 46 people, Tiroa is within the "most remote" New Zealanders in terms of Internet. There is low / no infrastructure (with a flow on of low access rates) and low social well-being.

Tiroa on the map

Tiroa

Tiroa is an example of an rural area where infrastructure access and availability (as a proxy for affordability) are both low, and there is not enough data about digital skills. This is an area that may be ripe for digital divide interventions around access to connectivity.

Waitangirua's digital divides

Waitangirua is a suburb in Porirua, northeast of Wellington. A part of Eastern Porirua, Waitangirua has infrastructure availability, highly skilled residents, but only medium access rates and low social well being.

Waitangirua on the map

Waitangirua

Waitangirua is an example of an urban area where the digital divide challenges are not linked to infrastructure availability. The Digital Divide map shows that infrastructure availability is high.

The Broadband map (https://broadbandmap.nz) confirms this. Most of Waitangirua has ADSL, VDSL, and fixed wireless. Some parts of Waitangirua have fibre, with the rest of the suburb scheduled for fibre rollout by January 2020. However, this high infrastructure availability has not resulted in high access.

Let's solve digital divides together

We are really excited to that the Government has a target to solve New Zealand's digital divides by 2020. InternetNZ wants to see all New Zealanders have the skills to access affordable Internet to help them and their communities grow.

So please, visit https://digitaldivide.nz, use the map and talk to us about how we can extend and improve it. If you have ideas about how this project should grow, or know of data that could be useful to us, we want to hear from you.

Likewise, if you want to talk to us about how we could help you think about, and address digital divides across New Zealand we're here to help.

You can tweet at us at @internetnz or email nicola@internetnz.nz.