NZ’s Internet skyrocketing but digital divide still evident

14 December 2016

InternetNZ has welcomed a new report showing Internet trends over the last nine years. The trends report has been released by the Auckland University of Technology and is a collation of the biennial NZ World Internet Project surveys from 2007-2015.

Chief Executive of InternetNZ, Jordan Carter, says it shines light on the importance of the Internet in today's society but also the digital divide in New Zealand.

"The trends report highlights positive steps but also indicates areas that we still need to improve in order to get more people online."

The overall percentage of Internet users over the last nine years has continued to rise. In 2007, 82% of people used the Internet and in 2015 Internet users represented 90% of New Zealanders.

There is also a clear rise in people using the Internet for education, communication and entertainment. The report paints a strong picture on the importance of the Internet and the need for people to have access so they can take advantage of the benefits the Internet provides.

We are also seeing some positive stats in the area of education and the ability to use the Internet. There is the notable increase in the confidence levels of Internet users aged 65 years and older, with those rating themselves as 'good' on the Internet up from only 25% in 2007 to 60% in 2015.

"However, we are still concerned about the digital divides relating to household income, location and ethnicity groups," says Carter.

The report paints obvious gaps where people of low income, of Pasifika ethnicity or those living in rural areas, are not using the Internet. With the statistics showing a rapid increase of people stating the Internet is important as a source of information - this divide is more important than ever to improve.

"Understanding the digital divide in New Zealand is an important piece of work for InternetNZ. We are working on a project that maps the divides over the country and will allow us to draw related statistics on how the digital divide is affecting areas such as economic well-being and education.

"We hope this new information will be useful for the technology sector and the Government in trying to close the gap, says Carter."

InternetNZ helps to fund the NZ World Internet Project reports and says the statistics are very valuable.

"From the reports we can determine where we sit on the world stage and also monitor New Zealand Internet stats over time," says Carter.


Internet trends in New Zealand: full report

trends reportKey trends from the report

Internet usage - The percentage of Internet users in the five WIPNZ surveys has risen steadily from 82% in 2007 to slightly over 90% in 2013 and 2015. The uptake of mobile handheld devices has proceeded at a remarkable pace from low to high usage: from 8% of Internet users in 2007 to 87% in 2015.

Comparing the importance of different media - The importance of the Internet as a source of information has risen considerably, most dramatically for those aged 65 and over. Starting at 21% of over-65s saying the Internet was important for information in 2007, this has risen and then levelled out in 2013 and 2015 at just under 60%.

In 2007, 52% of respondents rated traditional platforms such as print newspapers as an important source of entertainment, well above the Internet (42%), but that has now reversed. In 2015, the Internet supersedes all traditional forms of entertainment media, rising to 68% compared to 55% for television.

Younger people now value the Internet as a source of entertainment most (84% in 2015). The proportion of respondents in the middle age group has also risen steeply in just the last couple of years (66% in 2015).

Relationships and communication - Texting has consistently been the most popular form of daily communication across all waves of the survey, but instant messaging (e.g. through Whatsapp or Snapchat) may now be replacing texts as the number-one conduit for daily communication (75% in 2015).

The increasing diversity of social networking sites available, in addition to Facebook, may also be responsible for the jump in the users who rate these as important in their daily life (from 28% in 2007 to 53% in 2015).

Consumer and public sector interactions, Internet security - Online consumer transactions across the board, including financial interactions with the public sector such as paying for fines, taxes or licences online, have increased steadily since 2007. However, this has levelled out in the last two surveys, and we are seeing some behaviours perhaps reaching near saturation point in 2015.

Although rules on young people's Internet use such as having a website filter have diminished, restrictions on the amount of time that under-18s spend online and advice about not giving out personal information persist.

Shifting digital divides - All five waves of the survey indicate that certain groups are more engaged with the Internet, having a higher percentage of Internet users and generally using the Internet more widely and more frequently. These groups include those who are younger, more urban, have a higher household income, and are New Zealand European or Asian.

There has also been a notable increase in the confidence levels of Internet users aged 65 years and older, with those rating themselves as 'good' on the Internet up from 25% in 2007 to 60% in 2015.

Many - but not all - of the digital divides that exist on various demographic dimensions have decreased somewhat between 2007 and 2015. There are no significant gender differences in terms of overall access to the Internet, however there are differing preferences which have continued in 2015, such as men watching videos online more frequently, and more women than men being involved in playing games online daily.

However, divides within groups relating to household income, area and ethnicity still exist, indicating the difficulty in establishing a level playing field for all Internet users.

The risk of people 'missing out' because they lack access and accessibility to the Internet for a variety of reasons is still of concern, particularly for basic activities such as banking, finding information or communicating with others.

The World Internet Project in New Zealand surveys are part of an international collaborative project surveying people in up to 40 countries. A comparative approach helps to understand where New Zealand fits in the global arena when it comes to the impact of the Internet on people's lives.