Broadband use grows; mobile internet still to take off

Internet use in New Zealand is still rising, as is the percentage of people using broadband (defined as a non-dialup connection), according to the second World Internet Project survey, conducted last year.

The survey shows 83 percent of New Zealanders are now internet users, compared with 78 percent when the first survey was done, in 2007. The non-users include about 6 percent who formerly used the internet but no longer do; unfortunately, they were not asked why they stopped use. Among reasons for non-use in general, "no interest" or "not useful" is the most frequent, at 40 percent of non-users.

Of those who use the internet at home, 83 percent now have a broadband connection, as against 66 percent in 2007.

Unsurprisingly, this percentage is higher among those reporting high household incomes. However, there is an anomalous rise in broadband use at the bottom of the income range Among households earning less than $25,000 a year, more than 80 percent are broadband users, compared with less than 70 percent in the next income band ($25,000 to $39,000).

Mobile internet use clearly has yet to spark real enthusiasm, with 6 percent of those surveyed reporting any such use at all, typically between one and four hours a week.

Use of social networking through sites such as Facebook and Bebo has almost doubled between 2007 and 2009 (from 28 percent to 50 percent), but most users continue to report that this is not at the expense of other forms of contact with people. Only in face-to-face contact with family and overall contact with the local community do a significant number of people sense a decrease in connection since they began internet use.

Asked to name their preferred sources of factual information, internet users confirmed the fears of conventional media. About 65 percent of all respondents in the survey rate the internet as an important source, as against 50 percent who rate newspapers highly and slightly above 50 percent television.

Television, however, still dominates as a source of entertainment, with 56 percent saying it is important to them. Only 35 percent rate the internet important as an entertainment source.

The New Zealand leg of the WIP study was co-ordinated by the Institute of Culture, Discourse & Communication AUT University. A comparison of 2009 internet-use data with that in other WIP-participating countries is planned.

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