NZ’s digital divide is alive and well, survey finds

InternetNZ has seized on the findings of a comprehensive, long-term study of Internet usage in New Zealand to call for more to be done to close the country’s digital divide.

InternetNZ has seized on the findings of a comprehensive, long-term study of Internet usage in New Zealand to call for more to be done to close the country’s digital divide.

InternetNZ CEO, Jordan Carter said the study — which has tracked Internet usage since 2007 — “Highlights positive steps but also indicates areas that we still need to improve in order to get more people online. … We are still concerned about the digital divides relating to household income, location and ethnicity groups."

The report, Internet Trends in New Zealand 2007-2015, was prepared by Auckland University of Technology’s AUT Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication (ICDC). It compares findings from the five World Internet Project New Zealand surveys, which were compiled from more than 7000 questionnaires.

According to ICDC, “[The study] tracks key trends in how our online behaviour has altered over the past eight years, across all major social groupings, and reveals how our daily communication, consumer interactions and sources of news and information have changed; in some cases, dramatically.”

The study found many - but not all - of the digital divides that exist on various demographic dimensions have decreased somewhat between 2007 and 2015. “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,” ICDC said.

“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 executive director of the project, AUT senior lecturer Dr Philippa Smith, said: “A noticeable divide still remains in comparing the highest and lowest household income groups with 31 percent fewer people in low income households using the internet than high income houses.”

According to InternetNZ, “The report paints obvious gaps where people of low income, of Pasifika ethnicity or those living in rural areas, are not using the Internet.”

Carter said: “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.”

He said InternetNZ was working to gain more precise information on the digital divide. “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."

InternetNZ helped to fund the study and Jordan said the statistics produced were very valuable. "From the reports we can determine where we sit on the world stage and also monitor New Zealand Internet stats over time.”

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