Internet study: Kiwis left on wrong side of 'digital divide'

By Heather McCracken

File photo / THinkstock
File photo / THinkstock

A new report on internet use in New Zealand has revealed those who are left on the wrong side of the 'digital divide'.

Poor, elderly, Maori and Pacific people and those in small towns have less access to the internet, and make less use of core services offered online.

The World internet Project survey, released today, shows 92 per cent of Kiwis use the internet, while 5 per cent never have, and 3 per cent have in the past, but no longer do.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

The report said income had a clear impact on internet access, with those earning below $35,000 least likely to be online.

This was most pronounced among those aged over 65, with 39 per cent of low-income elderly having no internet access.

Lead researcher, AUT's Professor Allan Bell, said the report showed how those groups were being left behind.

"The biggest structuring of the internet is by age, but what you see is when you combine certain age groups with certain income brackets, you get smaller subgroups, which are in fact not necessarily small in numbers, who may be disadvantaged, in particular older people with a low income."

Maori and Pacific people were also less likely to have internet access than New Zealand Europeans or Asians - although Maori and Pacific people had a higher uptake of music-streaming services such as Spotify.

Small-town residents had lower internet use than those in cities, and slightly lower use than rural dwellers.

The report showed those groups were also less likely to access more advanced services on the internet, such as paying taxes or bills, and downloading apps.

Mr Bell said the survey helped identify problem areas where the Government could direct help for disadvantaged groups.

"It's clear from our launch today that there are sectors of the Government that are very concerned about that," he said.

Other findings included New Zealanders' high adoption of internet banking, with 77 per cent banking online every week.

Laptops remain the most common internet device, used by 79 per cent of respondents, followed by desktop computers (74 per cent).

But 68 per cent are also accessing the internet through mobile phones, 48 per cent through tablets, 15 per cent game consoles and 20 per cent through smart TVs.

Internal Affairs' deputy chief executive Sue Powell says the research supports initiative such as the department's digitisation programme which increases digital content available for New Zealanders, and free internet access and content for public libraries.

"It has also informed our support to New Zealanders who are digitally disadvantaged," she said.

"The report shows the 'digital divide' exists - particularly for Maori, Pasifika, those in rural areas, and those on lower household incomes.

"It shows it has a significant impact on people and their ability to participate in society."

Surveys are held in more than 30 countries as part of the World internet Project, an international collaborative project looking at the social, political and economic impact of the internet.

Surveys were held in 2007, 2009 and 2011, but due to major changes a comparison with previous years was not provided.

The report surveyed 2006 people through telephone and internet surveys between July and September 2013. Margin of error varies from plus or minus 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

***

Key Findings

- 92 per cent of New Zealanders currently use the internet

- 5 per cent have never used it

- The internet ranks higher than television, radio or newspapers as an important source of information

- Four out of five users spend more than an hour online at home each day; one in three spend more than three hours online

- 94 per cent look for information about products online and 85 per cent compare prices

- 64 per cent make phone calls online

- Facebook is the most popular social networking site and is used more by women than men

- Telecom/Xtra is the largest internet service provider, with 44 per cent of the market

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 30 Jul 2014 06:21:50 Processing Time: 645ms