Nano Girl Michelle Dickinson: Kiwis become digital guinea pigs

We are one of the best countries for tech companies to try out and modify their new products in. Photo / Greg Bowker
We are one of the best countries for tech companies to try out and modify their new products in. Photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealand is becoming known as a digital guinea pig, the perfect location for software firms and app developers to quietly test and refine their products before releasing them to the world.

We are an ideal place for digital piloting, with the IDC ConsumerScape 360 report finding the average New Zealand consumer owns seven digital devices of which at least four are internet-capable "smart" devices.

It's not just our love of devices that makes us a great digital testing site; we also boast the world's fastest 4G speeds, thanks to Spark and Vodafone launching their LTE on two frequency bands. This high-speed network enables our smartphones to watch high-definition streaming videos which may explain how we doubled our adoption of paid for video streaming services like Netflix and Lightbox from 12 per cent to 24 per cent in just one year.

With our relatively small, predominantly English-speaking population and high digital engagement, we are one of the best countries for tech companies to try out and modify their new products in.

Last month we were one of the first three countries where the smartphone game Pokemon Go was released. Designed to encourage players to purchase virtual extras by spending real money, the game generated $366 million of revenue in the first five weeks and doubled Nintendo's stock price. Not only does this show the lucrative capabilities of the software world but also highlights the need to test and debug products first for a successful global release.

New Zealand also has one of the highest social-network adoption rates in the world, with 86 per cent of us accessing Facebook in the last 30 days, far ahead of the worldwide average of 75 per cent.

The IDC survey reported that 22 per cent of New Zealand Facebook users indicated they are "constantly" using the service, showing how a growing segment of us now see online as an intrinsic part of our lives rather than a tool we tap into when needed.

This is probably why Facebook is now trying out a new buy-and-sell feature called "marketplace" just on its Auckland users right now. We have been Facebook's testing ground for years and many features we see in New Zealand never actually make it to the global stage after failing on the Kiwi one. Facebook had tried to offer us a service where status updates could be promoted for a small fee, and a disappearing snapchat-like messaging system, both of which we rejected as a nation and both of which were dropped by Facebook.

All of this digital device usage obviously has the potential to create great opportunity for us in the global economy as we are seen as the place for new technology to grow; however when added up the figures might cause some of us to reflect on the extent of our device use.

The IDC report found the average New Zealand consumer spends six hours 42 minutes a day using a smart device such as a smartphone, tablet or computer and the Statistics New Zealand time-use survey data showed we also watch an average of two hours 8 minutes of television a day.

When added up that puts us Kiwis at over 61 digital hours per week.

To put this in context, a Science Advances journal article found New Zealanders sleep for 56 hours and 28 minutes a week. This makes us the nation that spends more time with our digital devices than we do sleeping.

How will that affect us in the long run? Maybe that's the next experiment for us guinea pigs.

- NZ Herald

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