Category Archives: Digital inclusion

Who’s online? Latest figures for NZ

To abbreviate things a bit, the 2010 New Zealand World Internet Project (WIP) report shows that more New Zealanders are online, for longer and at faster speeds.

These trends led the researchers to conclude the ‘digital divide’ is disappearing in New Zealand, with differences in who uses the Internet shrinking by the year. The notion of “Digital Differentiation” is put forward instead – it’s not just a matter of being connected or not, but how much people use the Internet and what for.

While the number of people who can access the internet is growing, a wide gulf separates those who rated their ability to use the Internet at a high level and those with low ability. This gulf maps onto a high versus low income divide. It’s a reminder the ‘digital divide’ is as much about confidence and content, as it is connectivity.

The rise and rise of participation in social networking websites is also evident. Facebook is the dominant platform for those over 20 years old, and with an increasing proportion of older age groups belonging to social networks (as high as 44% of all users in the 40s use social networks).

Other key findings include:

  • The number of Internet users rose from 79% in 2007 to 83% in 2009.
  • Broadband usage jumped to 82% compared with 67% in 2007. Conversely, dial-up access decreased.
  • The proportion of people accessing the Internet via mobile phones more than doubled from 7% in 2007 to 18% in 2009.
  • Nearly half of all users are members of social networking sites and three quarters of these report that Facebook is the site they use most often.

AUT ran the first WIP survey of internet usage in 2007 and with the second round of surveying conducted late last year.  About half of the questions are shared with surveys conducted in other countries. The next international comparative report will be released in early 2011.

Also released this month is the second Survey of Community and Voluntary Organisations’ Use of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) report. Run by the Waikato Management School, findings from a survey of 757 community groups conducted in November 2008. It follows an earlier survey conducted in 2005.

Broadly speaking groups are using the internet more, with a faster connection and feeling more confident doing so. The area of highest and growing need is assistance with website enhancement: 61.1% overall said they would find this helpful in 2008 compared with 53% overall in 2005. There has been a slight drop in access to high or very high levels of technical support available.

Next month Statistics New Zealand household ICT usage statistics will be released. The results are from a sample of approximately 16,000 households, compared with the 1,250 people surveyed through the WIP research. Figures will update those released in 2006.

Where’s the strategy in the Digital Strategy 2.0?

I’ve just looked at the Digital Strategy website and I’m wondering if I’ve missed something. After all the online and off talk, and policy deliberations over the last 8-10 months, I can’t seem to find the strategy in DS 2.0 released on 28 August 2008.

Strategy as in….

  • an elaborate and systematic plan of action
  • a player’s strategy, in a game or a business situation, is a complete plan of action for whatever situation might arise (game theory)
  • a broad non-specific statement of an approach to accomplishing desired goals and objectives
  • a planned, deliberate procedure goal-oriented (has an identifiable outcome) achieved with a sequence of steps subject to monitoring and modification.

(For fuller definitions search in Google for “define: strategy”).

The goals are lofty and aspirational – hmm, arguably? But as far as broad or elaborate? I’m not so sure.

The actions and sequence of activities seem, well, sparse. Or even truncated. And there’s a tendency to rely almost entirely on government interventions.

Community and voluntary organisations might be able to apply to a (small) pool of grant funding, but the role they play in communities is not acknowledged otherwise. Unless I missed references to this.

And I can’t see any steps that will enable those on low incomes to access 20 Mbps broadband, though it’s wonderful that we’ll have super fast Next Generation Networks. Unless I missed references to this too.

One of the members of the disbanded Digital Strategy Advisory group, and former Waitakere e-democracy activist, Andy Williamson is forthright on his views about updated strategy. Speaking to him in late June from London, where he works as the Director of the Hansard Society’s e-democracy unit, Andy said:

We’ve failed miserably with the digital strategy. I think the digital strategy 2.0 is an embarrasment to the bureuacracy because it has finally be captured by the Minstry of Economic Development.

When we worked on the first draft, after it came out we had all sorts of people feeding into it and getting listened to. We had a dynamic document that was really a whole of society solution.

What it’s turned into is what’s good for keeping Government happy and everybody else is secondary in it. I think it’s a major step back.

I’m hoping things are not as bleak as Andy suggests. I’m happy for someone to set me straight.

Exemplary community led web projects

I missed Jim Mora’s show today, but I wish I hadn’t. Paul Reynold was talking about “three online projects [he] thinks exemplify the best of community lead web projects”.

The projects he raved expounded on were:

  • One Laptop Per Child – Niue
  • Aotearoa People’s Network – free Internet and help in public libraries, plus open source community storytelling software
  • Kiva – micro lending.

The second wave of the People’s Network, which is bringing broadband to rural and provincial libraries, is underway. Fast and free internet is now available in many places, with libraries lined up. It’s proving really beneficial for young people who’ve lacked access before now.

You can read about what Paul said on his blog (“Three community projects with Jim Mora“), or listen to them for a limited time on Radio NZ website (streamed version of the interview and MP3 version).

NZers online and not – WIPNZ survey

At $50 for a hard copy I’ll be reading the results of the the World Internet Project survey of NZ internet use available freely on AUT’s website.

At a pre-release briefing for important people, the good people who paid for the survey and other hangers on (including the likes of me), we talked about the reliability of the data in the survey.

Yes, the survey sample was sizeable at 1,500 people and we were assured it is representative of the NZ population. However, as it was a phone survey the habits and views of those people without a landline are not reflected.

When you then muse on the fact that those on household incomes of under $25,000 have the lowest levels of reported internet access – something that I can’t find a reference to anywhere in the final report – I begin to wonder if a different data collection method would show an even lower level of access. We just don’t know.

The worrying persistence of a divide between information haves and have nots is probably more to do with a growing underclass in NZ than the price of internet connectivity. Regulating to increase competition won’t address basic structural inequality in society. I’m hoping the results might spur some debate along these lines.

In other data reported, it’s helpful to see how common the habit of checking Facebook is – 28% of New Zealanders who are online use some social networking sites. And apparently we’re top bloggers.

The WIP survey is a useful and up-to-date companion to the Statistics department’s Household ICT use survey from the last quarter of 2006.

There’ll be a second WIP survey next year, and then there’s the other 25 odd countries running the same survey. Plenty of numbers if that’s your thing.

Findings in a nutshell (as reported in the NZ Herald article “Kiwis top of international survey for blogging”):

Of the 78 per cent of New Zealanders who use the internet:
* 66 per cent have broadband.
* 77 per cent check their email every day.
* 28 per cent use social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
* 25 per cent have made a friend online, and half of those have gone on to meet an online friend in person.
* 13 per cent maintain their own website.
* 10 per cent have a blog.

.tangatawhenua, .hapu, .temea – coming our way

The recent decision to open anyone to create any internet domain name has been widely reported as starting a potential boom on the Internet.

The release of an unlimited number of domains, currently restricted to just 21 top level acronyms, (including .com, .net, etc), will allow for unrivaled personal expression. Every family of individual could register their own name. The decision is due to come into affect next year.

What has been little reported is the opportunity the new name structure allows indigenous people to assert their identity. The NZ Maori Internet Society is delighted at the outcome.

“It has been a long time coming we just hope that associated set up costs for Top Level Domain names will be affordable not only for Maori but for all Indigenous Peoples worldwide” said Ross Himona on the NZMIS website.

Karaitiana Taiuru, from Otautahi, a stalwart of NZMIS and a representative on the global body (called ICANN) that makes the rules on the internet naming conventions. He was due to the attend at the 26 June meeting in Paris that opened the floodgates, but regrettably missed the historic event.

He believes that there are perils in the decision, but it’s good news for Maori and other indigenous people.

“While conglomerates may see gTLDs [top level domains] as a branding exercise, cultural based groups around the world now have an opportunity to be represented on the Internet regardless of their countries majority rule or impacts of colonisation,” he wrote on his blog.

Concerns have been raised about the new system to perpetuate new scams by criminals and allow for profiteering. See the “Domain name shakeup may bring new net goldrush“.

There will be rules and hurdles in the registration process, but there seems to be lots of optimism this will recognise the rights of people to assert their identify. Non-roman characters will be able to be used for the first time.

Although I won’t be racing out to be the first to register .blyth, I’m glad there’ll soon be a choice.

Digital strategy 2.0 – online today

Facebook message about Digital Strategy 2.0 refreshThanks to Zara, plus a press release from David Cunnliffe, I’ve found out that government today started consulting on the second edition of the Digital Strategy.

55 people on the Digital Future Summit 2.0 facebook group received a short alert from Zara letting us know that we can have our say.

Using online tools has been a feature of the Digital Strategy refresh. Presentations at the Digital Summit held last November are online, as is the summit blog, and a room on/in secondlife. A Digital Summit summary is available .

Up until 12 May anyone can edit and discuss the draft document on a the Digital Strategy wiki.

I’m still digesting the wiki terms of use. There are lots of rules, including the need to login before making comments. Somewhat ominously MED staff reserve the right to intervene as appropriate.

I’m hoping to get beyond how to have a say, to thinking about the substance.