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Census reveals regional digital divide


4 December 2013

Census reveals regional digital divide

Opotiki District remains the most digitally disconnected area in New Zealand with only 50% of households having access to the internet, according to the Census 2013 data released yesterday.

“In 2006, only 36% of Opotiki households had access to the internet, so the latest information shows a positive trend,” said Laurence Millar, Chair of the 2020 Communications Trust. “But this contrasts with the Upper Harbour Local Board area of Auckland, which retains the top spot as the most digitally connected community; 87% of all households have access to the internet.”

The new Census data reveals a total of 421,152 households throughout New Zealand do not have access to the internet. Even though the percentage of households with access to the internet has increased from 58% to 73% since the 2006 Census, this does throw a new light on recent reports that have suggested New Zealand is reaching a saturation point in terms of internet usage.

“It is hard to conclude that we are anywhere near saturation, when nearly one third of all households have no access” said Mr Millar. “We are particularly concerned about families with school-aged children; the Household ICT survey in 2012 revealed a total of 69,000 households with over 200,000 school-aged children without access to the internet. We know that surveys that rely on samples and are often only conducted over the telephone seriously under-state the true extent of the digital divide.”

The 2020 Trust has commissioned Statistics New Zealand to undertake further analysis of the Census data to get an accurate count of the number and regional distribution of households with school-aged children who do not have access to the internet.

“It is critically important that every school-aged child has access to the internet in their homes. Educators are increasingly pointing to the opportunity for 24/7 learning as a cornerstone of 21st Century learning, but this is only possible with ubiquitous and affordable internet access,” said Mr Millar.

“With support from government and business partners, the 2020 Trust has provided training for over 10,000 families in low income communities and helped connect them to the internet. But the latest Census statistics suggest we still have a long way to go,” concluded Mr Millar.

The 2020 Communications Trust was established in 1996 by the Wellington City Council to promote a more digitally connected and digitally literate community. In the year 2000, the Trust expanded to cover digitally disadvantaged communities throughout New Zealand and currently has digital literacy programmes including Computers in Homes, Stepping Up and KiwiSkills operating in 20 communities from Kaitaia in the Far North to Southland.


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