The internet: more use, more mobile, less secret

17 Nov, 2010
Professor Allan Bell, Director of AUT's Institute for Culture, Discourse & Communication
The internet is moving out from behind closed doors in homes to communal places like lounges and kitchens the latest World Internet Project figures report.

The internet in the open

The second bi-annual survey of more than 1200 New Zealanders shows the internet is increasingly moving into open spaces in the house. The percentage of people who use the internet mainly in living areas (including lounge, kitchen, dining room) rose from 33 per cent in 2007 to 45 per cent in 2009.

The report which compares data collected in 2007 and the most recent data collected in late 2009 investigates New Zealanders’ usage of and attitudes towards the internet.

“The increasing shift of Internet use out of the back rooms and into the household living space makes for a whole new dynamic surrounding the net,” says the Director of AUT’s Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication, Professor Allan Bell.

“It puts the Internet right at hand, so people can check a fact or book an event on their laptops without stirring.”

Usage of internet increases

“We’re also using the internet more and more and for different reasons now,” Professor Bell says.

Wireless internet access for more than one hour per week has almost doubled from 25 per cent in 2007 to 46 per cent in 2009. And wireless internet access for 20 hours or more per week has tripled from 4 per cent to 12 per cent. And more of us are using the internet from a mobile device. While a relatively small percentage of people are using mobile devices overall, the proportion has still more than doubled since 2007.

What we're using it for

In 2009 more people rated the internet as an important source of information than in 2007 however fewer people rated the internet as an important source of entertainment.

“We’re intrigued and frankly surprised with the downwards shift in people’s rating of the Internet for entertainment, but the increase in its information importance is no surprise,” Bell says.

What we're not using it for

The only activity which showed a significant decrease in frequency of use across the whole survey was participation in chat rooms decreasing from 17 per cent to 14 per cent. This was driven almost entirely by a large drop in the 20-29 age group.

“What might be happening here is the flight of younger people out of a particular internet form once more older people start to join in – basically it becomes uncool for young people once older people start using these things,” Allan Bell says.

New Zealand Internet trend highlights from 2007 vs 2009 surveys

*    Usage has increased for all ethnicities. The greatest increases were for Maori and Pasifika peoples although they still remain the lowest using groups. Maori users rose by 8 per cent and Pasifika users increased by 13 per cent. Asians remain the biggest user group and significantly so
*    Although the digital divide is lessening in terms of ethnicity the same can’t be said for the proportion of internet users according to household income. It appears the more you earn the more you use
*    Rural and smaller towns are also getting better connected. The proportion of those in minor towns with broadband access at home showed a significant increase from 51 per cent in 2007 to 79 per cent in 2009. Broadband use also rose steeply in rural areas from 45 per cent to 67 per cent
*    The greatest increases in broadband connectivity are for older users, particularly those 70 and above rising from 41 per cent in 2007 to 65 per cent in 2009
*    Telecom still continues to be the ISP of choice for most internet users in both surveys. Although Telstraclear and Vodafone have increased their market share from 10 to 16 per cent and 6 to 9 per cent respectively, it seems the shift has been more from other providers than from Telecom
*    Relatively few users access the internet from a mobile device but even so this has increased from 7 per cent to 18 per cent. The change is most marked for those with a household income over $100,000. Significant growth in mobile access was found for all age groups under 60. The greatest growth was for those aged 20-29
*    Checking email is one of the most frequent online activities. People who check their email once or more each day  increased from 77 per cent to 82 per cent


New Zealand is one of 30 countries involved in the World Internet Project – a longitudinal study that enables comparisons of Internet use across countries. AUT University, with support from the National Library of New Zealand and from InternetNZ, conducted its first survey in 2007, with the most recent data deriving from interviews in 2009.

This report focuses on those changes that were statistically significant between the two surveys and which indicate possible longer term trends.

World Internet Project full report

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