The WIP study is based on surveys of around 1250 New Zealanders and undertaken every two years, gives one of the best snapshots available of how Kiwis use the internet.
The third and latest study was released in December and reveals a country more connected to and to some extent reliant on the internet than ever before.
“86 per cent of New Zealanders are using the internet in some way and those that aren’t are of the older generation,” says Gibson, who was involved in the 2007 study and returned to AUT last year to coordinate the research on an ongoing basis.
“Internet use really is becoming just a part of routine life.”
He says the latest survey marks a sort of watershed moment for mainstream acceptance of the net. Over the last couple of years, we’ve really taken to buying online, started relying on the web to hunt down information and got to grips with new gadgets to the extent that 27 per cent of us now carry an internet-enabled smart phone around with us.
How we are using computers in the home is also changing – driven by the proliferation of laptops, tablets and smart phones and wireless networks which allow multiple devices to connect to the internet from around the house. Computer use is coming out of the study and the bedroom and into the lounge and kitchen.
“When people were actually plugged into dial-up connections they were literally fixed and it was more clumsy to have it in the lounge,” says Gibson
“Once you are roaming free on a laptop you can go wherever you want and maybe its more comfortable to be sitting on your couch.”
And what are we doing on the web? Searching for info, surfing news websites and even looking up words are the most common activities. The web as information-gathering tool trumps other forms of media, such as television, radio and newspapers.
The majority of us consider information gleaned from the internet to be reliable. Gibson and his colleagues aren’t able to tell if that is because, Wikipedia articles for instance, are more accurate and less prone to bias than they used to be.
“It may be that people are getting more savvy about how to search for information and how to gauge the reliability of information,” he suggests.
With growing confidence comes trust, and 72 per cent of us have now entered our financial details in order to buy something online. Nearly half of us have also gone online to sell something – presumably on Trade Me or its international equivalent eBay.
The influence of Zuckerberg and Facebook looms large. Of the 64 per cent of survey respondents who used social networks, 96 per cent were Facebook users.
“Last time, a quarter of people were using Myspace, Bebo and other services,” says Gibson.
“Its incredible. It’s pretty much a monopoly when you get to that stage.”
If Facebook is the main conduit of our social lives online, another web giant, Google, dominates our lives when we search for information. Of those who use search engines, 96 per cent use Google most frequently.
Surprisingly perhaps, given the popularity of Youtube clips that go viral and the local TV networks pushing their catch-up TV services, the web isn’t seen by New Zealanders as a particularly valuable form of entertainment.
Behind that may lie the fact that we don’t have as compelling options for online video and music services as are enjoyed in the US, Europe and Asia, where the likes of Netflix, Spotify, Hulu and BBC’s iPlayer attract millions of users.
Gibson says AUT researchers will increasingly use the WIP study results to undertake sociological research into how this increasingly entrenched net use is changing us.
“We know how people are using the internet and even where. The bit we have to guess at is the why. But its a reasonable guess that people are using the internet more because it is so convenient.”
Highlights of the 2011 New Zealand World Internet Project
- Use of the Internet in New Zealand has continued to rise reaching 86 per cent in 2011, up from 79 per cent in 2007 and 83 per cent in 2009
- 69% of respondents rated the Internet as an important source of information ahead of television, newspapers, radio and other people.
- 58% of New Zealanders feel the Internet is important or very important in their everyday lives
- 40% of Internet users look up the definition of a word every week
- 59% surf the web daily
- Māori, Pasifika and Asian ethnicities are more likely to ‘make friends’ online than NZ Europeans
- 64 % of Internet users say they belong to a Social Networking Site (SNS)
- More females (68% of those that use the Internet) use Social Networking Sites than males (59%)
- SNS membership is highly stratified by age, attracting 87% of under-30s but only 34% of over-60s
- Of those with a SNS membership, 96% say Facebook is the site they use the most
- 72% of Internet users buy things online
- Almost half (48%) say they use the Internet to sell things
- 58% of Internet users log onto their Internet banking accounts at least once a week