Thu 23 Apr 2015 11:24PM

Access to telecommunications

SD Sophie Davies Public Seen by 357

Forms of telecommunications and how they are used have changed greatly over the last decade. These trends are expected to continue, so it is important that census data collected in this area remains relevant for the future, while retaining comparability.

Data on household access to a telephone is still important to collect. Although internet access has become more prevalent, in many households a telephone is still the only form of telecommunication available.

Whether information on fax access should continue to be collected in the census is questionable, as faxes are becoming obsolete due to widespread use of the internet.

We considered for the 2006 Census whether it was more appropriate to gather information on access to cell phones at an individual level. The report on this issue concluded that the question on the dwelling form currently met most users’ needs. To gather useful data on usage of specific devices would require a series of detailed questions not suited for inclusion in the census.

Our current recommendations relating to access to telecommunication systems

  • We recommend that access to telecommunication systems be included in the 2018 Census, but that information on fax access no longer be collected.

  • We recommend that access to telecommunication systems continues to be collected on the dwelling form.

See our preliminary view of 2018 Census content (pages 54-55) for a more detailed discussion on access to telecommunications information.

See 2013 Census information by variable for information on the access to telecommunications variable.


John Russell Thu 30 Apr 2015 10:43AM

The question asks 'which of these are available in this dwelling' and lists some things including 'Internet access'. Many people access the internet via phones and tablets (portable devices not 'tied' to a specific dwelling) and it is not clear whether these should be included.

Also, what about the government Ultra-Fast Broadband roll-out?Would it not be useful to know the impact of this on how people access services? Just as once it was useful to know how many households had access to a fax, now it could be useful to know how far access to services requiring high-speed/high-bandwidth broadband (e.g. media services like Lightbox and Netflix) have reached into the population.


Keely Thu 30 Apr 2015 9:08PM

Hi @johnrussell, thanks for kicking off the discussion!

My colleague @sandrageng and I are from Statistics NZ and will be facilitating the telecommunications discussion.

You bring up some great points. Keen to hear others' views on how the mobility of devices affects the interpretation of Internet access in the home.

Access to services on the Internet is also an important topic. Is Census the right place to collect this type of information?


Roy McFarlane Thu 30 Apr 2015 9:15PM

People need cell phone access at their house. It appears that many , many people do not have a reasonable, reliable or any access to mobile phone service at their house and in some cases in their area. Many people do not use home wired telephones any more as the cost of mobile and home line is to expensive. So I guess the question needs to be around the quality of mobile reception at their house and area.


Derek Robson Fri 1 May 2015 1:31AM

people communicate with service more then just telephone.

can we have questions around services such as email and skype, sms, social media.


Sandra (Facilitator) Fri 1 May 2015 1:43AM

Hi@Roy McFarlane, Thank you for sharing your comments about cellphone access at home and suggestion about census question regarding on the quality of mobile access at home.
We are welcoming and happy to hear and share all ideas and comments about whether census data should or should not collect the data in this area remains relevant for the future, while retaining comparability.


Matthew Beveridge Sat 2 May 2015 9:56AM

I think questions around Social Media and other app use would be extremely useful. How that is structured would be a difficult question to answer. But the census presents an amazing opportunity to start tracking social media use. It could help influence how government agencies use it to reach out to and engage with people in New Zealand.


Sandra (Facilitator) Sun 3 May 2015 11:33PM

@Matthew Beveridge, thanks for your great comments about Social Media will be the useful information for government agencies used for policy making and engage with New Zealanders. You also mention that “How that is structures would be a difficult question to answer.” As it is great time for open discussion, if you have any suggestion or ideas on how to structure the telecommunication question in census that is very welcoming. Thanks again.


Matthew Beveridge Mon 4 May 2015 6:43AM

There is a difference between what I would love to see as someone studying the use of social media, and what I know is a practical/useful to others approach.

I would love to see:
Please indicate which social media platforms you have access to: (list a large range of them)

Please indicate the platform you use most often, and how frequently you use it:

Please indicate the platform you use least often, and how frequently you use it:


Laydan Mortensen Mon 4 May 2015 7:23AM

If a person has access to the internet, it is implied they would have access to social media platforms - whether they use them is another question altogether.

Expanding the internet category to specify what type of internet a dwelling has may be helpful. Those with slow connection speed (e.g. dial-up and satellite) are as likely to be digitally disadvantaged as those with no internet.


[deactivated account] Mon 4 May 2015 8:30PM

I don't think I have received - or sent - a fax for about 10 years now, so the question about fax will probably be facing its demise. It's like asking someone if they ride a penny farthing... But asking how they access the Internet (tick all the options that apply to you) is probably valid. Cellphone, tablet, computer, but also wifi, 3G, fixed line ?


[deactivated account] Mon 4 May 2015 8:37PM

Although in all reality, given the speed that comms advances are moving, A) there will be myriad new ways to connect in coming years, and B) people will become less aware of the means, all they will know is that they are connected. Trying to capture this fast moving topic is tricky. Long term trend though, is plain to see - likely no fixed lines at all soon.


Keely Mon 4 May 2015 11:16PM

It looks like there are some key but different areas people are interested in: access to telecommunications, use of telecommunications and quality of telecommunications.

Just a reminder that we have the annual Internet Service Provider survey which looks at the infrastructure of Internet connections: types of connections, speed, data caps etc.

In the past Internet usage information such as social media use, use of government websites, e-education etc has been collected from the Household Use of ICT survey It has not yet been confirmed when the next release of this survey will be but it's great to see there is a strong desire for this information.


Keely Thu 7 May 2015 11:21PM

Just a note is to advise our customers that Household Use of ICT data will not be published in April 2016, as previously indicated.

Household Use of ICT data has been collected every three years as a supplement via the Household Labour Force Survey. We are currently exploring alternative collection options and data sources for future Household ICT data publications.

If you have any questions, please contact Jason at jason.mackiewicz@stats.govt.nz


Paul Minett Sat 16 May 2015 11:57PM

I think the proposal at the moment is way 'underdone' for the importance that evolving telecommunications is likely to hold for the future. This is a huge topic, the importance of which goes way beyond whether a dwelling has a phone, or even a link to the internet. While it might be useful to have dwelling information for some purposes, I think the census should also look into this topic at an individual level. As a small example for policy implications: how much is funding of libraries impacted as people access books via mobile devices? I use libraries as an example because they are clearly 'location relevant', and the census-level quality of data becomes important, in a way that surveys do not provide sufficiently reliable granularity. I think there are lots of other ways in which data about uptake and use of personal location-aware mobile telecommunications devices will impact on service provision and related policy.
As an example, I have started a discussion on 'Mobile Phones and Mobility' on the transportation thread.


Paul Minett Mon 18 May 2015 10:10AM

For some reason the discussion item about 'Mobile Phones and Mobility' has been moved to the 'other' topic area, in case you were inspired to go looking for it.


John Russell Tue 19 May 2015 4:58AM

As has been noted, the question on the census form focuses on technology infrastructure that is available at a dwelling, rather than if or how it is used.
I would prefer to see a question, such as: "Has anyone in your household used a government service on-line (eg. pay car rego)?

That covers whether they can access the internet, and perhaps more importantly whether they are using it to interact with government services.


Keely Tue 19 May 2015 9:14PM

Mobility of Internet access and use of Internet services seem to be the key areas of interest so far when it comes to telecommunications.

Internet access has become a lot more personalised hence the desire for a more individualised approach when it comes to gathering this information.

The breadth of information when it comes to use of the Internet is vast which is why in the past we've dedicated a whole survey to it (Household Use of ICT).

Currently the Census focuses on access - if access to mobile Internet was included at an individual level, do you think it would be implied that they also have access to the myriad of services available?


Chris Bullen Wed 27 May 2015 4:40AM

My group of health researchers at the National Institute for Health Innovation thinks a question about fax access should now be retired. We would like to have representative national, regional and more local information on internet access
eg. questions such as:
- Can people connect to the internet?
if yes, how do they connect to the internet? Do they have access to smart devices that are connected to the internet?


John Russell Thu 28 May 2015 12:07AM

@keelyatstats Perhaps the individual level could focus on what on-line services (govt) the individual has used. Then the dwelling question could address the infrastructure (access methods such as UFB, mobile etc)?
Pushing these questions into a lesser-known and optional survey rather than putting them in the census suggests StatsNZ underestimate their significance to how people live and work.


Keely Sun 7 Jun 2015 11:25PM

Thanks for the feedback @chrisbullen and @johnrussell! So it sounds like how people connect to the Internet as well as what services people are using on the Internet are of interest.

What would this look like on the Census form? Access and type of Internet at the household level (eg. dial-up, DSL, fibre) then devices and services used at an individual level (tick all that apply)?

Do we need to know what devices people are using or just whether they're mobile or not?

Sounds like people are keen to see some individual level questions for access to telecommunications.


Derek Phyn Tue 9 Jun 2015 2:46AM

Hi Keely,

Access to telecommunications is a crucial bit of information for Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) in terms of knowing our public alerting reach. Having this variable only being recorded at the household level means we have to make some pretty crude assumptions about what proportion of the population actually has access to the various telecommunication types, and then only if they are in their usual dwelling. I would argue, given the proliferation of smartphones, that it is more important to know what proportion of individuals, at any location, normally have access to telecommunications as opposed to the proportion of households at only one fixed location.

Knowing the proportion of usually resident individuals that usually have access to mobile phones versus smartphones would certainly help CDEM in planning the implementation of public alerting systems.



Chris Bullen Tue 9 Jun 2015 11:04AM

Yes it would be very helpful to know devices used to access the internet



Digby (2018 Census content) Tue 16 Jun 2015 1:14AM

Some feedback that came out of the recent face-to-face workshops was on the need to capture information on access to fast broadband, especially in rural areas due its impacts on rural business capability.

Given the recent extension and additional funding put towards the government's Rural Broadband Initiative, we are interested in customer information needs in this area. Especially as the census is likely the only survey that could meet the geographic detail required for this information.

some broad questions:
- what would the distinction (where business capability is significantly limited) between 'normal' internet access and fast/ultra-fast be?
- will this distinction still be important by the time of 2018 census outputs?