Most NZ wealth not in digital universe, digital divide apparent

digital universe 2

Roy Morgan client services director Howard Seccombe

New Zealanders spent $5.4 billion online last financial year according to Roy Morgan Research’s Digital Universe report.

It’s a lot of money, but as Roy Morgan client services director Howard Seccombe points out; “The bulk of New Zealand’s net wealth is not yet in the digital universe”.

This is largely a matter of demographics, the cashed-up baby boomers who own property and other wealth still only dabble at the edges of digital technologies. That’s something that will change over time, but we’re not there yet.

Seccombe made other important, non-obvious observations about how the growth of the digital universe affects everyday life and business in New Zealand:

  • We’re getting more concerned about our privacy online. This year’s survey shows 61 percent of New Zealanders are worried about their privacy, this number is up 11 percent on the survey carried out four years ago. As Seccombe says while this may be seen as a barrier by businesses wanting to move customers online, the wariness is actually an indication people are more, not less, technically sophisticated.
  • Smartphones have seen spectacular growth. There are 1.4 million use, that’s a growth of 227 percent in four years.
  • We’re only scratching the surface on smartphone use. Right now 39 percent of New Zealanders have smartphones – that number is far lower than in Australia. However, Seccombe says another 397,000 users intend to upgrade in the next six months.
  • There’s more to smartphones than just having the internet in your pocket while on the move. The Roy Morgan numbers show smartphones amplify people’s digital behaviour. Smartphone owners are ten times as likely to shop online as non-smartphone owners, eight times as likely to bank online and nine times as likely to view video clips.
  • Roy Morgan notes a dramatic 20 percent decline in desktop ownership. This echoes the fall in traditional PC sales. Meanwhile tablets have grown 557 percent in the past four years.

There’s a wealth of other data in the report and comparisons between New Zealand and Australia:

  • New Zealanders shop online more than Australians.
  • We have fewer smartphone owners, but we do more with the devices than Australians.
  • New Zealanders spend more time with all forms of media than Australians, but that picture is confused by the number of dual screen users who, say, surf the web while watching TV.

One conclusion that can be taken from the comparisons is that New Zealand has a much greater digital divide than Australia. A greater number of New Zealanders have little or no access to digital services than their Australian counterparts.

While this partly comes down to New Zealand being poorer than Australia, we also have considerably less equal wealth distribution and that means a sizeable number of New Zealanders are increasingly left behind.

 

Subscriptions, not paywalls

Karen Fratti thinks publishers need to stop using the word ‘paywall’ to describe ways online sites charge readers. She prefers we talk about subscriptions.

Fratti writes:

 let’s stop talking about putting up walls to keep people out. The paywall has only led to griping from consumers who’ve reached their monthly article limit, and unique ways to get around them. We’re wordsmiths, we know words matter, and ‘paywall’ is another relic of the old media-new media debate. Knock it off.

I agree with Fratti on this, rightly or wrongly paywall makes me think of the watch towers and armed guard that patrolled central Berlin during the Cold War. The paywall is the new media’s equivalent of Cold War thinking.

Can’t We All Just Subscribe? Why ‘Paywalls’ Won’t Get Us Anywhere – 10,000 Words.

New Zealand shows Australia how to do FTTP

Auckland's first fibre

Steven Joyce installing Auckland’s first UFB cable – Albany – 24 August 2011

While Australia’s politicians continue to wrangle over that country’s FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) project, New Zealand’s is progressing nicely. However, New Zealand’s relatively low fibre uptake could yet inform Australia’s FTTP debate.

Figures releases yesterday by communications minister Amy Adams show that 134,000 homes and businesses are now able to connect to the  UFB (ultrafast broadband) network. Building is taking place in 24 of the 33 towns and cities that will eventually be on the government’s network.

Meanwhile 89,000 rural homes and businesses are able to connect to the Rural Broadband Initiative through fixed wireless connections and a further 36,000 rural users can now use fixed-line services.

To date only 3800 customers have signed for UFB fibre services. That’s a relatively low take-up rate – less that 3%.

The priority at this stage is to sign businesses, schools and medical facilities. Yet the fibre companies deliberately started their residential build in areas where they expected the highest uptake.

GIven that fibre isn’t any more expensive than existing copper-delivered broadband plans, this suggests there could be problems persuading consumers to switch to fibre.

There are two reasons why more haven’t moved. First, the big ISPs, who account for the overwhelming majority of the market, have yet to begin selling fibre services. That’s likely to happen  in the coming months – having more people on the UFB will give them more incentive to move into the fibre market.

Second, the government and the people boosting fibre have done a terrible job selling the advantages of the technology to everyday consumers. Instead of telling people fibre is fast and reliable, there’s been a focus on ridiculous and, to most people, irrelevant high-end applications. Telecom and Vodafone are likely to do a far better sales job than the government.

Dump Yahoo now

Telecom NZ temporarily cancelled 60,000 Yahoo Xtra email passwords at the weekend. The move follows ten days of spam messages swamping New Zealand in-boxes.

The biggest email outage New Zealand has seen.

Yahoo is the problem. Not just for the sloppy security which meant the Yahoo Mail site has a cross site scripting vulnerability.

That’s bad enough. But Yahoo lied about the fault. Then it hid the vulnerability’s seriousness both from partners like Telecom NZ and from end-users.

Yahoo repeated claimed to have fixed the problem. It hadn’t.

The company simply cannot be trusted. That leaves us with no alternative: dump everything Yahoo.

That means you and I should have nothing to do with Yahoo. It also means Telecom NZ needs to pull the plug. Telecom’s lawyers should already be pouring over any contracts. Telecom NZ needs a transition process for customers locked into to Yahoo Xtra mail accounts to disengage, the sooner that gets started the better.   

Does Telecom NZ even need Yahoo?

Telecom NZ’s Chris Quin says the company could walk away from its outsourcing deal which sees Yahoo look after mail accounts on the xtra.co.nz domain.

That’s a possible response to the security breach at Yahoo. The Internet company seems unable or unwilling to deal with the problem.

It is hard to see what value Yahoo gives Telecom NZ in 2013.

When Telecom NZ outsourced its mail service to Yahoo in 2007. It needed a way to manage the 800,000 or so Xtra mail accounts.

In those days ISP customers expected to get email accounts as part of their Internet services. Today’s ISPs sell data pipes with a little support and little else.

Many Xtra customers already have webmail accounts with services like Gmail and Outlook.com.

A YahooXtra account is almost unnecessary.

I say almost unnecessary because there are two reasons Telecom can’t immediately dump them altogether.

First, history – what technology people might call ‘legacy issues’. Some of my email still comes via Xtra even though it is routed through Gmail. Figuring out which contacts have my old address and getting them to update my details isn’t straightforward.

Second, webmail address are second class citizens online. Some services don’t allow customers to sign up with Gmail, Hotmail or Outlook.com addresses. Not every Telecom NZ customer wants to buy their own domain for a mail address, so keeping the Xtra domain as an option would be a good move.

Telecom NZ can walk customers through the process of setting up webmail accounts on alternative services – not a difficult job. And I’m sure Google and Microsoft would be only too happy to help sign up new business.