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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. There is also a digital divide.

Growth

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 worry about privacy. Four years ago the same survey found it bothered just half the population. As Seccombe says, while businesses wanting to move customers online may see this as a barrier, the wariness indicates 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.

NZ digital divide

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. The 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.

In part this comes down to New Zealand being poorer than Australia. We also have considerably less equal wealth distribution. That means a sizeable number of New Zealanders are left behind.