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Online interaction with government grows

An increasing number of New Zealanders are accessing government service online, according to a World Internet Project survey

An increasing number of New Zealanders are using central and local government services online, according to a new analysis of specifically government-oriented data from last year's World Internet Project survey. However, use varies widely across the population, with some unusual patterns.

Asked in general terms whether they had used the internet to get access to information on public services in the broadest sense, 57 percent replied yes -- an increase on the 46 percent who replied positively when the survey was first done in 2007, say researchers from the Auckland University of Technology who did the latest analysis.

However, Pasifika respondents were "dramatically less likely" to have done this than the other ethnic groups identified, at only 28 percent.

People in higher-income households, those in larger cities and those with broadband connections are all more likely to look for information on public services, the survey found. The difference in broadband users (62 percent positive responses, as against 37 percent of users on dial-up connections) was particularly marked, the survey report says - "the slowness of a dial-up connection is clearly a major disincentive."

When the survey moved into more interactive forms of government engagement, asking "have you used the internet in the past year to use government or council services that are delivered online, such as ordering a tax form or a Study Link form?" the numbers dropped. Only 48 percent replied yes. A high proportion of Asian respondents reported using such services (62 percent), the survey report says. "The urban-rural gap is large -- 53 percent of those in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch versus 38 percent of those in rural areas. The gap between those with broadband and those with dial-up is also large, with almost twice as many broadband users (52 percent) using online services than those with dial-up (27 percent)."

Moving further up the scale of engagement, the survey asked whether they had logged into a secure website in the past year, perhaps to fill in their tax return online at the Inland Revenue website, for example. Almost one in three internet users in New Zealand have done this (31 percent). However, unexpectedly, "NZ European respondents were the ethnic group least likely to have logged in to a government or council website (28 percent), below the levels reported by Pasifika (30 percent), Asian (38 percent) or Maori (39 percent) users," the survey reports. "This could be due to the different age profiles of the samples for each ethnicity," the researchers suggest, though the samples were tuned to reflect the distribution of ethnicities in the NZ population at large.

Making payment online, for example, for licences, tax or fines, is an activity that has "blossomed dramatically" since the first survey, in 2007, the analysis shows. "In 2007, 21 percent of internet users made at least some of these sorts of payments online. This proportion has grown to 38 percent in 2011." People with higher incomes more commonly pay online. The low proportion of Pasifika people doing so again shows up.

Just under one third of NZ internet users (30 percent) have provided some kind of information to a government or council body online.

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