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Census 2018 and digital inclusion

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 24 September 2019, 9:25 am

Census results on access to telecommunication services are a mixed bag, according to the 2020 Trust, which has provided an initial analysis following the release of Census data this week.

"The good news is that the number of digitally connected households has increased by 185,000, and 1.3 million now have an internet connection," writes 2020 Trust Executive Director Laurence Millar.

"Enthusiasm needs to be tempered by two other changes since 2013 - an increase of 55,000 households, and an increase of 49,000 responses where the response on internet connectivity was 'unidentifiable and not stated'".

Here is a screenshot of the data from Stats NZ

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 8.55.13 AM.png

Millar notes that "unidentifiable and not stated" category has been relatively stable in previous years, but that "the increase in Census 2018 may be related to the high rate of non-participation arising from the introduction of the digital first census."

Of course that is one of the cruel ironies of Census 2018 - it was run as a digital-first census, despite the fact that a large number of New Zealand households don't have access to internet services. This, and other issues with the digital-first approach, has meant that much of the data provided, has come with caveats, including the information produced under the heading 'telecommunication systems'. This is rated as of moderate quality, which means that some of the non-response rates in some regions are higher than previous years. Stats NZ points out that overall trends show expected patterns but that there are a couple of caveats.

"While there has been a decrease in the 'access to telephone' category as expected due to real-world change, the decrease is slightly lower than what was expected," notes on the data read.

"There has been a larger than expected decrease in the 'no access to telecommunications' category. This is likely to have been affected by the lower overall response to the census."

The first of two independent reports on the quality of Census 2018 data was released with the data. The report explains the mitigation process undertaken by Stats NZ after it was discovered that one in six New Zealanders didn't complete the questionnaire. This involved extensive use of alternative Government datasets to fill in the gaps.

You can read the full report here



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