New Zealanders' use of the internet has long been amongst the highest in the world. How the internet is used is continually changing, but the medium has created a revolution in how people communicate. Although much of the country's internet traffic is to international sources, it is also served by a variety of local media.
The 2013 survey by the World Internet Project, which has its New Zealand base at AUT University, found that 92% of New Zealanders aged 16 and above used the internet and 73% considered that the internet was important in their everyday life. More than four of every five internet users surfed the web for at least an hour every day at home. Only 2% of internet users remained on dial-up connections.
Usage was partly a reflection of age. In 2011, 98% of young New Zealanders (aged 12 to 29) used the internet, while only 68% of New Zealanders over the age of 60 did so. Usage in 2013 was no longer strongly related to household income (except in the case of those using smartphones and tablets). Ethnicity and area of residence no longer have as strong a correlation with internet usage as they did when the surveys began in 2007. By 2013 usage in rural areas was close to the average and greater than in small towns. The spread of internet into schools and libraries also increased accessibility.
Māori and Pacific people showed the greatest increase in internet usage, with 86% of those groups being internet users in 2011, up from 70% in 2007. In 2009 two-thirds of Māori and Pacific respondents said the internet contributed to keeping their languages alive. By 2013 Asian New Zealanders were the most engaged users and Pacific people the least.
According to a Google study in 2012 New Zealanders increasingly consumed digital media at the same time as they were using another medium – especially television. Of regular internet users, 85% were ‘dual screeners’.
Since 2007 there has been a striking increase in the use of cell phones and tablets such as iPads to access the internet. In 2011 there were 1.9 million mobile internet connections, with the percentage of users accessing the internet on handheld devices rising to 27% (compared with 7% in 2007). By 2013 over two-thirds of users accessed the internet on phones, and almost half on tablets. The effect was that more than half of New Zealanders were using the internet from communal areas of their homes, rather than from studies or bedrooms, and people were consulting the web while sitting in cafes, travelling on buses or waiting in queues.
Growth in the number of internet domain names registered under .nz has slowed to around 10% a year. In 2013, that growth took the total number of .nz registrations past half a million. By far the most popular second-level domain (2LD) is .co, but the Domain Name Commission also permits a number of uniquely New Zealand 2LDs, including .iwi and .maori.