Internet use in New Zealand
From the late 1990s internet use in New Zealand expanded rapidly. Smaller, nimbler internet service providers like Ihug, Actrix, Econet and others proved popular. By 2006, 56% of New Zealand households had internet access. But individual subscribers’ non-work access to high-speed broadband internet remained comparatively low – 14% of the population, 22nd amongst OECD countries.
In 2009 the government announced a $1.5 billion fund to accelerate New Zealand’s broadband uptake over the next ten years.
With access to the internet came email. By 2001, 87% of businesses were using email, use within government was standard, and amongst individuals email was increasingly replacing the postal service.
New Zealand is isolated and the internet provided opportunities for businesses to advertise via websites and search for information about other markets. Researchers of all types benefited from quick access to texts, archives and professional contact.
VOiP (Voice over Internet Protocols) allowed much cheaper international phone calls through sites like Skype. Improving internet software and hardware allowed ready downloading of video and music.
Goods and services were sold over the internet. The online-auction site Trade Me was a particularly successful internet business. Started in 1999, Trade Me was sold in 2006 to Fairfax Media for $750 million. By then it was generating over 60% of all web traffic originating in New Zealand.
By 2009 the internet was becoming increasingly interactive. Social networking sites have been widely used in New Zealand: in the 2008 election political parties exploited the increased scope for networking and fundraising on the net. Online banking was commonplace and business services like accounting were often completely internet-based.
Traditional media, particularly newspapers, lost advertising revenue and readers to the internet in New Zealand from the early 2000s. An exception was the Southland Times, which provided intense local coverage and increased sales. Along with alternative sources of news and entertainment, many people found music and videos on the net. Illegal downloading became a widespread problem.
New Zealand’s laws have been amended but have not always kept pace with more serious problems on the internet like invasion of privacy, crimes against minors, the circulation of pornography or the use of viruses and ‘spyware’ against corporations or individuals. But people have been prosecuted for internet crimes.
The Internet Society of New Zealand (InternetNZ) was set up as a lobby group. It aimed to prevent the web’s capture by corporate interests and to provide representation on international internet-monitoring bodies. It also oversaw the registering of all New Zealand websites via the Domain Name Commission.