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Telephone and internet access in the home


The proportion of the population with telephone access (either landline or cellphone) and internet access in the home.


Access to a telephone and access to communication via the internet helps to maintain social connectedness. It enables social contact with friends and family in the absence of frequent face-to-face contact. The telephone also ensures an adequate line of communication in times of need and emergency.

The internet is an important means of accessing a wide range of information and services. People who are unable to access information technologies or who are without the skills to use them run the risk of being excluded from possible social, educational, cultural and economic benefits. This may have adverse effects on their educational outcomes and employment prospects.

Current level and trends

In 2006, 98 per cent of New Zealand residents lived in households with telephones, an increase from 96 per cent in 2001. The 2006 Census, for the first time, collected information separately on cellphones and landline telephones. It showed that 79 per cent of people lived in households with cellphones available in the dwelling all or most of the time, while 92 per cent lived in households with landline telephones.  

At the 2006 Census, 66 per cent of people lived in households with access to the internet, a considerable increase from 43 per cent in 2001.

Age and sex differences

There are only minor differences in telephone access by age and sex. Access increases slightly with age, with those aged 45 years and over being the most likely to have telephones in the household (99 per cent). However, the gaps between younger and older people narrowed between 2001 and 2006.

Similarly, there are only minor age differences in the level of internet access up to the age of 65 years but the level falls considerably for people aged over 65 years. In 2006, between 68 per cent and 71 per cent of age groups below 65 years lived in households with internet access, compared with just 39 per cent of those aged 65 years and over. However, between 2001 and 2006 those aged 65 years and over experienced a proportionately greater increase in internet access than younger people.

There is very little difference in telephone or internet access between the sexes, although women are slightly more likely than men to have telephone access and slight less likely to have internet access. These differences are more pronounced at older ages, particularly in the case of the internet. In 2006, 45 per cent of males and 35 per cent of females aged 65 years and over had internet access.

Table SC1.1 Proportion (%) of the population with telephone and internet access in the home, by population characteristics, 2001 and 2006

  Telephone access Internet access
  2001 2006 2001 2006
0–14 years 94.6 97.6 45.6 69.1
15–24 years 95.3 97.6 47.5 68.0
25–44 years 96.1 98.0 47.0 70.8
45–64 years 97.7 98.6 45.6 70.9
65 years and over 98.4 98.9 16.4 39.2
Total 96.3 98.1 42.9 66.4
Male 96.0 97.9 44.1 67.2
Female 96.5 98.3 41.8 65.5
European 98.1 98.9 45.5 70.4
Maori 88.3 94.4 25.3 46.7
Pacific peoples 87.0 95.1 20.4 37.7
Asian 97.8 98.7 61.5 77.4
Other 97.3 98.5 55.6 72.9
Family type
One parent with dependent children 87.3 95.1 27.9 50.3
Two parents with dependent children 96.5 99.1 54.9 79.3
All families with dependent children 93.8 98.0 47.0 71.2

Source: Statistics New Zealand, Census of Population and Dwellings, 2001 and 2006

Ethnic differences

Māori and Pacific peoples have the lowest levels of household access to telephones and the internet. However, they experienced by far the greatest increases in both these areas between 2001 and 2006.

Access to telephones increased from 88 per cent to 94 per cent among Māori and from 87 per cent to 95 per cent among Pacific peoples between 2001 and 2006. Telephone access for European, Asian and other ethnic groups increased slightly over this period, reaching 99 per cent in 2006. In 2006, the difference in telephone access between Māori and Pacific peoples and the total population was larger for landline telephones than for cellphones.

Between 2001 and 2006 access to the internet increased from 25 per cent to 47 per cent among Māori and from 20 per cent to 38 per cent among Pacific peoples. These levels were still well below those of Asians (77 per cent), the Other ethnic group (73 per cent) and Europeans (70 per cent) in 2006.

Differences by family type

Among families with dependent children, 98 per cent had telephone access and 71 per cent had internet access in their homes in 2006. One-parent families were less likely than two-parent families to have access to either telephones or the internet, but they experienced proportionately greater increases in access between 2001 and 2006. In 2006, 95 per cent of one-parent families and 99 per cent of two-parent families had access to telephones while 50 per cent of one-parent families and 79 per cent of two-parent families had access to the internet.

International comparison

International comparisons show the proportion of households with internet access, rather than the proportion of people living in households with internet access. By this measure, New Zealand compares relatively favourably with other countries, ranking 13th out of 30 OECD countries surveyed between 2005 and 2007. With 65 per cent of households having internet access in 2006, New Zealand’s figure is higher than the OECD median of 62 per cent. New Zealand’s figure is similar to that of Australia (64 per cent in 2006), lower than those of the United Kingdom (67 per cent in 2007) and Canada (68 per cent in 2006), but higher than that of the United States (62 per cent in 2007).110

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