Digital inclusion in New Zealand: 2014 Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) Publications
This is the final in a series of in-depth reports from the 2014 Survey of Adult Skills. This report focuses on the digital skills and the digital inclusion of 16 to 65-year-old New Zealanders. Digital inclusion is equity of opportunity to participate in society using digital technologies.
Author(s): Paul Satherley, Senior Research Analyst, Ministry of Education.
Date Published: March 2021
The Survey of Adult Skills measured the skills of New Zealand adults in digital skills as well as literacy and numeracy. The Survey is part of the OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).
This report sets its findings about the spectrum of digital inclusion in the context of the New Zealand Government’s 2019 Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Te Mahere mō to Whakaurunga Matihiko. The report’s approach is to take strong digital skills (Level 2 or 3) and frequent digital participation as indicating digital inclusion, and weak or unmeasurable digital skills as pointing to digital exclusion. The findings in this report relate to people aged 16 to 65 in 2014 but in 2022 New Zealand will participate in the second cycle of the Survey.
Profile of digital skills and inclusion
Of New Zealand 16 to 65-year-olds, 44% had strong digital skills (Levels 2 or 3). This was the highest proportion, along with Sweden, amongst participating countries. This group was strongly digitally included. Another 31% had Level 1 skills, and 15% had Below Level 1 skills. These two groups had limited but quantifiable digital skills. Measuring digital skill was not possible for 10 percent of 16 to 65-year-olds. Most of this group appear to be digitally excluded, though the digital skill or inclusion of those with limited English language is uncertain.
Digital skill levels corresponded closely to literacy and numeracy skill levels. No one had weak skills in one domain and strong in another. This means similar relationships exist between digital skills and demographic, education and work characteristics, as for literacy and numeracy. All three assessments depend on reading and understanding at least some simple English text.
There was a slight gender difference in digital inclusion. Men had a slightly wider spread of digital skill with slightly higher proportions than women at both ends of the distribution, particularly for the categories where respondents were not assessed and were therefore most likely digitally excluded.
Younger people, on average, had much stronger digital skills than people aged from their mid-forties. However, some young people were low skilled or digitally excluded. These people were more likely to have lower qualifications, not to be currently studying, have a non-English-speaking background, or be Māori or Pacific Peoples.
New Zealand had wide ethnic disparities in digital inclusion. Māori had significantly larger proportions at below Level 1 and smaller proportions at Level 3 compared to European. Asian people had similar proportions at the four skill levels to Māori but Pacific Peoples, on average, seem even more digitally excluded, acknowledging that some of this effect will be related to many Asian and Pacific Peoples having a non-English speaking background.
The level of people’s education is a key factor for digital inclusion. Nearly two in 10 people with bachelors degrees or higher qualifications had very strong (Level 3) digital skills. School qualifications and post-school qualifications below degree-level were associated with very similar profiles of digital skills. But people without a formal qualification were far more likely to have weak digital skills or not undertake the assessment.
Attachment to the labour force and digital inclusion went together, and strong digital skills were associated with high earnings.
Digital inclusion at work
People who were employed at the time of the Survey or who had been employed in the previous 12 months were asked if they used a computer in their job or previous job. Seventy-five percent said they had, and they had much stronger digital skills than those who had not. Emailing was the commonest digital activity with 75% of workers who used a computer sending or receiving emails every day. Using the internet to better understand work issues was the next most common activity. Three-quarters of computer-using workers used the internet for work at least once a week. Participating in internet discussions for work was a rather rare activity where two-thirds of workers reported never doing it. But these 2014 findings will not reflect the current situation, given the large increase in work-related video conferencing during 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Workers who participated more often in a range of different digital activities for work had stronger digital skills.
Digital inclusion in everyday life
Ninety percent of 16 to 65-year-olds used a computer in everyday life, and they had much stronger digital skills than those who did not. Three-quarters of 16 to 65-year-olds currently working or who had worked in the previous 12 months used a computer both for work and in everyday life. Both work and everyday-life use of a computer were associated with stronger digital skills. But home use was the stronger factor.
Seven in 10 of the people who used a computer in everyday life emailed every day. People who used email had stronger digital skills. However, emailing as a specific medium for communicating digitally in everyday life is becoming less important compared to social networking applications, internet voice or video calls, or web-based forms for communicating with Government agencies, organisations and businesses.
The Survey provides an indicator of social trust derived from people agreeing or disagreeing with: There are only a few people you can trust completely.People who disagree with the statement have greater social trust. Greater social trust was associated both with increased frequency of participating in digital activities in everyday life, and stronger digital skills. Trust is an important factor given how embedded digital inclusion has become in our government systems, our economy and social environment. People’s choices about engaging with government or interacting at work and socially will be limited if they lack trust in either the parties they engage with or the digital tools used for participation.
Profile of digitally excluded people
The definition of digital inclusion in The Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Te Mahere mō to Whakaurunga Matihiko focuses on access – to a digital device and to the internet – and on confident use of digital devices. The Survey provides some indicators of these factors including digital skills being measured as weak, very infrequent or no use of digital devices, and opting out of undertaking the computer-based assessment. This report offers two ways of combining these factors – one broader (24% of 16 to 65-year-olds) and the other narrower (6% of 16 to 65-year-olds).
Slightly more men than women were digitally excluded. Māori and Pacific Peoples were more likely to be digitally excluded than European. The lower people’s social trust the more likely they were to be digitally excluded. People with low or no qualifications were more likely to be digitally excluded – a relationship which persists across generations. A non-English-speaking background was associated with digital exclusion, but three-quarters of the digitally excluded were solely English speaking.
Not being in the labour force was associated with digital exclusion. Employees on low pay rates were more likely to be digitally excluded. Some occupations (including Labourers, and Technicians and trade workers) and industries (including Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Manufacturing, and Construction) had employees likely to be digitally excluded.
Profile of people with very strong digital skills
People with very strong digital skills – Level 3 skills as measured in the Survey – can use multiple digital applications to solve problems, can integrate and evaluate information in digital contexts, and navigate unexpected impasses. The Survey showed that 10% of 16 to 65-year-olds were at Level 3 and thoroughly digitally included.
People with very strong skills were a little more likely to be men than women. They were much more likely to be younger than 45. They were more likely to be European and less likely to be Māori than people with below Level 3 skills.
Half the population with very strong skills had degree-level qualifications compared to three in 10 people with below Level 3 skills.
People with very strong skills were a little more likely to be employed and a little less likely to be not in the labour force, compared to those with below Level 3 skills. Professionals and Managers were the occupation groups with the highest proportions of people with very strong digital skills. The industry groups with high proportions of people with very strong digital skills were Professional, scientific and technical services, and Public administration and safety.
People with very strong skills were more likely to have a solely English-speaking background. Overall, people with very strong skills had greater social trust than those with lower digital skills.