Rural Digital Connectivity
In New Zealand there are more than 4.5 million internet users, and internet penetration was at 94% as of January 2021. However, the availability and quality (or perceived quality) of connectivity in rural areas does not reflect in these figures. Concerns continue to be raised from those in rural communities (including participants for this work) that rural connectivity is inconsistent, the network experiences congestion issues, and the quality of service does not meet the needs of users.
Research First was commissioned to undertake independent research to help provide a more personalised, understanding of the connectivity experience of rural users. It sought to focus on gaining the views of a cross-section of people within New Zealand rural communities on:
- The nature and extent of the connectivity issues they experience.
- What they use connectivity and the internet for.
- Any connectivity solutions they use.
- What their current connectivity (or lack thereof) means for them.
The research took place around the time of the Northland/Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle; therefore, interviewees placed a great importance on the resilience and isolation created by being disconnection due to personal experiences. The timing of this research highlighted people’s reliance on connectivity from a health and safety perspective.
It was announced after the completion of this research that One New Zealand (formerly Vodafone) and SpaceX were to form a partnership that will provide 100 percent mobile coverage across New Zealand.
This project takes a qualitative research approach, which involves fewer research participants compared to quantitative methods but offers greater detail and rich insight. The scale of the project and the number of participants needs to be appropriate to capture the full representation of the diversity of rural communities.
The research approach adopted involved interviewing ten key informants from various parts of New Zealand in the first stage to gain knowledge from partners in this space. These people have in-depth knowledge from different arenas, ranging from connectivity providers to various community groups.