Our Digital-First Census, look how far we have come

With the 2018 Census over, it is worth reflecting on just how far we have come to get to this digital-first census. BTW ‘digital-first’ just means that filling it in online was the primary and preferred way to complete it.

Some of us may remember the Census before we had those questions about whether your household has a fax or internet connection. The last few census have all asked those questions regarding the technology available in the household. Here are some Stats NZ articles on technology trends:

  • This infographic of the 2012 results shows a country starting a process of internet connection which has only accelerated since then.
  • This ‘Digital Divide’ article from the Stats NZ archive shows how access to technology has changed in the first 18 years of this century alone.

A digital-first census was not on the cards back then. Yet we are now in a New Zealand where most people have access to unlimited (uncapped) internet connections and internet-connected mobile devices. These are the new norm.

Plus, we don’t only rely on the five-yearly census to collect data. All Internet Service Providers must complete an annual survey providing statistics on the internet connection they provide. The latest survey shows us that New Zealand has:

  • 3.8 million mobile phones connected to the internet (increasing by 10% a year)
  • 60% of broadband connections have no data cap (c.f. 5% in 2013 – a staggering increase)

So, what does this mean for our practice?

Well, when we consult with the public on plans or projects we are dealing with people that have easy access to information from around the globe in really an unlimited way.  Things can go viral quickly, and people can connect with other small communities all around the world facing similar environmental issues. As some industries and sectors adopt a digital mindset and use technology wisely, our communities come to expect more from all the industries and sectors they deal with.

Plus we have objects connecting in as well – see my PQ article on the Internet of Things. This is all a seismic shift for society and we need to be ready for the impact this has on professional practice.



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