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Access to telecommunication systems


Access to telecommunication systems is the ability of residents in a private dwelling to communicate, through cellphone, telephone, fax, or the Internet, with people outside the dwelling and to use services provided through these media. The device(s) and connection(s) must be in working order.

This data provides information on access to telecommunication systems at the household level. It does not show whether a particular household member has access to those amenities. In some cases, not every member of a household may have equal access to particular telecommunication systems such as a cellphone or the Internet.

Where the data comes from

Question 17 on the dwelling form.

How this data is classified

00 No access to telecommunication systems

01 Access to a cellphone/mobile phone

02 Access to a telephone

03 Access to a fax machine

04 Access to the Internet

77 Response unidentifiable

99 Not stated

Access to telecommunication systems is a multiple response variable. Households reporting access to more than one type of telecommunication system are counted in each category that they stated they had access to. Therefore, the total number of responses in a table is greater than the total number of households.

Cellphones are counted if they are available in the dwelling all or most of the time when household members are at home.

For further information about this classification, refer to the:

For background information on classifications and standards, refer to the Classifications and related statistical standards page.

Subject population

The subject population for this variable is households in private occupied dwellings.

There must be at least one person usually living in a private dwelling for it to be defined as containing a household. If all the people in a private dwelling were visitors at that dwelling, it does not contain a household and they are excluded from this data.

The subject population is the people, families, households, or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

Non-response and data that could not be classified


'Non-response' is when an individual gives no response at all to a census question that was relevant to them. The non-response rate is the percentage of the subject population that was coded to ‘Not stated’.

  • Non-response rate for 2013: 5.0 percent, of which 4.0 percent were substitute records.
  • Non-response rate for 2006: 3.9 percent, of which 2.8 percent were substitute records.
  • Non-response rate for 2001: 4.2 percent, of which 2.6 percent were substitute records.

Not elsewhere included

Non-response and responses that could not be classified or did not provide the type of information asked for are usually grouped together and called 'Not elsewhere included'.

  • 5.2 percent of the subject population was coded to 'Not elsewhere included' in 2013, compared with 4.2 percent in 2006 and 4.1 percent in 2001.

For more information on non-response and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

How this data is used

Data from this variable is used:

  • to provide an indication of living standards
  • in developing the New Zealand deprivation index
  • as an indicator of respondents' ability to obtain access to services such as social and health care in an emergency
  • to monitor the use of different types of telecommunications
  • to evaluate the methods used for collecting survey data and contacting respondents, and assess the coverage and bias of telephone surveys.

Data quality processes

All census data was checked thoroughly during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it met quality standards and is suitable for use. These quality checks included edits.

All data must meet minimum quality standards to make it suitable for use.

Quality level

quality level is assigned to all census variables: foremost, defining, or supplementary.

Access to telecommunication systems is a supplementary variable. Supplementary variables do not fit in directly with the main purpose of a census, but are still important to certain groups. These variables are given third priority in terms of effort and resources.

Mode of collection impacts – online form compared with paper form

The online forms had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from online forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done. There will always be a mode effect but this cannot be measured. Statistics NZ design and test to minimise the effects of mode for all questions.

There were differences between how the forms were completed online and on paper for this variable:

  • The online form did not allow the inconsistent multiple response of 'None of these' to be selected at the same time as response options for access to telecommunication systems. If the 'None of these' box was marked, any other response(s) to access to telecommunication systems disappeared. Inconsistent multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.

Quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable

Overall quality assessment

Very high: fit for use – with no data quality issues or only very minor data quality issues. 2013 Census variable quality rating scale gives more detail.

Issues to note

  • Non-response rate for 2013: 5.0 percent, of which 4.0 percent were substitute records.

For more information on non-response and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

Comparing this data with previous census data

This data is fully comparable with the 2006 Census data. Changes in the data over this time period can be interpreted as real changes because there have been no changes in the way the data has been collected, defined, and classified.

This data is of limited comparability with the 2001 Census data. Changes in the data over this time period cannot be interpreted as real changes because there have been major changes in the collection, definition, or classification of the data.

The Internet and fax data can be compared with the 2001 data, but the telephone and cellphone data cannot be compared with the 2001 data. The telephone and cellphone data for 2006 and 2013 is not comparable with the 2001 data because in 2001 there was no cellphone category and cellphone access was included in the telephone category. It cannot be assumed that all households who marked the 'Telephone' category in 2001 had a landline telephone in addition to any cellphones, as some households may have a cellphone only and no landline telephone. The 2001 question also did not direct respondents to exclude anything that could only be used for work purposes.

Comparing this data with data from other sources

Census is the only information source that provides comprehensive information for small areas and small populations. However alternative sources of information about this subject are available:

Data from these alternative sources may show differences from census data for several reasons. These could be due differences in scope, coverage, non-response rates, data being collected at different periods of time, alternative sources being sample surveys and as such subject to sampling errors, or differences in question wordings and method of delivery (self-administered versus interviewer-administered). Data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data.

Further information about this data

All percentages in census publications have been calculated using 'Total stated' as the denominator.

Contact our Information Centre for further information about using this variable.

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