Access to telecommunication systems (information about this variable and its quality)


Access to telecommunication systems is the ability of residents in a private dwelling to communicate, through cellphone, telephone, 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.

Notes on interpretation

  • 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 has equal access to particular telecommunication systems, such as a cellphone or the Internet.



Variable Details

Other Variable Information

Priority level

Priority level 3

We assign a priority level to all census variables: Priority 1, 2, or 3 (with 1 being highest and 3 being the lowest priority).

Access to telecommunication systems is a priority 3 variable. Priority 3 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 quality, time, and resources across all phases of a census.

The census priority level for access to telecommunication systems remains the same as 2013.

Quality Management Strategy and the Information by variable for access to telecommunication systems (2013) have more information on the priority rating.

Overall quality rating for 2018 Census

Moderate quality

Data quality processes section below has more detail on the rating for this variable.

The External Data Quality Panel has provided an independent assessment of the quality of this variable and has rated it as moderate quality. 2018 Census External Data Quality Panel: Assessment of Variables has more information.

Subject population

Households in occupied private dwellings

‘Subject population’ means the people, families, households, or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

How this data is classified

Census access to telecommunications V2.0.0

Access to telecommunication systems is a flat classification with the following categories:

0 No Access to telecommunication systems

1 Access to a cellphone/mobile phone

2 Access to a telephone

3 Access to a fax machine

4 Access to the internet

9 Not elsewhere included

‘Not elsewhere included’ contains the residual categories, including ‘response unidentifiable’ and ‘not stated’.

The classification of access to telecommunication systems in the 2018 Census is consistent with the classification used in the 2013 and 2006 Censuses.

Note: the fax machine category was not collected as part of the access to telecommunications question in the 2018 Census, but is included in the classification to allow time series comparisons.

The Information by variable for access to telecommunications (2013) has more information.

Access to telecommunication systems is a census-specific classification, as the standard classification does not have a separate category for cellphones. In the standard classification, cellphones are included in the telephone category.

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.

The Standards and Classifications page provides background information on classifications and standards.

Question format

Access to telecommunication systems is collected on the dwelling form (question 12 on the paper form).

Stats NZ Store House has samples for both the individual and dwelling paper forms.

There have been changes to the question wording and format from the 2013 Census.

  • In 2018 the online form allowed respondents to tick all four boxes. There was no ‘or’ in front of the words ‘none of these’. Inconsistent multiple response to this question was possible when forms were completed online or on paper. The 2013 online form followed the intention of the paper form in that the question had an 'and' and an 'or' component. This allowed multiple response for the first three tick boxes but it did not allow inconsistent multiple responses of 'none of these' plus access to any telecommunication systems. If the 'none of these' box was marked, any response(s) of access to a particular telecommunication system disappeared.
  • The ‘fax access’ response option was removed from the 2018 form as was the bracketed text after the cellphone category “that is here all or most of the time”. These changes were made to reflect more current use and availability of technology.

There was a minor difference between the wording or question format in the online and paper versions of this question.

  • The online version of the question had different response wording for cellphone, ‘a cellphone / mobile phone (that is here all or most of the time)’. The paper version did not include the bracketed text.

There were no differences in the way a person could respond.

How this data is used

Outside Stats NZ

  • In development of the New Zealand Deprivation Index – no access to the internet is one of the dimensions of deprivation used to create this index. Access to the internet replaced access to a telephone as a NZ Dep variable in 2013.
  • To indicate a respondents’ ability to access services such as social and health care in an emergency.
  • To monitor the use of different types of telecommunications.

Within Stats NZ

  • To count the number of households with and without telecommunications access.
  • To provide an indication of living standards. Households that do not have access to different types of telecommunication systems may be disadvantaged. Lack of access to different types of telecommunication systems can also be used as an indicator of isolation and lack of community participation.
  • To evaluate methods for collecting survey data and contacting respondents.
  • To assess the coverage and bias of telephone surveys for example under-coverage of a particular ethnic group due to a lower percentage having access to a landline telephone than other population groups.

2018 data sources

The table below shows that there were no alternative data sources or imputation used to replace missing responses or responses that could not be classified for access to telecommunication systems.

2018 Access to telecommunication systems –
households in occupied private dwellings
Source Percent
Response from 2018 Census 92.3 percent
2013 Census data 0.0 percent
Administrative data 0.0 percent
Statistical imputation 0.0 percent
No information 7.7 percent
Total 100 percent
Due to rounding, individual figures may not always sum to the stated total(s)  

The ‘no information’ percentage is where we were not able to source access to telecommunication systems data for a household in the subject population.

Missing and residual responses

‘No information’ in the data sources table is the percentage of the subject population coded to ‘not stated’. In previous censuses, non-response was the percentage of the subject population coded to ‘not stated.’

Percentage of ‘not stated’ for households in occupied private dwellings:

  • 2018: 7.7 percent
  • 2013: 5.0 percent
  • 2006: 3.9 percent.

Responses that could not be classified or did not provide the type of information asked for (response unidentifiable) remain in the data, where we have been unable to find information from another source. In the data sources table, this residual is included in the ‘Response from 2018 Census’ percentage.

For output purposes, this residual category response is grouped with ‘not stated’ and classified as ‘not elsewhere included’.

Percentage of ‘not elsewhere included’ for households in occupied private dwellings:

  • 2018: 7.8 percent
  • 2013: 5.2 percent
  • 2006: 4.2 percent.

2013 Census data user guide provides more information about non-response in the 2013 Census.

Data quality processes

Overall quality rating: Moderate quality

Data was evaluated to assess whether it meets quality standards and is suitable for use.

Three quality metrics contributed to the overall quality rating:

  • data sources and coverage
  • consistency and coherence
  • data quality.

The lowest rated metric determines the overall quality rating.

Data quality assurance for 2018 Census provides more information on the quality rating scale.

Data sources and coverage: Moderate quality

We have assessed the quality of all the data sources that contribute to the output for this variable. As no alternative data sources or imputation were used to replace missing responses, the final data sources and coverage quality rating for access to telecommunication systems reflects the lower than expected response to the census overall and the percentage that did not answer the access to telecommunication systems question.

The rating for a valid census response is defined as 1.00. This is then multiplied by the overall percentage of responses from 2018 Census forms. The total score then determines the metric rating according to the following range:

  • 98–100 = very high
  • 95–<98 = high
  • 90–<95 = moderate
  • 75–<90 = poor
  • <75 = very poor.

The proportion of data from received forms therefore contributed to the score of 0.92, determining the moderate quality rating.

Quality rating calculation table for the sources of access to telecommunication systems
– households in occupied private dwellings
Source Rating Percent of total Score contribution
2018 Census form 1.00 92.32 0.92
No Information 0.00 7.68 0.00
Total 100.00 0.92
Due to rounding, individual figures may not always sum to the stated total(s) or score contributions.      

Consistency and coherence: Moderate quality

Access to telecommunication systems data is mostly consistent with expectations across consistency checks. There is an overall difference in the data compared with expectations and benchmarks that can be explained through a combination of real-world change and the overall lower response rate to the census.

Data is consistent with expectations and time series, with the exception of the:

  • ‘access to a telephone’ category. While an expected decrease in this category was seen, likely due to real-world change, the amount of decrease was slightly lower than expected (according to the Commerce Commission: Annual telecommunications monitor report - 2018 key facts)
  • large decrease in households reporting they have ‘no access to telecommunications’. This may be a result of the lower overall census response rate.

Data quality: Moderate quality

The data quality checks for access to telecommunication systems included an edit for consistency within the dataset and cross-tabulations to the regional council level.

The main data quality issue to be aware of for this variable is the higher non-response to this question compared with recent previous censuses. Some areas may have higher non-response rates than others. In areas where the response is lower there will be more missing information.

Recommendations for use and further information

The overall quality of the access to telecommunication systems data is moderate and comparable with 2006 and 2013 data.

However, when using this data you should be aware that:

  • due to data coverage issues, non-response rates for some regions are higher than others, however trends generally show expected patterns
  • while there has been a decrease in the ‘access to telephone’ category as expected due to real-world change, the decrease is slightly lower than what was expected
  • there has been a larger than expected decrease in the ‘no access to telecommunications’ category. This is likely to have been affected by the lower overall response to the census.

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

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