The Sponsored Data pilot project tested the provision of ‘free to the consumer’ mobile phone data for some online health resources, in order to evaluate the value and impact of removing the cost of data for consumers to these resources.
The project was a joint initiative of the Ministry of Health, WellSouth Primary Health Organisation, and Health Promotion Agency, working with three telecommunication companies – Spark (including the Skinny brand), Vodafone, and 2degrees.
The project has shown that people with no data (and therefore no other way to access the websites from a mobile network) did access the project websites. There was direct feedback by general practices and other health providers that data cost and availability is a fundamental access barrier, particularly for those experiencing the most inequity.
Additionally, a number of technical lessons were learnt such as how to ensure websites and infrastructure are optimised for the specific technical requirements of sponsored data.
While there are a number of limitations to the findings presented here the view of the health agencies involved is that the project has demonstrated there is clear demand for free to the consumer access to key health information, particularly from New Zealanders who experience the most inequity.