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2. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) STATISTICS
On the infrastructure side, we are testing the feasibility of collecting information from ISPs so that we can better understand some of the infrastructure issues which affect the penetration of information technologies to households and businesses.
In the area of household IT statistics, proposed changes to the ABS household survey program would impact on the collection of household and individual IT use data. The quarterly Population Survey Monitor (PSM), which currently collects these data, is likely to be conducted for the last time in the November quarter 2000. Two regular surveys which could be used to collect IT data are included on the revised program. The General Social Survey (GSS) would be conducted every third year, commencing in 2002, and would most likely include some IT questions, while the Multiple Purpose Household Survey (MPHS) would be conducted in the intervening two years. The MPHS would commence in 2003 and, while it appears likely that it would include an IT topic, any decision would be based on relative priorities at the time.
A consequence of the change is that statistical information formerly collected via the PSM would be available less frequently (annually rather than quarterly). On the other hand, it is possible that the new vehicles will have a larger sample size thus allowing greater detail to be released.
The following IT statistics publications will appear at intervals over the next 12 months. 2.1 IT use publications
2.3 Surveys of household use of IT
The Household Use of Information Technology survey program continued during 1999, with the 1999 surveys concentrating on the use of the Internet and electronic commerce. To date, the February, May and August 1999 surveys have been conducted, with the November survey remaining. Results from these surveys are released in the quarterly publication 'Use of the Internet by Householders' Australia (ABS Cat. no 8147.0). This publication is currently available for February, May, August and November, 1998, and for February and May 1999. At the end of the 1999 survey year, data from the quarterly surveys will be consolidated to produce average annual estimates at State and Territory level. Results will be published in the annual publication 'Household Use of Information Technology' 1999 (ABS Cat. no 8146.0). This publication is currently available for 1998 and 1996.
Key indicators from the May 1999 Household Use of Information Technology survey included:
A review of the data items to be included in the Household Use of Information Technology Survey for 2000 has recently been conducted and the proposed questions are about to be tested for feasibility. A focus for the year 2000 surveys is the Internet. Topics to be explored include Internet access, Internet shopping, barriers to Internet shopping, and use of the Internet to access services including government and financial services. Other work currently in progress includes the development of IT questions for inclusion in the April 2000 Monthly Labour Force Survey program. The IT questions in this survey will focus on the use of computers and the Internet by children aged 5-14 years. Because the sample population in the Monthly Labour Force Survey is significantly larger than that normally used for the Household Use of Information Technology Survey, there will be an opportunity to provide regional IT statistics.
2.4 New approach to collecting regional data on the use of information technology
The 1997-98 Agriculture Commodity Survey (ACS) collected data on farm use of computers, the Internet, mobile telephones and other technologies, barriers to the use of the Internet, future intentions to connect to the Internet and telephone line problems. The questions formed the final section of the ACS questionnaire. The 1998-99 ACS is also collecting IT data from farms, but in two stages: in stage one, the ACS questionnaire will ask all respondents about their use of computers and the Internet, and future intentions to connect to the Internet. In stage two, a questionnaire will be sent to farms which report Internet use. It will collect data only on Internet use: patterns of use, cost, information services accessed, and goods and services purchased.
2.5 Defining and measuring e-commerce and the information and communications technologies
There is increasing user demand for a greater range of e-commerce statistics, especially on a sub-annual basis. As this demand increases, it becomes even more important to develop an internationally acceptable definition of e-commerce for statistical purposes. Australia, in many ways a leader in measuring e-commerce, is a member of the OECD working party attempting to define e-commerce.
ABS' current approach is to measure elements of e-commerce activity, such as the value of Internet trade and the use of e-commerce enabled web sites, rather than attempt to define and measure the total e-commerce phenomenon.
There is also interest in expanding the concept of the Information and Communications Technologies sector to include 'content' type industries. The term 'content' implies the presentation of one or more of text, image or sound in an electronic or digital medium - hence the term 'digital media'. The ABS recently contributed to an on-going discussion of these issues at an OECD Working Party on Indicators for the Information Society. A related issue which the ABS is considering is the extent to which human skills, organisational capital and information itself supplement cash expenditure in the development of the IT industries, and the extent to which it is possible to measure these inputs.
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