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8119.0 - Government Use of Information Technology, Australia, 1999-2000  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/05/2002   
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1 This publication presents final results from the ABS 1999-2000 Government Technology Survey which focused on measuring government use of information technology and telecommunications (IT&T).


2 The scope of the survey was federal, state/territory and local government organisations whose predominant activity falls within the institutional sector of General Government and the Reserve Bank of Australia. Public non-financial corporations and public financial corporations are not included in the scope of the survey.

3 The general government sector includes all agencies of government such as government departments, offices and bodies engaged in providing services free of charge or at prices significantly below their cost of production and non-market non-profit institutions which are controlled and mainly financed by government.

4 Exclusions from the scope of the survey were:

  • Education organisations, defined under ANZSIC Division N, and
  • Foreign Government Representation, defined under ANZSIC class 8130.

5 The estimates presented in this publication are based upon a stratified sample of government organisations included in the survey's scope. The population frame was sourced from the ABS business register and government directories.


6 The previous collection (1997-98) included organisations not defined as federal, state/territory or local government organisations. These organisations were referred to as 'Other government organisations' and included health networks, hospitals and those non-market non-profit institutions mainly financed by government but where government control was unclear. These organisations were excluded from the 1999-2000 survey, with the exception of health networks and hospitals which have been included as part of each state health department.
7 The previous collection excluded Australian Defence Force permanent and general reserve personnel and associated IT&T expenses. The 1999-2000 survey includes IT&T expenses and employment associated with both Department of Defence public service employees and Australian Defence Force permanent and general reserve personnel.

8 Because of the differences between the 1997-98 and 1999-2000 surveys, it is recommended that users do not compare the estimates in this publication with those presented in the 1997-98 publication.


9 When interpreting the results of a survey it is important to take into account factors that may affect the reliability of estimates. Such factors can be classified as either sampling or non-sampling error.
Sampling error

10 The estimates in this publication are based on a sample of 618 government organisations and, as such, are subject to sampling variability. That is, the estimates may differ from figures that would have been obtained if all units had been included in the survey. One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE), which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied by chance because only a sample of units was included.

11 There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the figure that would have been obtained if a census had been conducted, and approximately 19 chances in 20 that the difference will be less than two SEs.

12 Sampling variability can also be measured by the relative standard error (RSE) which is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. The RSE is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the percentage errors likely to have occurred due to sampling and thus avoids the need to refer to the size of the estimate.

13 The table below contains estimates of RSEs for a selection of statistics presented in this publication. RSEs for other statistics are available upon request.

RELATIVE STANDARD ERRORS, Government Expenditure on IT&T

Wages and salaries
of IT employees
IT&T outsourcing
Other IT&T
operating expenses
Total IT&T
operating expenses

Federal departments and agencies
State/Territory departments and agencies
Local government

Copyright Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002

14 As an example of the use of the RSE table, an estimate of total IT&T expenses for local government organisations is $334m. This estimate has an RSE of 3%, giving a standard error of $10m (i.e. 3% of $334m). Therefore there would be two chances in three that if all government organisations had been included in the survey, a figure in the range of $324m to $344m would have been obtained, and 19 chances in 20 that the figure would have been within the range of $314m to $354m.

Non-sampling error

15 Errors other than those due to sampling may occur because of deficiencies in the population frame from which the sample was drawn, non-response and imperfections in reporting by respondents. Inaccuracies of this kind are referred to as non-sampling errors and they may occur in any collection, whether it be a census or a sample. Factors contributing to non-sampling error have been described below. Note that survey estimates have been adjusted through an imputation process for missing data which also introduces the potential for non-sampling error.

16 Government structure varies across the three tiers of government (federal, state/territory and local) and across states/territories. The degree of centralisation of IT&T activity also varies across organisations, with some states/territories having a centralised entity undertaking most of the IT&T activity for most or all government departments. This heterogeneity in structure introduces the potential for duplication of activity recorded in the survey, with the activity of smaller units also included in the response for larger departments. It also introduces the potential for the omission of activity for smaller agencies which are not included in a larger department's response. While every effort has been made to minimise these errors through careful examination of responses and annual financial reporting by agencies, it has not been possible to completely remove this aspect of non-sampling error.

17 The degree of outsourcing of IT&T services and approaches to recording IT&T expenses varies across organisations. This heterogeneity introduces the potential for inconsistency in reporting of IT&T expenses in the survey, in particular other IT&T expenses and contract/outsourcing expenses. While every effort has been made to minimise this inconsistency through careful design and testing of questionnaires, it has not been possible to completely remove this aspect of non-sampling error.


18 Data quality considerations have limited the output available from the survey. There is considerable diversity in the way government organisations have been established, particularly across the states and territories. The survey collected information from government organisations ranging from very large departments covering a broad range of functions and responsibilities, to relatively small agencies undertaking a narrow range of activities. This diversity in terms of size and functions affects the aggregation and interpretation of activity measures. For example, due to the diversity of units from which data were collected and aggregated, indicators such as the proportion of government organisations providing access to information via their web sites, or the proportion providing services using electronic means, can be misleading when comparisons are made across domains of interest (e.g. across states and territories).


19 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


20 The most recent issues of other ABS publications on the use and production of information technology goods and services in Australia are listed below:

Business Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2000-2001 (Cat. no. 8129.0)
Government Use of Information Technology, Australia, 1997-98 (Cat. no. 8119.0)
Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2000 (Cat. no. 8146.0)
Information Technology, Australia, 1998-99 (Cat. no. 8126.0)
Internet Activity, September quarter 2001 (Cat. no. 8153.0)
Use of Information Technology on Farms, Australia, June 2000 (Cat. no. 8150.0)
Use of the Internet by Householders, Australia, Nov 2000 (Cat. no. 8147.0)


ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ANZSICAustralian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification
ITinformation technology
IT&Tinformation technology and telecommunications
PAYGPay-as-you-go tax
RSErelative standard error
SEstandard error

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