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HOME COMPUTING IN AUSTRALIA
The figures above indicate that the incidence of computers in households was not evenly spread across States within States. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest incidence at 35.8%. The incidence in other States was significantly lower overall, ranging from New South Wales with 23.9% down to Tasmania with 18.9%. Computers had penetrated into a far greater proportion of households in capital cities than in country areas. In total, capital cities had a 26.8% penetration rate while country areas had a rate of only 16.3%. This difference was consistent across all States, except Western Australia where country households had a slightly higher penetration rate of 27.4%. This estimate is, however, subject to high relative standard errors and care should be used in drawing conclusions from it.
Table 22.15 analyses computer usage within households by family type.
This table shows that households occupied by married couples with dependents were more likely to have a computer than other family types, 38% of these families used a computer compared to 14.5% of married couples without dependants, 20.4% of households with single parent families and 12.4% of other types. On this basis, it is reasonable to conclude that a large motivation to acquire household computing facilities arises from the presence of children.
This finding is supported by the main use given for home computers, namely education purposes (24.9%) followed closely by entertainment (22.5%). These uses might be expected to be more closely related to children's use of computers than adults' use.
Table 22.16 shows that, in general, the proportion of households with computers increased as household incomes increased. Of the 538,000 households which had an income of more than $74,000, nearly 56% frequently used a computer. In households which had an income between $57,001 and $74,000, just over 38% used a computer. Most other income categories were fairly near the overall average of 22.9% except for those households which had an income of $7,000 to $16,000 where the percentages are very small (and are also subject to quite high standard errors).
HOME BASED BUSINESS
Of the 742,000 households which had a home based business, 46% had a computer. This compared with 23% for all households in Australia (table 22.16). For households without a home based business, only about 20% had a computer. A comparison of the data in tables 22.16 and 22.17 shows that, for each household income range, a greater proportion of households with a home based business had a computer than those which did not, irrespective of the size of the household income.
Clearly the existence of a home based business within a household was a significant motivation to acquire a home computer.
USE OF MODEMS
Modems enable access to computers and facilities outside the home (such as the Internet). Modems are an essential item of equipment for householders who decide to avail themselves of a range of services, many of which are in development presently. These will encompass a range of electronic services from information to entertainment and home shopping. There is also a trend towards the convergence of data and voice services into a range of diverse everyday products.
At the survey date, a relatively small proportion of households with a computer had also acquired a modem. Only 17% of these households also had a modem. In total only about 4% of households had a modem.
Not surprisingly, modems were much more prevalent in households which had a home based business as can be seen from table 22.18 below.
Households which had a home business were three to four times more likely to have a modem. They accounted for about one third of households with a modem (i.e. 80,000 compared to 248,000). Nevertheless, only 10.8% of households which had a home business had a modem.
Of the 80,000 households which had a home based business and a modem, the main use of the computer was for 'business records' in 25% of households, 'other home based business' in 28% of cases and for 'other reasons' in 47% of households. In all, just over half these households acquired the computing equipment for business reasons, 28% specifically for home based business use. For all households which had a computer the main use given was 'educational purposes' (24.9%) followed by 'entertainment' (22.5%). 'Business records' was the main use given by only 12.5% of households and 'other home based business' was given by 4.8% of households.
The survey sought information on the number of households expecting to spend money on computing equipment over the two year period from 1 February 1994 to February 1996. Overall, 1.7 million households, or 26% of all households, indicated their intention to make some expenditure on computing equipment. Of these 0.8 million already had a computer and a further 0.9 million did not.
The following table focuses on households which reported they did not have a computer at the survey date but which intended to spend money on computing equipment. These households represent potential new entrants to the home computing market.
In total, about 913,000 households without computing facilities at the survey date (February 1994) planned to spend on home computing equipment in the ensuing two years. These represent 18.5% of all households without computing facilities at the survey date (or I 4.3% of all Australian households. Australian Capital Territory and Queensland appeared to be likely to have a greater take up rate than other States.
The survey suggests that there is the potential for substantial growth in the number of households with computers over the two years from February 1994. If most of these expenditure plans were to go ahead, the total number of households with home computer access would be in the order of 2 to 2.5 million by 1996.
On the assumption that these expectations were realised, it is possible to make an estimate of the expenditure that was made by households in the 12 month period between February 1994 and February 1995 using the data in the above table. By taking the midpoint of each range, multiplying by the number of households, and summing across size ranges one can estimate that there would have been expenditure of about $1.6 or 1.7 billion. this is the equivalent of $100 for every man, woman and child in Australia.
Of course, this figure does not take into account any influences which have occurred since February 1994 which may have caused households to alter expenditure plans (e.g. publicity surrounding revelations about the information superhighway, which the survey predates).
Whichever measure you use, it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than that the home computing market is large and expanding rapidly.
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