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The use of information technology by Australian employing businesses has risen significantly since the early 1990s. Computer use has grown fairly steadily, rising from 49% of businesses in 1993-94 to 63% in 1997-98 and 76% in 1999-2000. Internet use grew more rapidly between 1997-98 and 1999-2000, the proportion of businesses with Internet access almost doubling from 29% to 56%. The proportion of businesses with Web sites or home pages more than doubled over the same period (from 6% to 16% of businesses).
24.9 BUSINESS USE OF SELECTED INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES - At 30 June 2000(a)
Business use of the Internet
At June 2000, 28% of businesses with access to the Internet were engaged in activities associated with selling goods or services to customers. This included receiving orders, sending invoices and providing after sales service. Of businesses with Internet access, 24% used it for activities associated with buying goods or services such as ordering from suppliers, purchasing information on-line or receiving invoices. Over a third (36%) of businesses with Internet access were using on-line banking facilities. A fifth (20%) of businesses were using Internet access only for email and/or information searches.
Business use of Web sites
The majority of businesses with Web sites or home pages at June 2000 used their site to display company information (88%) and/or advertise their goods or services (79%). An estimated 6% of businesses with Web sites offered secure access or secure transactions on those sites. While 14% of businesses with Web sites offered on-line ordering, only 3% of businesses with Web sites used shopping cart software and only 5% had an on-line payments facility. The integration of Web site technology with back-end systems, such as existing accounting and stock control software, occurred in only 4% of businesses with a Web site or home page.
The significance of Internet commerce in Australia
The estimated total value of sales/orders received by businesses via the Internet for the year ending 30 June 2000 was $5.1b. This represented approximately 0.4% of total sales/orders received for goods and services by Australian businesses in that financial year. While Internet commerce accounted for only a very small proportion of total sales/orders, it was dominated by business to business transactions.
Of the 38,000 'Internet commerce active' businesses estimated to be receiving sales income via the Internet in 1999-2000, 39% generated less than 1% of their sales in this manner. A further 27% generated between 1% and 5% of their total sales via the Internet, while 34% of businesses generated 5% or more of their total sales via the Internet. Only 2% of businesses generated 50% or more of their sales via the Internet.
Barriers to greater use of information technology by businesses
While the level of use of computer and Internet technology appeared to be relatively high among Australian businesses by June 2000, one in four businesses did not use a computer and nearly half of all businesses did not have access to the Internet. Use of Web sites was much lower, with 84% of businesses not having one. It is clearly of interest to know why a portion of businesses were not embracing information technology at even the most basic level.
The largest barrier to using information technology, whether a computer, the Internet or a Web site, was the perception by the business that the technology was 'not suited to the nature of the business'. This finding is consistent with results obtained at the end of June 1998, when 63% of businesses without a computer identified computer use as not suited to the nature of the business and 60% of businesses without Internet access identified it as not suited to the nature of the business.
At June 2000, nearly half (47%) of the businesses not using a computer reported that computer use was not suited to the nature of the business, while just over a third (36%) identified lack of skills or appropriate training as a barrier to computer use. For businesses with a computer but without Internet access, the most frequent reason givenwas that Internet access did not suit the nature of the business (54%), followed by a lack of interest in Internet access (26%). The most frequent reason given for not using a Web site or home page within a business was again that it did not suit the nature of the business (53% of businesses using a computer were without a Web site/home page).
Factors limiting further development of business Web sites
Of those businesses with a Web site or home page at June 2000, 44% were satisfied with its functions. For other businesses, the factors which most limited the further development of their Web site or home page were the cost of further development, the low rate of use of Internet commerce by customers or suppliers, and lack of skills. These factors were identified by 33%, 26% and 24% of businesses with Web sites or home pages respectively.