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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004   
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Use of information technology by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Information on the use of computers and the Internet by Australians was collected in the 2001 Census of Population and Housing.

Data released from the census provides an opportunity to explore the use of information technology (IT) by specific population groups. This article focuses on the Indigenous population of Australia and includes comparisons with the non-Indigenous population.

The 2001 census counted 410,000 Indigenous persons in Australia on 7 August 2001 (2.2% of the total population). The age distribution of the Indigenous population differs from that of the non-Indigenous population with a comparatively greater proportion of the Indigenous population aged under 20 years and lower proportions in age ranges above 40 years. These age structure differences should be borne in mind when assessing IT use comparisons made between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

All persons

The first part of this article focuses on the total Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations (excluding those people for whom Indigenous status was unknown). Overall, there was a marked difference in the use of IT between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in the week preceding the 2001 census (table S23.3), as highlighted by the following statistics:

  • home computer use - 18% of Indigenous population, 44% of non-Indigenous population
  • home Internet use - 9% of Indigenous population, 29% of non-Indigenous population
  • Internet use overall - 16% of Indigenous population, 39% of non-Indigenous population.

Generally, the difference in use of IT between males and females within both populations was small.

Slightly more Indigenous females (19%) than Indigenous males (17%) had used a computer at home. For the non-Indigenous population, more males (46%) than females (43%) had used a computer at home. This was also the situation with use of the Internet at home or elsewhere, with Indigenous females (17%) having a slightly higher rate of use than Indigenous males (15%).

Rates of IT use were higher among young people than older people. Within both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, 15-17 year olds were the most likely to use IT. However, the difference in the rate of IT use among Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in this age group was substantial. About one-quarter (28%) of Indigenous 15-17 year olds had used a computer at home, compared with three-quarters (75%) of non-Indigenous teenagers in this age group. The rate of Internet use among Indigenous 15-17 year olds was 29%, compared with 70% of non-Indigenous 15-17 year olds. Similar differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous rates of IT use were apparent for other age groups (graph S23.1).

Graph - S23.1 Proportion of persons using the Internet, By age group - August 2001


While the use of IT by the non-Indigenous population generally remained high across the various geographic areas, they were markedly lower for Indigenous persons living in Remote and Very Remote areas (graph S23.2). Indigenous persons living in Major Cities were the most likely to have used IT. However, their rates of use were around half that of non-Indigenous persons. Of the 123,000 Indigenous persons in Major Cities:
  • 28% had used a computer at home
  • 15% had used the Internet at home
  • 25% used the Internet overall.

Indigenous persons living in Very Remote areas were least likely to have used IT. Of the 71,100 Indigenous persons in Very Remote areas:
  • 3% had used a computer at home (38% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 1% had used the Internet at home (23% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 4% had used the Internet overall (33% for non-Indigenous persons).

Indigenous persons in the Northern Territory and Western Australia recorded the lowest rates of IT use on a state/territory basis. However, it should be noted that these jurisdictions have a high proportion of their Indigenous population in Remote and Very Remote areas.

Graph - S23.2 Proportion of persons using the Internet, By Remoteness Area - August 2001


S23.3 USE OF IT, By Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, All persons - August 2001

Proportion of persons

Persons(a)
Using a computer
at home
Using the Internet
at home
Using the Internet
overall




Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Characteristics
no.
no.
%
%
%
%
%
%

All persons
410,003
17,591,489
18.0
44.1
8.6
29.2
15.9
39.0
Males
202,954
8,686,887
17.3
45.7
8.5
31.1
15.0
40.7
Females
207,049
8,904,602
18.6
42.6
8.8
27.3
16.9
37.4
Age group (years)
0-4
52,681
1,122,807
5.5
15.7
1.1
3.0
1.4
3.3
5-9
56,483
1,224,887
19.2
53.7
5.0
17.1
10.2
22.5
10-14
51,586
1,236,808
27.9
72.8
12.2
45.5
25.5
58.7
15-17
26,712
745,578
28.4
75.2
15.3
56.1
29.0
69.5
18-24
48,508
1,650,538
17.4
55.5
10.2
42.0
20.4
59.9
25-34
63,612
2,561,666
17.9
48.9
10.6
36.5
19.3
53.8
35-44
50,424
2,722,109
20.9
53.4
11.7
37.8
19.0
49.1
45-54
32,234
2,452,619
17.3
45.4
9.4
32.0
14.7
42.1
55-64
16,146
1,678,516
9.4
29.7
4.8
20.1
6.8
25.3
65 and over
11,437
2,195,961
3.7
10.4
1.6
6.0
2.5
6.7
Remoteness Areas(b)
Major Cities
123,008
11,752,990
27.7
46.3
15.0
32.0
24.6
42.4
Inner Regional
81,832
3,619,547
22.8
40.9
10.5
24.5
18.7
33.0
Outer Regional
91,979
1,735,459
16.0
38.1
6.6
22.3
14.0
30.8
Remote
33,963
254,846
10.2
39.6
3.8
23.5
9.3
32.7
Very Remote
71,065
82,866
2.7
37.8
0.9
22.7
4.0
32.7
State/territory(c)
NSW
120,047
5,916,340
21.7
43.3
10.6
29.2
17.7
38.3
Vic.
25,059
4,444,048
28.1
44.7
14.9
29.4
25.8
39.8
Qld
112,575
3,278,044
17.8
44.0
8.3
29.0
15.5
38.0
SA
23,377
1,401,649
17.1
42.1
7.3
26.6
17.1
36.5
WA
58,467
1,699,189
12.6
46.1
5.6
30.6
12.0
40.8
Tas.
15,856
428,426
31.1
38.5
15.0
23.1
27.7
34.8
NT
50,845
125,686
5.4
45.7
2.6
30.7
6.4
44.0
ACT
3,548
295,912
41.3
58.4
24.2
41.1
39.6
56.4

(a) Excludes persons whose Indigenous status was inadequately described and not stated.
(b) Excludes persons whose location was not stated or was inadequately described, and those classified as Migratory. For a description of Remoteness Areas see 'Statistical Geography, Volume 1: Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001' (1216.0).
(c) Excludes persons classified to Other Territories.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.

Persons 18 years and over

The second part of this article focuses on the 18 years and over Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations (table S23.6). The 2001 census counted 222,400 Indigenous persons (54% of the Indigenous population) who were 18 years or over on census night.

Generally, the proportion of persons using IT increased with the level of income earned. This was the case for both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations (graph S23.4). Indigenous persons with income less than $10,400 per year were the least likely to have used IT. Of the 82,200 Indigenous persons in this income bracket:
  • 11% had used a computer at home (35% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 6% had used the Internet at home (24% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 10% had used the Internet overall (29% for non-Indigenous persons).

Graph - S23.4 Proportion of persons using the Internet, By annual income - August 2001

Within the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, IT use was highest for employed persons (i.e. employees, employers, own account workers and contributing family workers), followed by unemployed persons and then persons not in the labour force (graph S23.5).

Of the 88,700 Indigenous employees:
  • 25% had used a computer at home
  • 15% had used the Internet at home
  • 28% had used the Internet overall.

Graph - S23.5 Proportion of persons using Internet, By labour force status - August 2001

People with a non-school qualification had a higher rate of IT use than those without a qualification. Of the 7,200 Indigenous persons with a bachelor degree or higher qualification:
  • 60% had used a computer at home
  • 40% had used the Internet at home
  • 67% had used the Internet overall.

Their rates of IT use were around 10 percentage points lower than those of non-Indigenous persons with the same level of qualification, but more than four times higher than Indigenous persons without a qualification. Of the 156,600 Indigenous persons without a non-school qualification:
  • 13% had used a computer at home (33% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 7% had used the Internet at home (23% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 13% had used the Internet overall (30% for non-Indigenous persons).

Among employed people, those in highly skilled occupations (e.g. managers, administrators and professionals) were the most likely to have used IT. Of the 14,800 Indigenous persons in highly skilled occupations:
  • 45% had used a computer at home
  • 29% had used the Internet at home
  • 52% had used the Internet overall.

Their rates of IT use were around 20 percentage points lower than those of non-Indigenous persons in the highest skilled occupations, but twice as high as Indigenous persons in occupations requiring the lowest skill level (e.g. intermediate and elementary clerical, sales and service workers, production and transport workers and labourers). Of the 56,000 Indigenous persons in these occupations:
  • 20% had used a computer at home (43% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 11% had used the Internet at home (30% for non-Indigenous persons)
  • 21% had used the Internet overall (42% for non-Indigenous persons).
S23.6 USE OF IT, By Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples, 18 years and over - August 2001

Proportion of persons

Persons(a)
Using a computer at home
Using the Internet at home
Using the Internet overall




Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Indigenous
Non-
Indigenous
Characteristics
no.
no.
%
%
%
%
%
%

All persons aged 18 years and over
222,361
13,261,409
17.0
41.2
9.7
29.5
17.0
40.0
Annual individual income(b)
$0-$10,399
82,189
3,197,824
11.2
34.5
6.0
24.3
9.6
29.3
$10,400-$25,999
74,779
4,175,909
15.9
32.2
8.3
21.6
14.7
27.9
$26,000-$41,599
29,402
2,716,811
29.3
45.8
17.8
32.8
34.2
47.7
$41,600-$77,999
12,632
1,976,411
44.9
60.9
29.5
45.8
52.1
66.6
$78,000 or more
2,390
565,861
41.5
71.9
30.4
58.1
44.1
79.3
Labour force status(c)
Employee
88,675
6,452,939
24.8
51.6
14.9
37.6
28.0
54.5
Other employed(d)
6,565
1,451,041
42.8
53.0
27.7
38.7
35.3
46.8
Unemployed
22,636
581,790
15.0
42.1
7.3
29.5
13.6
39.0
Not in the labour force
97,117
4,605,625
9.7
24.1
5.0
16.1
7.7
19.0
Occupation skill level(e)
High
14,763
2,249,808
44.8
67.6
29.0
51.2
52.4
72.8
Medium
19,979
2,239,762
32.0
49.8
20.0
36.0
35.6
51.1
Low
56,033
3,264,019
19.9
42.9
11.4
30.2
20.6
41.5
Highest non-school qualification(f)
Bachelor degree or above
7,218
1,902,449
60.0
70.6
40.3
54.3
67.0
76.3
Advanced diploma or degree
6,190
880,421
42.9
60.3
26.8
44.3
47.3
60.3
Certificate
22,998
2,291,365
30.5
42.5
18.2
29.7
31.1
39.4
No qualification
156,631
7,080,649
13.4
32.6
7.3
22.6
12.9
30.2

(a) Excludes persons whose Indigenous status was inadequately described and not stated.
(b) Excludes persons with negative income and income not stated.
(c) Excludes persons whose Labour force status was not stated.
(d) Includes employer, own account worker, contributing family worker.
(e) Employed persons only, excluding those persons whose skill levels were inadequately described. Criteria for determining Occupation skill level are outlined in 'ASCO - Australian Standard Classification of Occupations, Second Edition, 1997' (1220.0).
(f) Excludes persons whose qualifications were inadequately described.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


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