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Newsletters - Innovation and Technology Update - Bulletin No. 1, November 1999


1. Introduction
2. Information Technology (IT) Statistics 3. Year 2000 Surveys
4. Research & Experimental Development (R&D) Statistics 5. The Innovation Statistics Project 6. New Edition of the Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC)
7. Human Resources in Science and Technology
8. Feature Article: Expenditure on R&D - How Does Australia Compare Internationally?
9. Contacts for further information


This is the first edition of the ABS Science and Technology Statistics Newsletter. We hope you find it useful and would very much appreciate any feedback you have to offer.

Please send any comments to Sheridan Roberts on (06) 6252 5019 or email

The purpose of the Newsletter is to let you know about the range of science and technology indicators which are produced by the ABS and provide you with information on statistical developments and future data releases.

For your interest, we have included some highlights from the most recent household use of IT survey and a feature article which compares Australia's R&D expenditure with that of other OECD countries.

Australian policy makers see science and technology as a very important driver of economic progress, hence it is crucial to them to have access to a good reliable set of statistical indicators. The ABS is responding to that need by producing the range of indicators described below.


Surveys of the information technology and telecommunications industries are currently being conducted in respect of the year 1998-99. Industries surveyed include computer services, telecommunications, IT manufacturing and IT wholesaling.

Surveys of the use of information technology by businesses and government organisations were conducted in respect of 1997-98. Surveys of IT use by farms were conducted in 1998 and 1999 and household use of IT is currently surveyed each quarter. More information on the household surveys is presented below.

The ABS has recently decided to conduct an annual collection on the business use of IT. The next survey will be in respect of 1999-2000 and will focus on:
  1. timely results from a simplified survey;
  2. more reliable data from a much larger sample than previously;
  3. use of the Internet, in particular selling goods and services using the Internet;
  4. barriers and limitations to use of information technologies by business; and,
  5. benefits of using information technology.

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
  • 8147.0 Use of the Internet by Householders, Australia (this is a regular quarterly publication, the latest edition was released on 6 September 1999 in respect of the three months ending May 1999)
  • 8146.0 Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 1999 (expected to be released in May 2000; presents aggregated annual results from the Household Use of IT Survey including detailed state level data)

  • 8129.0 Business Use of Information Technology, Australia, 1997-98 (the final results from the 1997-98 survey were released in October 1999; preliminary results were released in Cat. no 8133.0 in April this year)

  • 8119.0 Government Use of Information Technology, 1997-98 (expected to be released in November 1999)
  • 8134.0. Use of Information Technology on Farms, Australia, Preliminary (expected to be released in November 1999)
  • 8150.0 Use of Information Technology on Farms, Australia, 1998-99 (expected to be released in March 2000).

2.2 IT industry publications
  • 8143.0 Information Technology, Australia, Preliminary, 1998-99 (expected to be released in March 2000; this publication will present preliminary information on IT industries)

  • 8669.0 Computing services Industry, Australia, 1998-99 (expected to be released in August 2000)
  • 8126.0 Information Technology, Australia, 1998-99 (expected to be released in September 2000)

  • 8145.0 Telecommunications Services, Australia, 1998-99 (expected to be released in September 2000).

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:
  • An estimated 3 million purchases were made by 650,000 Australian adult Internet shoppers for their private use in the 12 months to May 1999.

  • Almost half (47%) of all Australian households (just over 3.2 million households) had a home computer in May 1999, an increase of 13% over the May 1998 estimate of 2.9 million households.

  • Just over 22% of all households (or 1.5 million households) had home Internet access compared with 14% in May 1998.
  • In the 12 months to May 1999, nearly 5.5 million adults (40% of Australia's adult population) accessed the Internet compared to 3.6 million in the 12 months to May 1998.

  • In the three months to May 1999, 2% of adults used the Internet to pay bills or transfer funds, 2% used an electronic information kiosk to pay bills, 39% used the telephone to pay bills or transfer funds, 62% used EFTPOS and 72% used an ATM.

  • At May 1999, there were 587,000 adults (7% of all employed adults) who were able to access an employer's computer from home through a modem. An estimated 412,000 of these (70%) had an agreement with their employer to work from home.

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.


During late 1998, the ABS successfully conducted the most extensive benchmark survey of the Year 2000 problem in Australia. This survey and the associated results have been very widely and positively received. The survey was suggested by the Government's Y2k Industry Program which contracted the ABS to develop and conduct a survey to provide benchmark data on the current status of Y2k awareness and activity within Australian business.

After the completion of the 1998 survey, the ABS was approached to conduct a follow-up survey in respect of June 1999. The preliminary results were released in Cat. no 8151.0 Year 2000 Problem, Australia, Preliminary, June 1999. Final results were released in late October in Cat. no 8152.0.

The objectives of the 1999 survey were to:
  • determine the current status in addressing the Y2k problem
  • determine the level of technology dependence
  • measure the reliability of customer and supplier links
  • identify the nature and extent of any contingency planning.


Surveys are currently being conducted for the year 1998-99. The surveys cover businesses, higher education institutions, government organisations and private non-profit organisations. Details of R&D expenditure and human resources devoted to R&D classified by type of expenditure, location of expenditure, source of funds, type of employee, type of activity, field of research and socio-economic objective are being collected. Details are also being collected for payments and receipts for technical know-how.

Final results from the surveys will be released in the following publications:
  • 8111.0 Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia (expected to be released in March 2000)

  • 8104.0 Research and Experimental Development, Business Enterprises, Australia (expected to be released in June 2000)

  • 8109.0 Research and Experimental Development, General Government and Private Non-Profit Organisations, Australia (expected to be released in July 2000)
  • 8112.0 Research and Experimental Development, All Sector Summary, Australia (expected to be released in August 2000).

4.1 Regional R&D statistics

In the research and experimental development (R&D) surveys conducted by the ABS, organisations are asked to break down their R&D expenditure by location, i.e. where the R&D was actually carried out. The locations are the States and Territories of Australia plus an Overseas category. Data below State or Territory level are not collected. Tables showing R&D expenditure by location are included in the set of R&D publications.


The Innovation Survey Group has now conducted two rounds of innovation surveys. The first was in respect of 1993-94 and the second in respect of 1996-97. Both surveys were mainly concerned with details of the innovation process in the Manufacturing industries, however, the 1993-94 survey also included some information in respect of other industries.

The second round of surveys was developed using the first round as a starting point (to allow comparability over time) but drew on the latest international experience (as presented in the OECD's Oslo Manual) and included a number of experimental questions which were used for the first time in Australia.

The types of information available from the 1996-97 manufacturing survey include:
  • the level and types of innovation in Australian manufacturing;
  • some characteristics of innovating businesses;
  • the innovation capabilities of manufacturers;
  • the impact of innovation on the business;
  • qualitative aspects of innovative manufacturers; and
  • case studies of implemented innovations.

Results from the surveys are available in the following publications:
  • 8116.0 Innovation in Manufacturing
  • 8121.0 Innovation in Mining
  • 8118.0 Innovation in Selected Industries.

5.1 Further analysis of innovation data

The Innovation Survey group will shortly commence a research project involving analysis of a large amount of innovation data. One of the aims will be to determine whether there is a link between innovation and business productivity and profitability. To date, most countries' analysis of their innovation data has been restricted to fairly simple procedures such as quantifying rates of innovation within industries.

Some of the types of questions we hope this analysis will help answer include:
  • Do innovative businesses perform better than non-innovative businesses (both economically and in terms of employment growth)?
  • Does the type of innovation (technological/non-technological) affect the performance of businesses?
  • Is there a difference between industries and/or size of businesses in terms of innovation performance?

5.2 Research into collection of innovation statistics

In the next month or so, we will start examining collection issues associated with innovation statistics. Most countries which conduct innovation surveys have experienced methodological and conceptual problems of some sort. While Australia's collections have avoided many of these problems, some questions remain. They include:
  • How can we best measure innovative activities in service industries?
  • Can we measure the links between innovative activities and outcomes such as higher profitability?
  • How should we define various types of innovation and can we develop sound indicators of the intensity of innovative activity?
  • What is the best way to define and measure non-technological forms of innovation?


The Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC) is the collective name given to a set of three related classifications designed for use in the measurement and analysis of research and experimental development (R&D) undertaken in Australia. The first (1993) edition was developed by a working group comprised of representatives from a number of organisations. At the time of release it was envisaged that the classifications would be periodically reviewed.

A review of two of the classifications, Field of Research (FOR) and Socio-economic Objective (SEO), commenced at the end of 1995. While the review was underway, the then Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DEETYA) decided to contract out a review of their own Higher Education classifications. A recommendation from the review was to develop a unified classification covering fields of research and fields of study. Accordingly, the FOR was replaced by the Research Fields, Courses and Disciplines (RFCD) classification.

The revised (1998 edition) ASRC, incorporating the unchanged Type of Activity (TOA) classification, new RFCD classification and revised SEO classification, was released on 28 August 1998.

It is intended to implement the revised classifications commencing with the following R&D surveys: of businesses for 1999-2000; of the Higher Education sector for 2000; and of government and private non-profit organisations for 2000-2001.


On 12 March 1999, the ABS released the publication 8149.0 Human Resources in Science and Technology (HRST), Australia, 1996. It is the first release of data on HRST in Australia in this form and is primarily based on data collected in the 1991 and 1996 Censuses of Population and Housing.

The combination of science and technology (S&T) and human resources is a key ingredient of competitiveness and economic development. An increasingly skilled and effective work-force is needed to negotiate the rapid change and challenges that are emerging in S&T. It is necessary to have an understanding of the human capital element.

In the early 1990's experts from around the world gathered to define human resources in science and technology (HRST). The result, published by the OECD in 1995, was the Manual on the Measurement of Human Resources Devoted to Science and Technology - the Canberra Manual. HRST are defined as people who have either completed tertiary education or have an occupation in S&T, or both - the most skilled members of the work-force. The Manual establishes the methodological framework for the measurement of HRST. The HRST statistics in the Australian publication are based on standards and definitions in this OECD manual.


The most commonly used indicator for comparison purposes is the ratio of expenditure on R&D to Gross Domestic Product. As the table below shows, in 1996-97 Australia spent 1.68% of its GDP on R&D, ranking it slightly above Canada and well below some of the leading industrialised countries such as Japan (2.83%), Korea (2.79%), Switzerland (2.74%), the United States (2.62%), Finland (2.58%), France (2.32%), Germany (2.29%), the Netherlands (2.09%), Denmark (2.01%) and the United Kingdom (1.94%).

In terms of business R&D, Australia's ratio of R&D expenditure to GDP (0.80%) is again below the ratios for the industrialised countries referred to earlier, but is also lower than for Canada (0.99%).

For government sector R&D as a percentage of GDP, Australia ranks higher. A ratio to GDP of 0.40% places it fifth in the group of OECD member countries for which data are available, behind only Iceland (0.62%), France (0.47%), Korea (0.45%) and Finland (0.41%). Government sector R&D as a percentage of GDP is much larger for Australia than for Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.

For the higher education sector, Australia also ranks quite highly. With a ratio to GDP of 0.45%, it ranks behind only Switzerland (0.67%), the Netherlands (0.60%) and Finland (0.47%). However, the Australian ratio is very similar to the ratios for a number of other countries including Japan, the United States, France, Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom.


Higher Education
Total (a)

United States
United Kingdom
Czech Republic

(a) Includes Private Non-Profit.

9. CONTACTS ....

Please contact one of the following:

Director, Science & Technology Statistics:

Sheridan Roberts
Phone: (02) 6252 5019

Assistant Director, Science & Technology Indicators (excluding IT):

Derek Byars

Phone: (02) 6252 5627

Assistant Director, Knowledge Based Economy and Society:

John Ovington
Phone: (02) 6252 5189

Assistant Director, Business and Government Information Technology Surveys:

Tim Power
Phone: (02) 6252 5614

Assistant Director, outposted to the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts:

David McGeachie
Phone: (02) 6271 1198


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