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Newsletters - Innovation and Technology Update - Bulletin No. 4, April 2001


Information Technology (IT) statistics
Household use of IT
Business use of IT
Government use of IT
Farm use of IT
Internet activity
Information technology and telecommunications industries
IT regional information
3Research and Experimental Development (R&D) statistics
3.1Business R&D survey 1999-2000
3.2Higher Education R&D survey 2000
3.3R&D surveys 2000-2001
3.4International standards
4Biotechnology Statistics
5Knowledge Based Economy indicators
7For more information .....


Welcome to the 4th edition of the ABS' Science and Technology Statistics Update.

Australian policy makers and other industry analysts increasingly see science and technology as a very important driver of economic progress. It is therefore crucial to them to have access to a reliable set of science and technology statistics. The purpose of the Update is to let you know about the range of science and technology statistics which are produced by the ABS and to provide you with information on statistical developments and data releases.

We hope you find the Update useful and would appreciate any feedback you have to offer. Please send any comments to or phone (02) 6252 6709.

Subscriber e-mailing list

We are happy to add new subscribers to the Update to our e-mailing list. If you did not receive this edition directly from us but would like to have future editions emailed to you, please contact: Patricia O'Reilly, whose email address is

Science and Technology statistics information on the ABS Web Site

We have two Science and Technology "theme" pages on the ABS Web Site. The theme pages provide links to the web version of the Update and will give you current information on statistical releases and contacts. They will also enable you to link up to other sites of interest. The theme pages can be found as follows:
    • Go to the ABS web site:
    • Select Themes from the menu shown on the left side
    • Select Information Technology or Science and Innovation theme pages.
If you have any questions about our theme pages please contact Patricia O'Reilly, whose email address is


2.1 Household use of IT

The November quarter 2000 Population Survey Monitor (PSM) was the last PSM to be conducted by the ABS. As the PSM was the source of the Household Use of Information Technology (HUIT) data, these data will no longer be produced by the ABS on a quarterly basis. After the November edition of 8147.0 (which was released on the 16th February), HUIT data will only be compiled on an annual basis and the results released in ABS publication Household Use of Information Technology, Australia (Cat no. 8146.0). Data from the four surveys conducted during 2000 will be consolidated to produce average annual estimates and released in the 2000 annual publication (Catalogue No. 8146.0) by June 2001. This consolidation allows detail for smaller target groups, such as State and Territory populations, to be presented.

For 2001, a subset of the HUIT module of questions has been incorporated into the Survey of Education and Training (now called the Survey of Education, Training and Information Technology - SETIT). A similar data release to the annual HUIT publication is expected to be released from SETIT in early 2002.

Key indicators from the November 2000 Household Use of Information Technology survey included:
  • Well over half (56%) of all Australian households (4.0 million households) had a home computer in November 2000, an increase of 14% over the November 1999 estimate of 3.5 million households.
  • Well over one third (37%) of all households (or 2.7 million households) had home Internet access compared with 1.7 million households in November 1999.
  • In the 12 months to November 2000, an estimated 9.2 million adults (66% of Australia's adult population) accessed the Internet. This was an increase of 50% over the 6.0 million adults who accessed the Internet in the 12 months to November 1999.
  • 10% of Australian adults (1.3 million) used the Internet to purchase or order goods or services for their own private use in the 12 months to November 2000. This was an increase of 66% over the 803,000 adults who did likewise in the corresponding period to November 1999.
  • Books and magazines, music and computer software were the three most common types of goods or services purchased or ordered for private use in the 12 months to November 2000 (36%, 20% and 18% of Internet users respectively).
  • In the three months to November 2000, 12% of adults used the Internet to access government services, 13% of adults used the Internet to pay bills or transfer funds, 49% used the telephone to pay bills or transfer funds, 67% used EFTPOS and 74% used an ATM.
The 2001 Population Census will contain two questions on IT. For details of these questions please see section 2.7.

The supplementary topic for the April 2000 Labour Force survey was children's culture and leisure activities. The survey included a number of questions on children's use of computers and the Internet, for instance, whether they used a computer or the Internet in the previous 12 months; and where, what for and how often they had used a computer or the Internet.

The summary results were released in a special article of the August edition of the ABS publication Use of the Internet by Householders (Cat. no. 8147.0) . Some of the main findings were:- the vast majority (95%) of Australian children aged 5 to 14 had used a computer and almost half (47%) had accessed the Internet in the 12 months to April 2000.

The survey found that older children were more likely to have used a computer or accessed the Internet. The sex of the child did not affect the likelihood of use or access. The most common home computer activities for children were school or educational activities and playing games, while the most common home Internet activities were school or educational activities, using email or chat rooms and browsing the Internet for leisure.
2.2 Business use of IT

The ABS publication Business Use of Information Technology (Cat. no. 8129.0) presents details from the ABS survey of business use of computers and the Internet, including Web sites and Internet commerce. The latest survey was conducted in respect of the 1999/2000 financial year and the results were released on 15 December 2000.

The survey collected information from over 15,000 private sector businesses. These businesses were randomly selected to represent all industries, with the exception of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Education, Religious organisations and Private households employing people.

Previous economy wide business technology use surveys were conducted in respect of 1993-94 (mainly on computer use) and 1997-98 (covering computer use, Internet access and barriers to the use of technology).

Some of the key findings from the 1999-2000 survey were that approximately 4 out of every 5 businesses used computers, just under 3 in every 5 accessed the Internet while about 1 in every 6 businesses had Web sites or home pages. The use and functionality of the technologies varied considerably depending on both the industry within which the business operated and the size of the business.

Debate around the world continues on the extent and definition of e-commerce. Total e-commerce is not measured by the ABS, however it has adopted the concept of Internet commerce as:
    • the sale of goods or services which is transacted over the Internet, including via email, public Web sites or sale of goods and services resulting from orders via B2B Internet based trading systems, regardless of the method of payment or delivery.
In Australia the value of Internet commerce for the year ended 30 June 2000 was $5.1b, which represented only a very small portion (0.4%) of the total sale of goods and services over the same period.

Due to the rapid increase in the number of businesses connected to the Internet and their growing use of e-commerce, the ABS has decided to conduct annual collections of business technology use.
2.3 Government use of IT

The ABS first conducted surveys of Government Use of IT in respect of 1997-98. The results were released in the ABS publication Government Use Of Information Technology, Australia, 1997-98 (Cat no. 8119.0).

Survey forms for the latest Government Use of IT survey, in respect of 1999-2000, were dispatched in August 2000.

Data collected for the 1999-2000 survey include:
  • IT & T employment and expense items including contract/outsourcing payments,
  • use of current and emerging technologies,
  • electronic service delivery ie. services offered and how delivered,
  • details on the content of web site or home page, and
  • details of outsourcing arrangements.
2.4 Farm use of IT

The results from the information technology (IT) questions included in the 1998-99 Agricultural Commodity Survey (ACS) were released in the ABS publication Use of Information Technology on Farms, Australia, 1998-99 (Cat. no. 8150.0) in October 2000. The survey covered all farms with an estimated value of agricultural operations of $5,000 or more (EVAO).

Some of the main findings were:
  • Almost half (49%) of 147,181 Australian farms owned or used a computer at March 1999, a 27% increase over the number of farms using a computer at March 1998.
  • Just under 18% of farms were using the Internet at March 1999, a 65% increase over the number a year before.
  • Just under 4% of farms shopped on the Internet during the year to March 1999.

There was a strong relationship between farm size and the use of information technology, with the proportion of farms using computers and the Internet generally increasing with the level of EVAO.
  • Computer use increased from 39% to 84% when comparing farms with an EVAO of less than $25,000 to those with an EVAO of $1 million or more.

  • The pattern for Internet use was similar, with Internet use increasing from around 14% to 42% as the level of EVAO increased.
  • Around 5% of farms with an EVAO of less than $25,000 shopped on the Internet. This was around double that for farms with an EVAO of between $25,000 and $249,999 where only 2% to 3% of farms had Internet shopping. This may be due to non-agricultural influences on the farms in the lowest EVAO category. However, for farms with an EVAO above $250,000, the proportion of farms undertaking Internet shopping rose in line with a higher EVAO (proportions ranging from 4% to 8%)

A similar survey was conducted in respect of 1999-2000. Results from this survey are expected to be released in July 2001.2.5 Internet activity

On 21 March 2001, the ABS released the first results of a new quarterly survey of Internet service providers (ISPs), which will help plan and track development of the on-line industry.

The Internet Activity Survey (IAS) is a quarterly mail out, mail back survey, which collects details on the structure of the ISP industry and the numbers of Australian households and organisations obtaining access to the Internet through ISPs. It also provides measures of movement in the types and amount of infrastructure available for Internet connectivity. The IAS covers all identified ISPs providing Internet connectivity services except for libraries, Internet kiosks and Internet cafes which provide Internet access on a casual basis.

Results from the first survey show that there were 3.8 million Internet subscribers registered in Australia at the end of the September quarter 2000, downloading more than one billion megabytes of data over the previous three months. Of these subscribers, 400,000 were registered as business or government subscribers and these accounted for 43% of the total data downloaded.

Please note that subscriber counts in the IAS are defined as customers having accounts with ISPs, and are different to counts of people/households/organisations which have accessed the Internet (as presented in other ABS publications) because, for example, a good number of households have more than one person with an ISP account and some people have accounts with more than one ISP.

Other results from the September quarter 2000 survey were:
  • Each subscriber downloaded an average of 273 megabytes of data over the quarter with household subscribers averaging 174 megabytes each and business and government organisations downloading an average of 1,058 megabytes for the three months.
  • At the end of September 2000 there were 718 Internet service providers (ISPs) supplying Internet access services across Australia with a small number of large ISPs providing the majority of services. The eight largest ISPs (each having more than 100,000 subscribers) provided Internet access to 2.3 million or 60% of all Internet subscribers.
  • Of the ISPs operating in Australia, 595 (83%) had operations in only one State or Territory, with 473 (66%) having operations at only one point of presence (a point of presence is a geographical location where subscribers can access or connect to an ISP, usually via telephone access lines). Across Australia, ISPs provided 2,244 points of presence and 521,645 access lines, which indicates that, on average, there were 7.4 subscribers per Internet access line.
  • ISPs were widely distributed across Australia with the highest concentration and greatest activity in capital cities. Australian capital cities accounted for 75% of Internet subscribers, and 82% of data downloaded during the September quarter 2000. Only 1.4% (53,000) of Internet subscribers accessed points of presence located in very remote or remote regions of Australia.

Other details, including information for States/Territories and smaller regions, are shown in the ABS publication Internet Activity, Australia, September Quarter 2000 (Cat. no. 8153.0). The executive summary of the results from the publication can be found on the ABS Web Site.
2.6 Information technology and telecommunications industries

The final 1998-99 results from an ABS survey on the production and distribution of information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) goods and services by Australian businesses were released on 28 November 2000 in the ABS publication Information Technology, Australia, 1998-99 (Cat. no. 8126.0). The publication also included IT&T import and export data and IT&T international trade in services data obtained from other sources. This was the third survey covering the IT&T sector with the previous one being in respect of 1995-96.

The definition of IT&T essentially covers computers and communications equipment and the services which facilitate the use of this equipment. Industries surveyed included IT&T manufacturing, IT&T wholesaling, telecommunication services and computer services.

The results from the survey show that there has been significant change in the IT&T sector in Australia over the three years to 1998-99. Highlights included:
  • There were 18,072 IT&T specialist businesses in the industries surveyed, which was an increase of 34% since 1995-96.
  • There were 199,341 persons working in IT&T specialist businesses, a 2% decrease since the last survey.
  • The total income for IT&T specialist businesses was $62.6 billion, an increase of 28% since 1995-96. The industries contributing to this outcome were telecommunication services with an increase in total income of 39%, wholesale trade with a rise of 31%, computer services with a rise of 30% and manufacturing with a fall of 31%.
  • Total income from the domestic production of IT&T goods and services was $40.0 billion, an increase of 28% since 1995-96. While computer services and telecommunication services recorded increases of 41% and 40% respectively, production of package software and manufactured IT&T goods recorded declines of 43% and 24% respectively. The decline in domestic production of packaged software and manufactured IT&T goods was offset by an increase in imports of these products.

The executive summary of the results from the publication can be found on the ABS Web Site. The publication contains separate details on the IT&T industries included in the survey as well as information on the recorded media manufacturing and distribution industry (because it undertakes significant IT&T activities).

IT&T Production surveys will be undertaken on a biennial basis in future with the next in respect of 2000-01. Planning is well underway with this survey with no significant changes being made to the survey content or procedures from that conducted in 1998-99.
2.7 IT regional information

Policymakers and others are increasingly interested in regional IT & T data. Within the limitations of survey methodology, ABS is striving to meet this demand and is, or will be, able to offer regional data as follows:

    • The 2001 Population Census will include the following IT questions to be asked of all persons in the household:
      • Did the person use a personal computer at home last week?
      • Did the person use the Internet anywhere last week?
        Mark all applicable boxes
      Yes, at home
      Yes, at work
      Yes, elsewhere
These questions should provide very useful statistics on regional access to IT, cross classified against a large range of variables.
      • Data down to the Statistical Division level, in respect of farm use of IT, are available from the Agricultural Commodity Survey. Survey results in respect of 2000 will be available later this year.
      • The 1999-2000 Business IT use survey had a large sample size and is able to provide some regional information in respect of businesses.
      • As the new quarterly survey of Internet service providers (ISPs) includes all businesses, some regional data in relation to 'points of presence' are available at Statistical Division level.


    3.1 Business R&D survey 1999-2000

    A survey of R&D undertaken by businesses in 1999-2000 is currently underway. 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, research fields and socio-economic objectives are being collected.

    The survey is the first to use the classifications contained in the ABS publication Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC) (1998 Edition). The Socio-economic objective (SEO) classification has been revised and the Research fields, courses and disciplines (RFCD) classification has replaced the Field of research (FOR) classification.

    It is expected that results will be released in the ABS publication Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia (Cat. no. 8104.0) in June 2001.3.2 Higher Education R&D survey 2000

    Documentation for the survey of R&D undertaken by higher education institutions in 2000 has been prepared and distributed to universities. 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, research fields and socio-economic objectives will be collected.

    The classifications contained in the 1998 edition of the ASRC are being used for the first time; replacing those in the 1993 edition of the ASRC.

    The due date for the return of data to the ABS is 31 August 2001 and it is envisaged that results will be released early in 2002.3.3 R&D surveys 2000-2001

    Planning for the surveys of R&D undertaken by businesses, government organisations and private non-profit organisations in 2000-2001 is in progress. 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, research fields and socio-economic objectives will be collected. The 2000-2001 surveys will be the first surveys of R&D by government and private non-profit organisations to use the classifications contained in the 1998 edition of the ASRC.

    3.4 International standards

    The ABS surveys of R&D are conducted in accordance with standard guidelines promulgated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and contained in the OECD publication The Measurement of Scientific and Technological Activities (Frascati Manual 1993). These guidelines are currently being reviewed and Australia is represented on the working groups undertaking the revisions.

    4.1 Introduction

    There is growing recognition worldwide that biotechnology offers many opportunities for delivering economic and social benefits to citizens of both developed and developing countries. However, there is currently little statistical information available to monitor the diffusion of biotechnology and to assist with policy choices. 4.2 Developments

    The National Experts for Science and Technology Indicators (NESTI) group of the OECD are currently working on developing definitions and an overall statistical framework for biotechnology statistics. Australia is a member of one of the working groups undertaking this work.


    In November 2000, the ABS hosted a workshop in Canberra to discuss ways in which the Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE) can be described and measured. The workshop was held over one and a half days and was attended by a broad range of people, including representatives of federal and state governments and academic institutions.

    The papers presented and discussed at the workshop are listed below, along with the respective authors.
    • "Progress in S&T indicators: from R&D to the Knowledge Based Economy" Kevin Bryant, Department of Industry, Science and Resources (ISR).
    • "APEC work on indicators of a KBE" Tony Weir, ISR.
    • "OECD work in the measurement of KBE/S, including the measurement of knowledge-based industries" Kevin Bryant, ISR.
    • "ABS draft framework" Elizabeth Finlay, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

    In addition, Sheridan Roberts of the ABS presented an introductory session on "Directions in S&T statistics". Derek Byars (ABS) led a discussion on directions in R&D statistics and Heather Olley (ABS outposted officer to ISR) facilitated a discussion on different ways in which innovation can be measured. If you are interested in a copy of any of the workshop papers or presentations, please contact Liz Finlay on

    One of the main things we hoped to achieve at the workshop was consideration and discussion of an ABS draft framework of KBE indicators. The discussions of the framework arising at, and subsequent to, the Workshop were indeed thought provoking and have served to change the direction in which the ABS was heading. Consequently, the framework that the ABS eventually adopts for measurement of the KBE will probably look quite different to the one presented at the Workshop.

    We expect to release an Information Paper in May on the framework of KBE indicators that the ABS proposes to adopt. This Information Paper should act as a mechanism to provoke further discussion and comments, indicating to the ABS whether the framework is considered by the expert community to be conceptually and methodologically sound, as well as whether the proposed data would be useful. Given the extensive consultation and discussion of KBE indicators to date, the window of opportunity for further comment subsequent to the release of the Information Paper is expected to be quite short.

    One element of the Information Paper about which we will be particularly seeking feedback is the proposed strategy for publishing against the framework. In line with the ABS' mission to "assist and encourage informed decision-making, research and discussion within governments and the community", it is essential that the presentation and frequency of KBE publications are useful for the needs of those who are interested in this area of statistics. At this stage we expect to start releasing publications relating to the measurement of the KBE in the second half of 2001.6 INNOVATION

    During the 2001 Australia Day Speech, Prime Minister John Howard launched "Backing Australia's Ability: An innovation action plan for the future". This outlined the Government's strategy to further encourage and support innovation and enhance Australia's international competitiveness, economic prosperity and social well-being. The initiatives are designed to: strengthen our ability to generate ideas and undertake research; accelerate the commercial application of these ideas; and develop and retain Australian skills.

    With the current interest in the innovativeness of Australian business, the ABS is undertaking preliminary research into how business innovation might be measured. Anyone interested in further information or in contributing to this research, please contact Sheridan Roberts on Backing Australia's Ability" is available from:


    For more information, please contact one of the following people:

    Acting Director, Science & Technology Statistics:
    Clem Tozer
    Phone: (02) 6252 6709

    Director, S&T Statistics Developments:
    Sheridan Roberts
    Phone (02) 6252 5019

    Assistant Director, R&D and Biotechnology Statistics:
    Derek Byars
    Phone: (02) 6252 5627

    Assistant Director, Information Technology Activity Surveys:
    John Ovington
    Phone: (02) 6252 5189

    Assistant Director, Knowledge Economy and Society Indicators:
    Liz Finlay
    Phone: (02) 6252 5933

    Assistant Director, Information Technology and Telecommunications Industry and Research:
    Tim Power
    Phone: (02) 6252 7895

    Assistant Director outposted to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources:
    Heather Olley
    Phone: (02) 6213 7192

    Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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