8129.0 - Business Use of Information Technology, 2001-02  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/02/2003   
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  • Explanatory Notes


1 This publication presents results from the 2001-02 Business Use of Information Technology survey. The survey collected data on Australian business use of computers and the Internet, including web sites and home pages. It explored the use and functionality of Internet and web technologies by businesses, and continued to measure the ordering of goods and services via the Internet. For the first time, the survey also collected data on the method of Internet access utilised by business and explored issues related to information technology (IT) security.


2 Business Technology surveys were previously conducted by the ABS with respect to the 1993-94, 1997-98, 1999-2000 and 2000-01 financial years.

  • The 1993-94 survey collected data about IT specialist staff and expenses and the prevalence of computers.
  • The 1997-98 survey collected data about IT specialist staff and expenses but concentrated more on the use of the Internet by business. Data on benefits of, and barriers to, Internet access were also collected.
  • The 1999-2000 and 2000-01 surveys collected data on IT specialist staff, Internet activities and services used, and web presence functions and activities. Data on the value of orders for goods and services received via the Internet were also collected.


3 All employing businesses in Australia were included in the scope of the survey, with the exception of businesses in:
SISCA 3000 General Government
SISCA 6000 Rest of the world
ANZSIC Division A Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
ANZSIC Division M Government Administration and Defence
ANZSIC Sub-division 84 Education
ANZSIC Sub-division 97 Private Households Employing Staff
ANZSIC 9610 Religious organisations

4 A stratified random sample of approximately 12,800 businesses was drawn from the ABS Business Register. All manufacturing businesses with 500 or more employees were included in the sample. For other industries, all businesses with 200 or more employees were included. After some sample loss due to ceased businesses, a response rate of 92% was achieved. Data from respondents were weighted to represent the surveyed population. Whilst the scope of the survey was employing businesses, it is likely that a small number of non-employers were included.


5 The business unit used in the survey was the management unit. The management unit is the highest type of unit within a business or organisation which controls its productive activities, and for which accounts are kept. A management unit is created for all the operations within an industry sub-division (and the unit will be classified to the relevant sub-division of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification). Where a business cannot supply adequate data for each industry sub-division, a management unit will be formed which contains activity in more than one industry sub-division.


    6 The frame used for the Business Use of Information Technology survey, like most ABS economic surveys, was taken from the ABS Business Register. The ABS Business Register is primarily based on registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's Pay As You Go Withholding (PAYGW) scheme (and prior to 1 July 2000, the Group Employer (GE) scheme). The frame is updated quarterly to take account of new businesses and businesses which have ceased employing.

    7 Businesses which have ceased employing are identified when the Australian Taxation Office cancels their PAYGW registration (or previously their GE registration). In addition, from July 1999 to the end of June 2000, businesses which did not remit under the GE scheme for the previous five quarters were removed from the frame. A similar process has recently been adopted to remove businesses which do not remit under the PAYGW scheme. Since five quarters of information relating to remittance under the PAYGW scheme is required to remove a business, this information was not available for the 2000-01 survey frame but was available for the 2001-02 survey frame. As a consequence, estimates for the 2000-01 Business Technology survey included a higher level of non-employing businesses than in the 2001-02 survey and a corresponding decline in the estimated number of businesses has occurred between 2000-01 and 2001-02.

    8 The introduction of The New Tax System has a number of significant implications for ABS business statistics, and these are discussed in the information papers ABS Statistics and The New Tax System (cat. no. 1358.0) and Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System] (cat. no. 1372.0)


    9 Data in this publication have been adjusted to allow for lags in processing new businesses to the ABS Business Register, and the omission of some businesses from the register. The majority of businesses affected, and to which the adjustments apply, are small in size.

    10 Adjustments have been made to include new businesses in the estimates in the periods in which they commenced operations, rather than when they were processed to the ABS Business Register. Adjustments of this type will continue to be applied in future periods.

    11 For more information on these adjustments, please refer to the ABS publication Information Paper: Improvements to ABS Economic Statistics, 1997 (cat. no. 1357.0).


    12 This publication presents statistics classified according to the 1993 edition of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) (cat. no. 1292.0). Each management unit has been classified to a single industry on the basis of its main income earning activity, irrespective of whether the unit also generates income from related or unrelated secondary activities.


    13 When interpreting the results of a survey it is important to take into account factors that may affect the reliability of estimates. Such factors can be classified as either sampling or non-sampling error.

    14 The estimates presented in this publication are based on information obtained from a sample of businesses in the surveyed population. Consequently, the estimates are subject to sampling variability, that is, they may differ from the figures that would have been obtained if all units had been included in the survey. One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE), which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied by chance because only a sample of units was included.

    15 There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the figure that would have been obtained if a census had been conducted, and approximately 19 chances in 20 that the difference will be less than two SEs.

    16 Sampling variability can also be measured by the relative standard error (RSE) which is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. The RSE is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the percentage standard errors likely to have occurred due to sampling, and avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. RSEs on the Australian level aggregates presented in this publication are as follows:
    • proportion of businesses using computers, 1%
    • proportion of businesses with access to the Internet, 1%
    • proportion of businesses with a web presence, 3%

    17 As an example of the above, the estimated percentage of businesses with a web presence is 24% and the RSE is 3%, giving a standard error of 1 percentage point (3% of 24%). Therefore, there would be two chances in three that, if all units had been included in the survey, a figure in the range of 23% to 25% would have been obtained, and 19 chances in 20 (i.e. a confidence interval of 95%) that the figure would have been within the range of 22% to 26%. For more information about RSEs for estimates presented in this publication, please telephone the contact shown on the front page.

    18 The sampling variability for estimates at the state/territory or industry level is higher than that for Australian level aggregates. Within states/territories, the sampling variability, and therefore the RSEs of estimates for Tasmania, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are higher than for other states. Survey estimates for these states should therefore be viewed with more caution than those for other states.

    19 Errors other than those due to sampling may occur in any type of collection and are referred to as non-sampling error. For this survey, non-sampling error may result from such things as deficiencies in the register of businesses from which the sample was drawn, non-response, imperfections in reporting and/or errors made in compiling results. The extent to which non-sampling error affects the results of the survey is not precisely quantifiable, but its impacts can be broadly identified. Every effort was made to minimise non-sampling error by careful design and testing of the questionnaire, efficient operating procedures and systems and the use of appropriate methodology. Survey estimates subject to a high level of non-sampling error have been suppressed or provided with relevant cautions.

    20 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between the sum of the components and the total. In addition, percentages have been calculated using the unrounded figures.


    21 Comparisons of data with previous surveys are possible for most data presented in the publication. In some instances, comparisons are not recommended due to changes in survey methodology.

    22 It is not recommended that 2001-02 survey estimates related to IT specialist employment be compared with data from previous years. Estimates related to IT specialist employment are subject to non-sampling error due to a tendency for businesses with small employment to identify non-IT staff as IT specialists. Survey estimates for 2001-02 are subject to lower non-sampling error than those from the 2000-01 and 1999-2000 surveys due to more intensive examination of responses and discussion with small business.

    23 It is not recommended that 2001-02 survey estimates related to making and receiving online payments be compared with data from previous years. Improvements to questionnaire design in the 2001-02 survey have meant that making and receiving online payments are directly related to the ordering of goods and services via the Internet. Data published in the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 surveys are not directly related to goods and services ordered via the Internet as they include Internet bill payments for orders which may not have originated via the Internet.


    24 The concept of Internet income presented in this publication relates to income from all orders for goods and services received via the Internet or web by businesses, with or without online payment. Like previous surveys, the 2001-02 Business Use of Information Technology survey has highlighted issues which affect the quality and interpretation of estimates of Internet income and the proportion of businesses receiving orders for goods and services via the Internet or web. Readers should consider these issues when using these estimates.

    25 As in previous surveys, many businesses surveyed in the 2001-02 survey did not maintain records on the basis of the Internet income measure described in paragraph 24 and therefore needed to estimate its value. For many large businesses, the estimation of Internet income was difficult and in some instances responses were inconsistent with those of previous surveys. While the ABS has reduced this error through analysis of responses and consultation with businesses, this form of error cannot be completely eliminated.

    26 The ABS uses the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) definition of an Internet commerce transaction and therefore measures the income resulting from Internet orders for goods and services, and the number of businesses selling their products this way. An important element of the definition is that payment and the ultimate delivery of the good or service is not relevant, that is, either or both may be conducted offline. Recent ABS experience in collecting Internet income has highlighted the difficulty of defining an Internet commerce transaction in a way which is understood by businesses and suits all forms of Internet commerce. For instance, for some businesses, the Internet transaction initiates and completes the purchase, while for others the Internet transaction finalises details of a purchase which was initiated by a non-Internet based agreement or contract. In order to maximise consistency of reporting in the 2001-02 survey, businesses were asked to include Internet income received via the Internet for orders for goods and services, irrespective of whether the initial agreement was conducted via the Internet.

    27 Some orders for goods and services are initiated over the Internet and are then subject to ongoing payments. Ongoing payments may occur over a long period of time and via non-Internet based media. For consistency in compiling the income measure and to ensure that it covers all income flowing from the initial order over the Internet, the ABS would ideally like to include ongoing payments via the Internet, but recognises that most businesses are unable to track these payments. Survey estimates for the 2001-02 survey and previous collections may be understated due to this measurement issue.

    28 The ABS contributes to international fora on indicators for Internet income and has aligned its definition and practices with international standards where they exist. The design of the 2002-03 Business Technology survey will consider developments in this area and investigate improvements to questionnaire design and collection methodology in order to improve the quality and useability of survey estimates related to Internet income and ordering of goods and services via the Internet.


    29 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


    30 The most recent issue of other ABS publications on the use and production of information technology and telecommunication goods and services in Australia are listed below:
    Government Use of Information Technology, Australia, 1999-2000 cat. no. 8119.0
    Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2000 cat. no. 8146.0
    Information Technology, Australia, 2000-01 cat. no. 8126.0
    Internet Activity, Australia, March 2002 cat. no. 8153.0
    Use of Information Technology on Farms, Australia, June 2000 cat. no. 8150.0
    Use of the Internet by Householders, Australia, November 2000 cat. no. 8147.0


    31 Data on the benefits of receiving or placing orders for goods and services via the Internet or web were collected in the 2001-02 survey but not presented in this publication. Inquiries about these statistics and more detailed statistics than those presented in this publication should be made by telephoning the contact shown on the front page.


    $bbillion (thousand million) dollars
    $mmillion dollars
    ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
    ADSLAsymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
    ANZSICAustralian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification
    ATMAsynchronous Transfer Mode
    DSLDigital Subscriber Line
    GEGroup Employer
    ISDNIntegrated Services Digital Network
    ITinformation technology
    OECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
    PAYGWPay-as-you-go withholding
    RSErelative standard error
    SDSLSymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
    SEstandard error
    SISCAStandard Institutional Sector Classification of Australia