4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
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This document was added or updated on 14/10/2015.

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT)

WHAT IS INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY?

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) refers to the technologies and services that enable information to be accessed, stored, processed, transformed, manipulated, and disseminated. This includes the transmission or communication of voice, image and /or data over a variety of transmission media. ICT products include computer hardware and software, telecommunications equipment and infrastructure, and computer and telecommunication services.

The 'digital economy' is the global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by platforms such as the internet, mobile and sensor networks, including e-commerce. It also includes efforts to use ICT to achieve efficiency and productivity in production processes, inventory and knowledge management.

The ICT industry combines manufacturing and services industries whose products primarily fulfil or enable the function of information processing and communication by electronic means, including transmission and display. The ICT industry contributes to technological progress, output and productivity growth. Its impact can be examined in several ways: directly, through its contribution to output, employment or productivity growth, or indirectly, as a source of technological change affecting other parts of the economy.

As ICT becomes more pervasive and embedded in everyday activities, the ICT industry becomes increasingly difficult to identify and measure. While there is a reasonable conceptual understanding of what constitutes the ICT industry, there are limitations which need to be overcome in operationalising this concept for statistical purposes. Future work will determine how the ICT industry definition can be better operationalised within current classifications.

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY AND OUR WELLBEING

Society is now functioning in an information age where ICT plays an integral role in the way people live, study, work, and do business, and influences nearly all aspects of modern life. ICT is a source of information, entertainment, social communication, and can facilitate cultural participation. People are able to communicate in an ever changing variety of ways allowing greater connectivity across physical distances and aiding people who need assistance with communication. The boundaries of ICT now allow people to use ICT frequently in a variety of situations and in an infinite number of ways.

The importance of, and demands for, information on ICT and its impact on society have been raised in the Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia initiative and preliminary stakeholder feedback provided from the ICT Review, which highlight the need for a number of ICT indicators that relate to social wellbeing.

In a national consultation conducted by the ABS in 2011-12, Australians said that being able to give and receive ideas, and share knowledge and experience is important to wellbeing. Being able to access information that supports participation and access to opportunities should not be difficult. Informed public debate, freedom of media and freedom of expression are also important parts of how our society operates. (MAP 2013, ABS)

Information on particular groups of people helps in better understanding their challenges and how to improve access so all Australians can benefit from the opportunities provided by ICT. Some groups of particular interest in considering ICT are:

  • children (education delivery and online safety)
  • older people (social networking, lifelong learning, ICT skills, barriers to use)
  • people with disabilities (social connectedness, labour and education opportunities, use of assistive technology)
  • regional and remote populations (access to services in more isolated areas, skills and barriers to use, social connectedness)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (access to services, skills and barriers to use)
  • migrants (language barriers to use, social connectedness).

Measurement needs to reflect the current environment and cross-cutting nature of ICT. It needs to incorporate the experiences of people, businesses and the economy, as well as supporting infrastructure.

Getting a clear picture of current conditions and trends related to ICT can be challenging. Important aspects of ICT can be monitored using information on:
  • levels of skills and the ability to apply those skills to new ICT products and services
  • the use and effects of social media
  • employment in the ICT industry
  • social isolation and disadvantage of those without and with access to ICT services
  • connectivity of the 'digital platform' - accessibility of the networks and infrastructure
  • risks associated with very high use of ICT
  • personal privacy and security, including cyber safety, cybercrime (e.g. scams, data fraud and theft) and threats to children online
  • barriers to the adoption and use of ICTs (lack of skills)
  • distribution cost of rolling out the ICT infrastructure
  • the efficiency and effectiveness of government business in the way they interact with the broader population using ICT.

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY AND OUR CHANGING WORLD

Continuously changing technology provides the platform for dynamic and expanding avenues for innovation, creativity and for personal, social and political expression. ICT is changing the way people use their free time and changing the behaviour of individuals, including how they interact with their family and friends, community, businesses, and government. It is changing perceptions of community and even changing how people think.

There are a range of events, pressures and drivers of change that have the potential to substantially affect wellbeing. In relation to ICT, some examples of these factors include:
  • the social impact of ICT use affecting social participation, connectivity, equity, education, safety, physical and mental health outcomes
  • the economic impact of ICT use - changing employment trends, growth, productivity, competitiveness, cross-border relationships
  • the environmental impact of ICT use, including eWaste levels and energy efficiency of ICT
  • the impact of ICT on governance - civil participation, regulation, domestic policy, trust, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of government and business.

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY AND ACTIONS SUPPORTING WELLBEING

There are many ways that people, community groups, the business sector and governments can work to improve ICT in Australia, particularly to improve an individual's command over, and access to, ICT systems and opportunities. Some examples include actions to:
  • equip individuals to continue to improve ICT skills and pass on skills to other individuals to develop capability necessary to participate effectively in a digital economy
  • support equity of access to ICT for all people (reducing the digital divide)
  • improve coverage, take-up, access and affordability
  • recognise ICT as a driver and enabler of productivity and promote investment in ICT to bring about innovation in business
  • invest in digital technology directly (e.g. fibre to the node for households), digital transformation of government services, and in cyber security and safety for businesses and people
  • progress towards energy efficiency and eWaste targets and volumes.

BUT THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE STORY...

To gain a better understanding of ICT in Australian society, look through the pages on:
  • Work
  • Culture and leisure
  • Governance
  • Family and community
  • Education
  • Health

USEFUL RESOURCES

Need some more information on ICT? This section can point you in the right direction.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, May 2015, Discussion Paper: Consultation on topics emerging from submission to the Information and Communication Technology Statistics Review, 2015, (cat. no. 8179.0.55.002) - The ICT Review aims to identify opportunities to improve ICT statistics, to develop a flexible, responsive and internationally consistent measurement agenda and framework for ongoing assessment of the digital economy, and to improve coordination and governance of information needs into the future.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian National Accounts - Information and Communication Technology Satellite Accounts - An ICT satellite account defines ICT products and identifies their supply and use, so that a comprehensive set of economic data relating to ICT activity can be compiled for the Australian economy. Among other things, this allows the size of ICT production relative to other types of economic activity to be quantified.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2011, OECD Guide to Measuring the Information Society - Provides the statistical definitions, classifications and methods to measure and compare the information society across countries and uses a framework based on a conceptual model for information society statistics.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - ITU represents a cross section of the global ICT industry, and brokers agreements on technologies and services to create seamless global communications. They produce a Manual for Measuring ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals, which includes a conceptual framework for the information society.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 2009, Manual for the Production of Statistics on the Information Economy - Serves as a reference for national statistical offices and other producers of official statistics on business use of information and communications technology (ICT). The Manual provides a guide to data collection and analysis, international standards, and definitions. It also offers model questions for surveys on ICT use, and it reviews important institutional issues related to compiling ICT statistics.

Eurostat - Is the statistical office of the European Union. It works closely with information society statisticians from its member states, and other participating countries, to develop and run the annual European Union surveys on ICT usage, which provides detailed and highly comparable datasets. Eurostat produces model questionnaires and methodological manuals dealing with measurement of ICT access and use.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, December 2014, Innovation and Technology Update, (cat. no. 8101.0) - Provides information on statistical developments and releases in the research and experimental development, venture capital, innovation, and communication technology fields.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Essential Statistical Assets for Australia, (cat. no. 1395.0) - The Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia initiative aims to identify the essential statistical assets critical to decision-making in Australia. It also identifies data gaps so they can be addressed, helps ensure that essential statistics are of sufficient quality, and enhances the effectiveness of the national statistical system by helping to identify areas of underutilisation and potential duplication.

Australian Government Attorney-General's Department, Cyber Security - The Australian Government's approach to cyber security is contained within its Cyber Security Strategy. The aim of the strategy is to promote a secure, resilient and trusted electronic operating environment that supports Australia's national security and maximises the benefits of the digital economy.

Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) - Is the peak representative body and advocacy group for the ICT industry in Australia.

Australian Computer Society (ACS) - Is the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector.

Australian Government Department of Communications - Advises the Australian Government about the communications industry - television, radio, internet, phone, post, and the changes in digital technologies, and undertakes analysis, provides advice and develops and delivers programmes so Australians can enjoy the benefits of modern communications.

The Bureau of Communications Research (BCR) - A professional, independent, economic and statistical research unit in the Department of Communications. With a digital focus, it supports the development of good public policy through sound, fact-based policy development and advice based on economic and statistical research and analysis.

KEY TERMS

Information, Media and Telecommunications (IMT)

Definition of Division J of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 2006 edition. The Information Media and Telecommunications Division includes units mainly engaged in:
  • creating, enhancing and storing information products in media that allows for their dissemination;
  • transmitting information products using analogue and digital signals (via electronic, wireless, optical and other means); and
  • providing transmission services and/or operating the infrastructure to enable the transmission and storage of information and information products.

Not to be confused with Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which refers to the technologies that enable information to be accessed, stored, processed, transformed, manipulated and disseminated.

Digital platform

The digital platform is the infrastructure and networks in place to enable the function and delivery of digital technologies and communications services.

Digital technologies

Digital technologies are electronic tools, systems, devices and resources that generate, store or process data. These include social media, online games and applications, multimedia, productivity applications, cloud computing, interoperable systems and mobile devices.

Digital divide

The OECD refers to the digital divide as the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access ICT and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.

CLASSIFICATIONS

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006, Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), (cat. no. 1292.0) - For use in the compilation and analysis of industry statistics in Australia and New Zealand using supply-side based industry definitions and groupings.

REFERENCES

National Statistical Service, Essential Statistical Assets for Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Essential Statistical Assets for Australia, (cat. no. 1395.0) - ESA 866 Personal Internet Access and Usage and ESA 195 IT Use and Innovation By Businesses.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, May 2015, Discussion Paper: Consultation on topics emerging from submission to the Information and Communication Technology Statistics Review, 2015, (cat. no. 8179.0.55.002).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0).


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