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Newsletters - Innovation and Technology Update - Bulletin No. 3, September 2000


2.Information Technology (IT) statistics
2.1Household use of IT
2.2Business use of IT
2.3Government use of IT
2.4Farm use of IT
2.5Internet activity
2.6Information technology and telecommunications industries
2.7IT regional information
3.Research and Experimental Development (R&D) statistics
4.Biotechnology statistics
4.2International developments
4.3Future work by the ABS
5.Knowledge Based Economy and Society indicators
6.Special articles
6.1Expenditure on IT goods and services
6.2Price indexes for computer services
7.For more information....


Welcome to the 3rd edition of ABS'
Science and Technology Statistics Update.

Australian policy makers and others 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.

In this edition, we have included two special articles. The first presents previously unreleased data on household expenditure on IT goods and services. The second looks at the recent release of price index data on computer services.

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 5019.

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: Andrew Major, whose email address is


2.1 Household use of IT

Data from the quarterly Household Use of Information Technology surveys for 1999 have been consolidated to produce average annual estimates at State and Territory levels. Results were published in
Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 1999 (Catalogue no. 8146.0), released in June 2000. Previous editions of this publication are available for 1998 and 1996.

The four surveys conducted during 2000 will be the last quarterly Household Use of Information Technology (HUIT) surveys conducted by the ABS. The Population Survey Monitor (PSM), through which the data are currently collected will be conducted for the last time for the November quarter 2000. The ABS is currently developing an annual collection vehicle to replace the PSM. 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.

The latest data release from the quarterly surveys was for May 2000, released on 25 August 2000 in Catalogue 8147.0.

Key indicators from the May 2000 Household Use of Information Technology survey included:
  • Over half (54%) of all Australian households (3.8 million households) had a home computer in May 2000, an increase of 18% over the May 1999 estimate of 3.2 million households.
  • One third (33%) of all households (or 2.3 million households) had home Internet access compared with 22% in May 1999.
  • In the 12 months to May 2000, an estimated 6.4 million adults (46% of Australia's adult population) accessed the Internet compared to 5.5 million adults in the 12 months to May 1999.
  • 6% of Australian adults (802,000) used the Internet to purchase or order goods or services for their own private use in the 12 months to May 2000. This is an increase of 23% over the 650,000 adults who did likewise in the corresponding period to May 1999.
  • Books/magazines, computer software and music were the three most common (36%, 18% and 18% respectively) types of goods or services purchased or ordered for private use in the 12 months to May 2000.
  • In the three months to May 2000, 8% of adults used the Internet to access government services, 8% of adults used the Internet to pay bills or transfer funds, 51% used the telephone to pay bills or transfer funds, 67% used EFTPOS and 74% used an ATM.
The 2001 Population Census will include 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/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/the Internet in the previous 12 months; and where, what for and how often they used a computer or the Internet. The survey also included household level information on computers and Internet access. As the sample population in the Monthly Labour Force Survey is significantly larger than that used for the Household Use of Information Technology Survey, there should be an opportunity to produce some more detailed IT statistics from this collection. Data will be released towards the end of this year.

2.2 Business use of IT

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, e-commerce activities and barriers to the use of technology). The 1997-98 statistics were released last year in Catalogue 8129.0. The Main Features of this release are on the ABS web site.

Survey forms were despatched in July for the 1999-2000 business use of technology survey. This survey concentrates more on use of the Internet, especially the world-wide web (WWW) for e-commerce activities. A larger sample size will enable better geographic dissection than available from previous surveys. Barriers questions in relation to the Internet and the WWW are included in the 1999-2000 survey. Data are expected to be released in December this year.

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

Highlights from the 1997-98 Government Use of IT survey released in December were included in our previous Update. The 1997-98 statistics were released last year in Catalogue 8119.0. Main Features of this release are on the ABS web site.

Survey forms for the 1999-2000 Government Use of IT survey have been despatched and final output should be available about the middle of next year.

Data items collected in 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.
The ABS intends to conduct Government IT use surveys every two years.

2.4 Farm use of IT

Preliminary results from the information technology questions on the 1998-99 Agricultural Commodity Survey (ACS) were released in December (Catalogue no. 8134.0) and highlights were included in the previous
Update. Main Features of this release are on the ABS web site and can be accessed from Main Features or through the Information Technology theme page.

A supplementary questionnaire was sent to those respondents reporting use of the Internet on the 1998-99 ACS.

The following items were collected in the supplementary survey:
  • where the Internet was accessed,
  • how often the Internet was accessed,
  • cost of Internet use,
  • Internet services accessed, and
  • e-commerce information, ie. type of e-commerce, value of e-commerce and value of e-commerce paid for on-line.
Results from the supplementary survey of farms with Internet access will be released in Use of Information Technology on Farms, Australia, 1998-99 (Catalogue no. 8150.0) due for release in October.

2.5 Internet activity

There is a strong demand from government and industry users for regular statistics on Internet activity. The ABS has now completed the development of a quarterly survey of Internet service providers (ISPs); questionnaires for the June quarter 2000 were despatched in July.

Data items currently collected include:
  • Subscriber details:
    number and type of subscriber,
    volume of data sent to subscribers,
    access plan type,
    total time spent on line, and
    amount paid;
  • Service issues:
    number/type of account,
    web site information,
    technical support provided to clients, and
    ISP related services provided;
  • Infrastructure:
    number of phone lines, and
    Point of presence details.
The main purpose of the survey is to provide a set of regular partial indicators of Internet activity in Australia. As the survey will be a census of all Australian ISPs, it is expected that some quarterly regional data will be able to be produced.

The first information from the collection should be released in January next year (Catalogue no. 8153.0).

2.6 Information technology and telecommunications industries

Preliminary 1998-99 results from an ABS survey of the production and distribution of information technology and telecommunications goods and services were released at the end of May (Catalogue no. 8143.0). Industries surveyed included computer services, telecommunications, IT manufacturing and IT wholesaling.

The release showed that the information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) industry had changed significantly over the three years to 1998-99. Highlights included:
  • The Australian IT&T industry's total income in 1998-99 was $59 billion, an increase of 21% over 1995-96. The industries contributing to this outcome were telecommunication services with an increase in income of 40% since 1995-96, computer services with a rise of 32%, wholesale trade with a rise of 12% and manufacturing with a fall of 33%.
  • Revenue from the domestic production of IT&T goods and services in 1998-99 was $39 billion, 27% higher than in 1995-96. Telecommunication and computer services recorded increases of 40% and 31% respectively, however, production of manufactured IT&T goods decreased by 27% over the three year period.
  • The decline in domestic production of manufactured IT&T goods was offset by a 21% increase in imports of these products.
  • At 30 June 1999, Australia's IT&T sector consisted of 18,469 IT&T businesses, an increase of 36% since the last survey in 1995-96. There were 195,580 persons working in IT&T businesses, representing a 4% decrease since 1995-96.

Final results for the computer services industries were released in Catalogue 8669.0
Computing Services Industry, Australia, 1998-99 on 28 August. Main Features of this release are on the ABS web site.

Final results for the remaining IT&T industries will be released in 8126.0 Information Technology, Australia, 1998-99 (expected to be released in October).

Telecommunications Services data for 1998-99, previously published separately in 8145.0, will be included in 8126.0.

Work is about to commence on development of the 2000-01 collection. At this stage no major changes are expected to be made to the survey.

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 April 2000 Household supplementary survey (referred to in section 2.1) should provide better regional data than is possible from the quarterly household use survey.
  • 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, is available from the Agricultural Commodity Survey.
    • The 1999-2000 Business IT use survey has a larger sample size than previous surveys and will be able to provide some regional information in respect of businesses.
    • As the new quarterly survey of Internet service providers will be a census, it is expected that some regional data in relation to 'points of presence' will be able to be produced.

    ABS is currently exploring the use of the remoteness index, ARIA (Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia), which categorises Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) to one of five remoteness categories. Remoteness is measured in terms of access along a road network from populated localities to various categories of service centres. Localities that are more remote have less access to service centres and conversely, those which are less remote have greater access to service centres. For more information on ARIA, please email Tim Power on


    The processing of the R&D surveys for the year 1998-99 has been completed and results have been released. The surveys covered 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 socioeconomic objective were collected. Information was also collected for payments and receipts for technical know-how.

    The publication 8111.0
    Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia 1998 was released on 26 April 2000.

    Key findings included:
    • Higher education expenditure on R&D (HERD) in Australia in 1998 was estimated to be $2,600m at current prices; an increase of 13% over 1996. In volume terms, R&D expenditure increased by 7% compared with 1996.
    • HERD as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has remained steady. It was 0.43% in 1996 and 0.44% in 1998. Australia's HERD/GDP ratio compares favourably with those available for other OECD countries, being higher than those for Germany, the United States of America, France and Canada.
    • Medical and health sciences ($591m or 23%), Social sciences ($505m or 19%), Biological sciences ($314m or 12%) and Humanities ($197m or 8%) were the main fields of research.
    The publication 8104.0 Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia 1998-99 was released on 3 July 2000.

    Key findings included:
    • Business expenditure on R&D (BERD) in Australia fell for the third year in a row. In 1998-99, BERD was estimated to be $3,992m at current prices, a decrease of 5% on 1997-98, and 9% lower than the record level of 1995-96. In volume terms, BERD also continued to fall, with 1998-99 down 7% on 1997-98.
    • BERD as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from a high of 0.86% in 1995-96 to 0.67% in 1998-99. Australia's BERD/GDP ratio is relatively low when compared with those available for other OECD countries, being lower than those for Japan, the United States of America, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Canada.
    • The Mining industry recorded a 10% decrease in R&D expenditure, while the Manufacturing industry also fell by 7%. Other industries (in total) remained the same.
    • The leading States in terms of R&D expenditure were Victoria with $1,435m and New South Wales with $1,329m, accounting for 36% and 33% of total R&D expenditure respectively. Queensland recorded $440m (11%), while Western Australia with $433m (11%) had the next highest R&D expenditure.
    • Computer software ($535m or 13%), Communication technologies ($438m or 11%), Mining and mineral processing ($424m or 11%), Manufacturing and process technologies and engineering ($417m or 10%) and Mechanical and industrial engineering ($411m or 10%) were the main fields of research.
    The publication 8109.0 Research and Experimental Development, Government and Private Non-Profit Organisations, Australia 1998-99 was released on 24 July 2000.

    Key findings included:
    • Expenditure on R&D carried out by Government organisations (GOVERD) in Australia in 1998-99 was estimated to be $2,072m at current prices. This represented a marginal decrease over the two years since 1996-97. In volume terms, R&D expenditure fell by 4% compared with 1996-97.
    • GOVERD represented 0.35% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), down from 0.39% in 1996-97. Although the GOVERD/GDP ratio fell, Australia still has a high ratio when compared with those available for other OECD countries, being higher than those for Germany, Denmark, Canada and the United States of America.
    • Expenditure on R&D carried out by Private non-profit organisations in Australia in 1998-99 was estimated to be $184m at current prices. This represented an increase of 6% compared with 1996-97. In volume terms, R&D expenditure increased by 1% compared with 1996-97.
    • Most expenditure on RD by Government organisations was directed towards Economic development ($1,139m or 55%).
    • The $1,193m R&D expenditure by Commonwealth government organisations was mainly located in Victoria (26%), New South Wales (20%), the Australian Capital Territory (16%) and South Australia (15%). Of the $879m State government R&D, most was carried out in New South Wales (28%), Queensland (26%) and Victoria (18%).
    • Private non-profit organisations continued to mainly direct their R&D towards Health ($156m or 85%).
    The publication 8112.0 Research and Experimental Development, All Sector Summary, Australia 1998-99 was released on 28 August 2000. The publication summarises the data appearing in the three previous publications and presents a picture of total R&D activity in Australia. It also includes a Feature Article on Health R&D in Australia.

    Key findings included:
    • Gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) in Australia levelled off in 1998-99 after steadily increasing in the years up to 1996-97. In current prices, GERD was estimated to be $8,850m, only marginally higher than in 1996-97. In volume terms, R&D expenditure fell by 4% compared with 1996-97.
    • GERD represented 1.49% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), down from 1.65% in 1996-97. Australia's GERD/GDP ratio is low compared with those available for other OECD countries, being well below those for Japan, the United States of America, Korea, Germany and the United Kingdom.

    A survey of R&D undertaken by businesses in 1999-2000 is currently underway, with forms dispatched in August 2000. This survey is the first to use the classifications contained in the 1998 edition of the Australian Standard Research Classification (ASRC). The Socioeconomic objective (SEO) classification has been revised and the Research fields, courses and disciplines (RFCD) classification has replaced the Field of research (FOR) classification.


    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.

    The ABS collects some data on biotechnology research in the Research and Experimental Development (R&D) surveys. Data on expenditure on R&D and human resources devoted to R&D are available for the Fields of Research 060300 Industrial Biotechnology and Food Sciences and 080200 Genetics, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

    4.2 International developments

    The National Experts for Science and Technology Indicators (NESTI) group of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) held an ad hoc meeting on Biotechnology Statistics in March 2000. Biotechnology Australia funded the attendance of an ABS officer.

    An initial round of discussions on a range of issues concluded that there was currently:
    • no agreed definition of biotechnology,
    • very little internationally comparable data, and
    • a strong user need for better statistical information about biotechnology.

    As a result of the meeting, several working groups were established. Over the next year or so, they will develop:
    • a working statistical definition of biotechnology including a list-based definition,
    • a list of indicators to meet user needs, and
    • a preliminary outline of an overall statistical framework.

    4.3 Future work by the ABS

    Australia has volunteered to be a member of a working group that will determine the policy issues to be addressed, establish indicators to meet these needs and establish an overall statistical framework. This will involve the ABS working closely with Biotechnology Australia and other interested parties.


    As mentioned in the previous
    Update, the ABS is moving away from the idea of directly measuring innovation. We have now begun investigating whether we can produce a range of statistical indicators on the knowledge economy and society. As more developments arise, we will include them in this section of Update.

    If you would like to contribute ideas to this project, please contact Liz Finlay on


    6.1 Household expenditure on IT goods and services (unpublished data from the ABS Household Expenditure Survey)

    In June 2000, the ABS released the first results from the 1998-99 Household Expenditure Survey (1998-99 Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results, ABS Catalogue no. 6530.0). Although the survey collected expenditure on computer-related goods and services, these data were not reported separately in this publication. The present article presents that information.

    Over the 12 months to June 1999, Australian households spent an average of $284 on information technology goods and services. Households in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory spent considerably more than the States, with an average of $542 and $502 respectively. For the States, the average amounts spent were Victoria $325, Western Australia $272, South Australia $266, Queensland $264, New South Wales $259 and Tasmania $244.

    Household expenditure on information technology goods and services, Australia, 1998-99 (a)


    Average Weekly Household Expenditure
    Home computer equipment (including pre-packaged computer software)3.98
    TV games and computer software1.08
    Blank computer media0.11
    On-line charges (Internet)0.28
    Household expenditure on information technology goods and services5.45
    Total household expenditure on recreation88.81

    (a) The table includes selected categories from 'Recreation' and total 'Recreation'.

    6.2 Price indexes for computer services

    As part of ABS' commitment to provide more statistics on service industries, the Producer Price Indexes section is now producing a quarterly publication, Producer Price Indexes for Selected Service Industries (Catalogue 6423.0). The publication covers the Transport (Freight) and Storage division, and the Property and Business Services division of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC).

    The indexes will improve the quality of national accounts by providing more deflators for deriving real measures of economic growth.

    The following ANZSIC classes comprise the Computer Services sub-division (783):
    • Data processing services (7831),
    • Information storage and retrieval services (7832),
    • Computer maintenance services (7833),
    • Computer consultancy services (7834).

    These classes as a total (Computer Services 783) contribute points to the Property and Business Services division index. For example, in June Quarter 2000, the Computer Services sub-division contributed 8.76 points towards the Property and Business Services division index of 107.95.

    In June Quarter 2000, the most significant price movements occurred in:
    • Data processing services - an increase of 1.8% (due to wage increases),
    • Information storage and retrieval services - a decrease of 4.9% (due to productivity savings).

    Computer service price indexes, Australia, June quarter 2000

    Data processing services
    Information storage & retrieval services 7832Computer maintenance services






    Note: Service indexes are output indexes ie. the valuation basis is basic prices (amount received by the service provider exclusive of indirect taxes, and transport and trade margins).
    Base of each index - 1998-99 = 100.0
    na - not available


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

    Director, Science & Technology Statistics:
    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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