The Internet In Australia - New Report
11 August 2008 at 2:54 pm
An overwhelming majority of Australians are internet users but there is still a digital divide according to the first survey by the Australian component of the World Internet Project.
Called the Digital Futures Report, the survey is a major piece of research undertaken by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Innovation at Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research.
It found that almost three quarters of Australians had used the internet in the past three months. Just under four in five home connections are broadband and Internet use varies greatly between different groups.
Men, students, employed persons, younger people, higher educated and higher income individuals are all more likely to use the internet than women, retired people, home-makers, older people, lower educated and lower income individuals.
Researcher Scott Ewing says the digital divide in Australia reflects the uptake of the Internet in other western countries and in particular relates to income and education.
The study shows that a fifth of the population has never used the internet, while just fewer than one in ten Australians are regarded as ex-users who cite being too busy or not having a computer or internet connection while non-users are more likely to say they are confused by the technology or have no interest in the internet.
Ewing says while broadband access is growing it is worth noting that more than four in ten Australians do not have broadband access at home.
The research says that a majority of internet users are ‘experienced users’, having used for between six and ten years. Just under one in five are ‘old hands’ (10 years or more). A very small proportion of users had taken up use in the last year. On average men have been online 16 months longer than women.
Broadband access however, is still in a rapid take-up phase. People with broadband access at home use the internet more than those on dial-up connections.
For the majority of people, home access makes up most of their internet use followed by work.
Overall internet use has increased the time people spend communicating with friends and family. On the other hand, for a significant proportion of people their internet use has resulted in less time spent face-to-face with household members.
Email is the most popular means for communicating online. Over three quarters of those surveyed check their email at least once a day. Instant messaging is also a popular communications tool with one in five users messaging daily.
Most people do not make phone calls over the internet but those that do use it very regularly.
For web users the internet is now their most important source of information. Just under seven in ten users described the internet as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ compared to a third for television and less than a half for newspapers or radio.
Internet users spend less time watching television, listening to radio and reading newspapers than non-users.
Just under a half of those surveyed purchased at least one product online a month. Those who used the internet to purchase spent on average $200 per month online (the median amount spent was $100).
More than eight in ten users research products online. Making travel bookings, paying bills, banking and purchasing event tickets were all popular online activities.
A majority of users are ‘very’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about credit card security online. In relation to privacy issues involved with e-commerce the figure is just under a half.
Scott Ewing says this result is an important one for the Not for Profit sector in designing and promoting the security of any on-line giving campaign.
The researchers surveyed 1000 households in August 2007 is the first step in filling what they describe as a substantial gap in the understanding of the dynamics of the Internet in Australia.
They say that while there is widely available data on the numbers of Australians who access the internet, where they access the net and whether they have broadband or dial-up access, there is almost no detailed, publicly available data on what people are doing online in Australia and how this varies across different sub-populations.
Scott Ewing says there are also a series of further issues that the researchers are keen to pursue: the diffusion of broadband in Australia and reasons hindering take-up; the effects of internet usage on the consumption of other media; the uptake of social web technology; video usage; news consumption online and how it is changing; and the impact of the ‘always on’ element of broadband as people move from gaining news online to entertainment.
The World Internet Project (WIP) is collaborative survey-based study of the social, cultural, political and economic effects of the internet and other new communications technologies. Founded at UCLA in the United States in 1999, and now based at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center, the WIP has 25 partner countries.
To download the research report go to: