Friday, September 12, 2008

The Internet in Australia

As a part of the World Internet Project, Julian Thomas and Scott Ewing at Swinburne University have produced a Digital Futures Report on The Internet in Australia through the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation.

Based upon a survey of 1,000 users, the key findings were:

Most Australians are internet users…
The overwhelming majority of Australians are internet users. When we talked to them almost three quarters of Australians had used the internet in the past three months. Just under four in five home connections are broadband.

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.

… but there is still a digital divide.
A fifth of the population have never used the internet, while just fewer than one in ten Australians are ex-users. Ex-users and non-users have different reasons for not using the internet. Ex-users are more likely to 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. While broadband access is growing it is worth noting that more than four in ten Australians do not have broadband access at home.

The internet in Australia is maturing and broadband is still growing
The internet is a fairly mature technology in Australia. 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 accounts for most of their internet use followed by work. Other locations do not account for a high level of use across the population although for the people who use
them they are of course important.

The internet is an important way for people to keep in touch
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 our sample 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.

The internet changes media use
For 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 nonusers. Television watching is the media-related activity most affected by internet use. Four in ten users say they watch less television since access while less than a quarter feel they read newspapers or books less. Around six in ten users would visit an online news service if either a large international or large local story was breaking. Overall, internet users rate the internet as reliable an information source as newspapers and more reliable than television.

The internet is a major source of entertainment
The internet is an increasingly important source of entertainment, however it is yet to really challenge television or even radio for most users. The proportion of users who describe the internet as a very important source of entertainment is just slightly less than the proportion for television which points to the potential of the internet in this realm. We would expect that as broadband improves in both speed and coverage that entertainment uses will become increasingly important.

Downloading or listening to music online, surfing or browsing the web, finding out information about food such as recipes, looking for information about restaurants and visiting sites dedicated to particular artists are the most popular entertainment-related internet activities.
Internet users are more likely to access their movies and music off-line than online. Even in terms of digital music, users are more likely to copy their own or a friend’s CD than to buy online.

Almost half of our internet users would not consider downloading music or movies instead of buying hard copy at any price. Only around one in twenty users (4.7%) would be prepared to pay a price comparable to an offline version.

The internet enables people’s creativity
Users are positive about the impact of internet use on creativity and productivity. A half felt internet access had improved their work performance and less than one in twenty thought it had deteriorated. Most felt that their internet use had enabled them to share creative work they liked with others, just under a half to share their own creative work and nearly a quarter of users felt that access had encouraged them to produce their own creative work and share it with others.

Few internet users have a personal website or blog. Around a quarter post their photographs online while one in twenty post video footage.

The internet changes politics
Just under a half of users agreed that the internet has become important for the political campaign process. Close to a third of non-users said they did not know if this was the case while just over a third agreed.

Overall non-users were more sceptical about the internets’ capacity to empower citizens than users. Perhaps more importantly, a sizeable proportion of non-users simply didn’t know what impact the internet was having on politics.

People shop online but they have reservations
Just under a half of our sample of internet users purchased at least one product 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.

For more, click here.


LyndaK said...

Hi Terry. Unsure if you know about other Swinburne work that Angelina Russo and I are doing under the Engaging Social Media ARC grant. The Australian Museum did an online survey of Australians' use of the internet with a focus on socia media. The findings were then unpacked in detail with young people aged 18-30 and school students. You can find the paper we gave at Museums and the Web 2008 on their website.

Be interested to see what you think..

Terry Flew said...

Thanks Lynda. I'll follow up.

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Jason Norin said...

It is not a surprise that internet users nowadays are greater in number compared to TV viewers. Especially for businesses, business owners are resorting to online marketing. There are lot of providers of business broadband in Australia to choose from that is why internet usage in Australia has become personal.

Alex Martin said...

A number of key findings about Australians' internet use have been announced as part of the latest installment of the Digital Futures Report, Australia's contribution to the World Internet Project.