Apr 2011 29

How Australians use the Internet


Posted April 29, 2011 by |  

Australia's internet use is accelerating. We now have over 17 million active internet users as of December 2010, with a sharp increase of 10% in the last six months.

In April this year we'll celebrate the 10 millionth ISP connection. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released a snapshot of social trends showing that just over 78% of Australians now use the Internet regularly at work or home, and more than half of these people go online daily. But who are these people, and what do we actually do when we're online?

Who is online?

According to an Internet Activity Survey conducted by the ABS, household use of the Internet has rocketed in the last decade from just 1 million (16% of homes) in 1998 up to nearly six million, or 72 percent of homes at the end of last year.

Businesses are more likely to make use of the Internet than households, with nine out of ten workplaces now connected.

Although workplaces are more likely to have a connection, it's our homes that are still the primary location of access for two-thirds of Australians.  Households with the highest rates of home internet access are those with children and those with higher levels of household income.

Business Internet use

Over the decade 1998 - 2009, the proportion of businesses with some sort of website increased from 6% up to 42% in 2008-09.

Although smaller employers (with less than 4 employees) make up the majority of Australian businesses, it's the big players with over 200 employees that generate almost 6 times more internet income at $58 billion.

This suggests that the investment in professional marketing practices, shopping cart software and merchant facilities is important in capturing business online, where most small businesses currently rely only on online 'business card' websites that require Internet users to ring a phone number or send an email to make sales enquiries.

How often are we online?

More than nine in 10 Australians who have the internet at home use it at least weekly, with almost 60 per cent using it daily.

This number increases to 69% for young people (18-24 years old) and is similar for 25-34 year olds (65%). Daily use decreases to a consistent level of 50% of users aged 35-55 and older.

People with tertiary qualifications are also associated with more frequent internet use.

While having internet access appears to be associated with household income levels, once households do gain internet access income doesn't appear to be associated with how frequently it is used.

Broadband, dialup or mobile?

Around 86% of homes with internet access (two-thirds of all Australian households) use broadband connections while 12% are still stuck on dialup.

Although decreasing in dominance, digital subscriber lines (DSL) continued to be the major technology for connections, accounting for 43% of the total internet connections, followed closely by mobile wireless (40%).

Mobile wireless (excluding mobile handset connections) was the fastest growing internet access technology in actual numbers, increasing from 2.8 million in December 2009 to 4.2 million in December 2010.

An ABS Internet Activity Survey found that by the end of December 2010 the number of mobile handset subscribers in Australia had increased by 21% to 8.2 million since June 2010. The volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets also increased to over 5 times the amount (4,029 terabytes) during the same six month period. It's likely these increases are due to aggressive marketing by telephone companies, particularly regarding smartphones and 3G networks.

What do we do online?

While there are many reasons people use the internet, including for work and education, most people use it for personal reasons such as emailing, banking, gaming, preparing job applications and online shopping.

Work - Nearly half (46%) used the internet for work purposes, while around 40% used it for education or study.

Although the proportion of people using the internet for voluntary and community work was relatively low across the board, the rate tended to increase with age, with people aged 55-64 years and those aged 65 years and over amongst the age groups most likely to use the internet for this reason (both with 15%).

Study - People aged 15-24 using the internet for study had higher rates of internet use (66%) reflecting the increasing importance of online learning tools in the delivery of education due to their flexible delivery.

In 2009, Open Universities Australia alone had more than 49,000 student enrolments, 32% greater than in 2008.

The Australian Government’s 2008 Digital Education Revolution (DER) has the goal of achieving a laptop to student ratio for year 9-12 students of 1:1 by 31 December 2011.

Online Shopping - In 2010, over two-thirds (67%) of Australian internet users completed purchases online, up from 64% in 2009, contributing to an estimated $19 - $24 billion worth of online domestic retail sales.

The most common reasons given for making online purchases were the convenience (74%), lower prices (38%), and wider availability of products and services (16%).

Men were more likely to buy online, with seven out of 10 doing their retail therapy on the web, compared with 65 per cent of women. People aged 25-34 years (82%) and 35-44 years (79%) form the majority of those making online purchases.  

Social Networking - Social networking sites have grown in popularity with 41 per cent of internet users accessing such sites in 2009, up from 36 per cent in 2008. The use of blogs also rose from 25 to 28 per cent, and use of internet news feeds grew from 43 to 45 per cent. Younger people were more likely to engage in social networking than those in older age groups.

Young Australians

There is a clear indication that school plays a major part in connecting young Australians. Eight in ten high-school aged users regularly access the internet, while there is a sharp dropoff to less than half of 18-24 year olds due to financial costs and a weighting towards offline socialising. Much lower rates of use (31%) are reported among people of 65 years and over.

The up and coming 'digital generation' has four out of five children aged between five and 14 using the internet. The proportion of children using the internet increased with age; 60% of 5-8 year olds used the internet, increasing to 96% of 12-14 year olds.

More than 90 per cent of children aged over nine use the internet for schoolwork, 69 per cent played online games, 47 per cent used the internet to download music and 22 per cent used it for social networking.

According to the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA), in 2007, one in six children (17%) aged 8-14 had a computer in their bedroom. The younger end spending from 30 minutes a day online, increasing up to 90 minutes a day for kids aged 12-14.

As children become older, they begin to move from treating the internet as a source of entertainment towards using it as an arena for information and socialising. Older boys tend to prefer role-playing games and audio-visual content (such as YouTube), while older girls preferred other online social activities, such as emailing, instant messaging and social networking (through sites such as Facebook and Twitter).

Almost a third of all children own a mobile phone. Interestingly, 2% of 5-8 year olds have their own phone, increasing with age to three-quarters (76%) of 12-14 year olds. Children mainly used their mobile phones to contact family (60%) rather than friends (36%). Only 4% of children had used their mobile phone to access the internet.

An estimated 3% of all children have experienced personal safety or security problems online at some time in their life, including accessing inappropriate material, having strangers ask for or gain access to personal information, or experiencing online bullying or threatening behaviour.

International comparisons

In 2009, the Republic of Korea (South) had the highest proportion of households with internet access (96%), whilst Mexico had the lowest (18%). Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom all had relatively similar levels of household internet access (ranging from 72% to 77%), ahead of the US

Looking ahead

Computing has become an essential part of the way we work, communicate, do business and are entertained. The decreasing cost of IT has seen increasing numbers of Australian households embrace web use and this trend is expected to continue with advancements in internet and mobile technologies. For example, the rollout of the Australian Government’s National Broadband Network is expected improve broadband access to Australian businesses and households, and in doing so support improved service delivery across areas such as education and health.



  • http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0/
  • http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features50Jun+2011
  • http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features60Jun+2011
  • http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm



Last modified by Luke Chambers on Jul 2, 02:58 PM | Back to top

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