Thursday, October 05, 2006

ICT Reference Group meeting

I attended the ABS ICT Reference Group meeting on behalf of the ACS, 5 October 2006. Some notes:


The ABS had circulated a detailed 33 page paper, to outlined what it might do with ICT Statistics. There was a discussion as to if discussion of the "information economy" was now obsolete, because ICT is widespread in the economy. Also there was the issue as to if ICT was an industry, or an industry sector.

The section on government policy drivers created a surprisingly philosophical discussion. Essentially the government policy is for use of ICT for industry. But there are other uses, such as the electoral commission using it for e-voting in 2007. I suggested the term "government" be removed from the heading in the report, so that non-government policy could be included.

Treasury has a "wellbeing framework" to measure social issues. ABS asked if there should be something similar for ICT. This raises issues of the concept of "community" and issues such as the rural metro divide in Internet access, ICT literacy (in the indigenous community). The ACS issued a Policy Statement on Computer Literacy in 2005.

The ABS tries to identify gaps in the statistics they collect. They have made a brave attempt to connect the government policy objectives to specific statistics. There was a discussion as to if there should be statistics on quality of service for broadband. This would need some policy from government to say that this is an issue, so then technical measures could be chosen for the stats to collect. ACMA have some work on this.

Apparently ACS statistics reports are hard to find on-line. I said I would provide some links:
The ABS proposed a "ICT information Portal". This would have links to ABS, government and non-government statistics. It might be part of the National Data Network.

The major issue for the document was what was going to be done with it. I suggested releasing the next draft for public comment. This will be done after the next consultation meeting. Also I suggested the shorten their web addresses. As an example the description of the ICT Group. These long meaningless looking web addresses make it harder to get to the information and make it less credible. The ABS now use Google for searching on their web site. Perhaps they should sign up for Google advertising and collect revenue from this.


One interesting point is ABS is considering how to release stats on the web (I would think the answer is obvious: use web pages).

Recent Releases:
  • BUSINESS USE OF TECHNOLOGY 2004-05: Shows business has taken up broadband. Proportion of businesses taking orders over the Internet is steady but the value of orders increased significantly.
  • INTERNET ACTIVITY SURVEY, JUNE 2006: Covered 90% of Internet subscribers. Shows dial-up is dropping off and broadband is being taken up. DSL is the most popular access method. The mbytes downloaded has increased greatly with broadband.
  • ICT INDUSTRY SURVEY 2004-05: Recent survey shows an industry with 244,238 employees and a $87B income. Computer consultants was the largest employer but telecommunications services was largest for income.
  • USE OF IT ON FARMS 2004-05: Just over half of farms use computers and the Internet, but most have only dial-up. I wonder if this is holding back the sector?
  • CHANGES IN INTERNET ACTIVITY SURVEY (IAS): Will cover larger ISPs in more detail to reduce cost and burden on smaller ISPs. Will ask about VoIP. They are thinking about if the need to ask about access technology versus speed. Will not be able to give stats on city versus rural, due to the difficulty ISPs have supplying it. What about wireless? Large ISPs will report electronically. There will be no paper report by ABS (web based only).
  • FARM USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SURVEY: ABS are considered if they should run one in 2006/07. The plan is to run one every five years.

The issue was which statistics are part of the ICT sector and which were not. ABS is consulting on this with Australian bodies seeing if it will match with OECD.

Next meeting is April 2007.

Notes from previous meetings:

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