Thursday, November 08, 2007

What will the Internet be in 2011?

Every few months I attend the Australian Bureau of Statistics ICT Reference Group for the Australian Computer Society. These are some notes from the 8 November 2007 meeting held at ABS House in Canberra (previous meeting was May 2007). Please note these are not official minutes and may omit some confidential material.


1. Welcome: Members include IIB Queensland Government, ACMA, NICTA, AMTA, DCITA, ACCC, ABS, IDC, AIIA.

2. Minutes from last meeting and action items status: ABS put their paper online (but I am not sure where online they put it). ABS is also looking at capturing stats on 3G and wireless broadband.

The collection of Internet access stats will be moved from a March to a to June collection to align with the OECD statistics. This should avoid the fuss which happened with the stats last time.

3. ICT Strategic issues -
current and emerging policy issues (for discussion) -45 mins

Policy related developments: Mobile technologies, Emerging trends, Information needs for states and territories ...

The first tricky issue to come up was if it is possible to find out from regional ISPs where their customers are. This is important for working out the penetration of Internet and broadband in regional areas. The ISPs say that this data is difficult to provide, as the location of the customer may not be the same as their billing address. This may seem an odd argument to make to a technologist as wired connections will be attached to a phone line in most cases and the location of the phones is known. But while the ABS can compel companies to provide information, they can't make it burdensome.

On 29 November 2007 ABS will release detailed Census report. This will include information on Internet and access cross referenced by regional, disabled and indigenous users. Everyone seemed happy with this. I guess the government will be happy as this is a week after the election. ;-)

This will be of use to the ACS as we are working on policy for expanding the USO from just access to basic telephone services and payphones, to cover broadband and mobile technology. Reg Coutts, ACS Telecommunications Board Chair, had article "
Service obligation must broaden", The Australian, 6 November 2007. Also ACS would like to see some changes to the ICT employment categories to cover changes in the industry. ACS is working leading an international task force to set global standards for IT training.

Some issued others raised were: convergence between phones, TV and publishing industry; digital literacy; pervasive network; social networks; semantic web; facebook; IT industry skills
; how are skills for non-IT specialists conveyed; security and safeguards; open source and licensing; Community Map Builder for presenting statistical data; competition in telecommunications; will telcos build infrastructure if the industry fragments; data requirements versus industry burden in statistics collection; future of voice; pact of 3G mobile on work practices; ICT for health services; ICT for business competition; visualisation; software as service; unmet demand for labor; broadband access for businesses and households; difference of opinion between DCITA and the Productivity Commission on ICT's effect on productivity; DCITA says ICT should not be considered a sector of the economy but an enabler so statistics are needed to measure ICT's effect on aspects of the economy; ICT skills for indigenous community; incidence, intensity and impact; climate change.

Couple of other points which occurred to me were the impact Google's mobile platform will have and that of Internet Appliances, such as the ASUS Eee PC subnotebook and Zonbu desktop thin client. These may start being used by individuals, as PCs were and then work their way into the workplace. This might be a grass roots way to have open source, consolidation, virtualisation and software as a service for business systems.

In terms of ICT skills as an enabler I was teaching public servants about electronic document management a few weeks ago
The course is designed to be delivered in a "blended" mode with a combination of classroom, exercises and online. I expect this will be the standard mode for adult education within a couple of years.

ACS issued a report on climate change and ICT a few months ago and details are at the ACS Green ICT Group. The ACS Policy Statement for Green ICT is available. The October meeting of the ACS Green Group looked at buildings and the next on training for sustainable development on 21 November 2007.

In terms of regional development I did a study for the WA Government on IT development in Albany. That showed that good telecommunications and local education facilities helped with development.

4 National Data Network (NDN): update and future directions (for information and discussion)

Update on NDN and demonstration of Children and Youth Portal (presentation) -
15 minutes

Currently 11 nodes: 4 full and 7 light. Might have an ICT portal. ACS collects data on the ICT industry and so might contribute to the portal. Unfortunately the metadata about collections in the NDN are not accessible to search engines, which in my view, makes the system non-viable.

As an example of the advantages of publishing the metadata, recently I was looking for details of the Australian musical work "Quito" by Martin Wesley-Smith. A web search threw up a number of commercial sources, but also the National Library of Australia's "Music Australia" database. Now knowing of the that database, I could use its specialist search service. But had NLA not made the details of the particular musical work available to the search engine I would not have learned of the existence of the database.
It would not be sufficient to advertise the existence of the database on the web, as I would not have found that with my search. Similarly, the NDN might as well not exist if what it has available is not made known via the web.

Another example of metadata publishing is that the ACS, along with Australian universities and research organizations, is making the details of research available via a standard metadata interface. The metadata is collected by the National Library of Australia, amongst others, and made available. The same technique may also be used to distribute government information.

Opportunities for data sharing using NDN ( presentation by ACMA ) - 15 minutes

ACMA is the communications regulator. They are now responding to the Banks red tape taskforce. ACMA is asked for data by researchers. ACMA publishes research results in its "Telecommunications Today" series. ACMA are participating in the NDN.

5. Census of Population and Housing: Directions for 2011 in relation to ICT related questions and collection strategy ...

ABS are now planning what should be in the 2011 Census. They want input from the ICT industry. The Census group will meet in May 2008 and would like input by 31 March 2008. There is a web page inviting public comment. There is a document "Census of Population and Housing: ABS Views on Content and Procedures, Australia 2011" available.

ABS will use "mesh blocks" as the unit of collection, which are not based on local government areas and will make collection more flexible. ABS will attempt to produce longitudinal data, while protecting individual privacy. Some questions will be customized for some respondents (called "thematic questions"). Some questions are already being tested. Questions about Internet will be included, but details changed as most households will have Internet access.

Some issues which came up were: should Internet spend be asked for and could the respondents answer the question. How many Internet connections a household has.

Some issues I can see: Will the household focus of the census still make sense in 2011? Should it be assumed that most all Census forms will be filled in online in 2011 and so more customized questions can be used. Questions such as how much a household spends on Internet access and how many connections they have may not make much sense by 2011. It could be assumed that just about every person will have continuous Internet access 24 hours a day by 2011 wherever they are.

6 Business Use of ICT statistics (for discussion) (Presentation by Jean Marc Annonier, IDC Australia) -15 mins

Details of IDC are at <>.

7 Recent developments, upcoming releases and work underway in ICT statistics (for information) -
25 mins

Work underway
  • ICT Industry Survey 2006-07 (report)
  • Integrated Business Characteristics Survey (IBCS) 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 (report)
  • Recent review of IAS review (paper)
  • Farm Use of IT 07-08 (report)
  • OECD Information economy product classification : Current status (report)
  • Review of Australia and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (report)
Recent releases (for information)
Upcoming releases (for information)
  • Summary of Innovation and IT Use in Australian Business (19 November 2007)
  • Patterns of Internet Access : Analytical work based on 2006 Census question on Internet access (29 November 2007)
  • Business Use of IT 2005-06 (from Annual Business Characteristics Survey) (7 December 2007)
  • Household Use of Information Technology 2006-07 (14 December 2007)
  • Internet Activity Survey, December 2007 (April 2008)
Top ten search words on the ABS web site search tool included "Internet". ;-)

8. Other Business and conclusion .- 5 mins

Next meeting: first half of next year.

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