Revealed: Online state of the nation

Over a third of Australians accessed the internet last year, but more growth is necessary in order to remain globally competitive, according to Dr Paul Twomey, CEO of the National Office for the Information Economy.

At the Australian Financial Markets Association (AFMA) TechnoFuture conference today, NOIE released a new report into the progress of Australia's digital information economy.

Based on figures from the report, Twomey said Australia displays a high rate of participation in the information economy. "However, this needs to be accelerated for Australia to be internationally competitive," he said.

According to the quarterly report, in 1999 an estimated 36 per cent of Australia's total population accessed the internet. The figure ranks Australia fourth behind the US, Canada and Sweden in internet adoption rates and is driven by adult usage, which is growing at 43 per cent annually.

Some of the report's other highlights include:

* By the end of 1999, an estimated 25 per cent of Australian homes were online, placing Australia in a relatively high position. Unsurprisingly, internet access increases with personal income: some 65 per cent of individuals earning $75,000 or more use the net, compared to just over 20 per cent in the income bracket below $25,000.

* Farm access to the internet is growing substantially, though by March 1999, only 20 per cent of the nation's farms were connected.

* Australia is just behind the US and Finland in ratio of persons per internet server (60:1), and has the second-highest ratio of secure servers (78 per million inhabitants) after the US.

* Only Japan and Canada surpass Australia in growth rate of domain name registrations (38 per cent).

* SME internet use lags behind that of large enterprises, with under 50 per cent online as of February 1999.

* 800,000 Australian adults shopped via the internet in the 12 months to November 1999, an increase of about 183 per cent over the previous year; 75 per cent paid for their purchases online. Purchases at Australian websites now exceed those made at overseas sites, reflecting the low value of the Australian currency and a desire for the security of local supply.

The full report is available online at http://www.noie.gov.au.

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