Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ICT Statistics for the National Broadband Network

Greetings from the ICT Statistics Reference Group Meeting at the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Canberra. Major federal ICT agencies and industry bodies are represented in the group (I am here on behalf of the ACS). Major items discussed were the rollout of the National Broadband Network in Tasmania (where I was last week) and the creation of the NBN Company. I talked about the Australian ICT Trade Update released yesterday. Another item was that the Queensland Government has released a "ICT for tomorrow's Queensland - Strategy" and Action Plan.

One issue which keeps coming up at these meetings is the lack of resources for the ABS to collect ICT statistics. One suggestion I have made is to ask the new NBN Company for funding. The NBN Company has a very close interest in the use of ICT in Australia and is well funded by the federal government. An extra ten million of dollars per year spent on statistics may save tens of billions of dollars on misdirected investment in broadband infrastructure.

One statistical detail which may become important is that the ABS will start recording the number of home fibre optic connections in Australia (currently there are only though to be about 400). ABS will look from the home point of view, as a result a fibre termination to cluster housing will not count as fibre to the home. This has very significant implications for the statistics and for pubic policy. As an example, there is a fibre node in the basement of my apartment building, with copper cable the last few tens of metres to the apartment. This would not be counted as fibre to the home by the ABS. In my view it should be counted as this is fibre to the premises and provides essentially the same service as if the fibre was terminated in my apartment. This will skew the statistics, and undercount the FTTP statistics. It is very much cheaper and easier to use copper for the last tens of metres, than fibre, so there will be a lot of this. It would be unfortunate if many Austrlaias missed out on better broadband because of a statistical definition.

Here is the agenda for the meeting, I will comment on other items as we go along:

ICT Reference Group Meeting

23 September 2009


  1. Welcome – 5 mins

  1. Minutes from last meeting and action item status – 5 mins

  1. ICT Strategic issues – current and emerging (for discussion by group members) – 50 mins

    1. Updates in policy landscape and priorities since the last reference group meeting.

    2. Emerging regulatory priorities and trends in technology.

    3. Future directions for ICT statistics from a user perspective.

    4. Other, as identified by members.

  1. Updates on ABS business collections (for information and discussion) – 40 mins

    1. ICT Industry Survey (ICTIS): Developments since the last reference group meeting.

    2. Development of 2009–10 Business Use of Information Technology (BUIT) survey.

    3. Changes to Internet Activities Survey (IAS)

    4. Update on Farm Use of Information Technology (FUIT)

  1. Data in respect of Government Use of IT [update by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO)] – 15 mins

  1. Update on ABS collections relating to Non-business Use of IT (for information and discussion) – 15 mins

    1. Census of Population and Housing: Developments in relation to 2011 ICT related questions – update from previous meeting – 5 mins

    2. Developments in Household Use of Information Technology (HUIT) statistics – 10 mins

      1. Status of development for 2010–11 HUIT.

  1. ICT related statistics produced by other organisations (for information) – 15 mins

    1. Cyber Crime Survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) – update on status (presentation by AIC)

    2. ICT compendium and ICT Remuneration Survey by the Australian Computer Society (presentation by ACS)

  1. Analytical projects undertaken by ABS (for information) – 20 mins

  1. International developments – 10 mins

    1. Working Party on Indicators for the Information Society (WPIIS) meeting in Paris 23-24 April 2009.

    2. OECD Project on Analysis and Classification of Internet activities – status on ABS contribution.

  1. Recent developments: work underway, recent releases and upcoming releases (for information) – 10 mins

    1. Work underway: Surveys and other work currently in development.

      1. BUIT 2009–10

      2. HUIT 2010–11

    2. Recent releases (since March 2009):

      1. Internet Activity Survey, Australia, December 2008 (6 April 2009)

      2. Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business, 2007–08 (25 June 2009)

      3. Use of Information Technology on Farms, 2007–08 (17 August 2009)

      4. Business Use of Information Technology, 2007–08 (20 August 2009)

      5. Internet Activity Survey, Australia, June 2009 (14 September 2009)

      6. Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, 2007–08 (17 September 2009)

    3. Upcoming releases:

      1. Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, 2007–08 (25 September 2009)

      2. Business Longitudinal Database, Confidentialised Unit Record File (October 2009)

      3. Household Use of Information Technology, 2008–09 (16 December 2009)

  1. Other business and Conclusion

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Learning to map census data online

ABS is running a free "ABS Training: CDATA Online seminar" 03/12/08 in Canberra (other dates in other locations). The 2006 CDATA Online seems reasonably easy to work and useful. You can create your own custom display of census data via the web for free.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 10, 2008

Australian ICT Industry Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry survey results for 2006-07 on 7 October 2008. ABS found 300,000 people employed in ICT: 43% in design and service, 26% information media and telecommunications and 24% wholesale trade. The industry contribtes $44B to the economy. Due to government budget cuts there will be no 2008-09 survey.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Environmental Accounts Information Paper

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released a useful information paper: "What are Environmental Accounts?". This discusses applying an accounting approach to integrate environmental data with economic and social data. I don't agree with the ABS assertion that an accounting approach necessarily brings greater discipline to the organisation of data. The recent global financial crisis, brought about by companies not knowing what liabilities they have, suggests accounting has a disastrous lack of rigour. However, the ABS provides a useful overview of environmental measurement for social planning, plus a List of economic Accounting reports.

Environmental science has detailed measures to try to assess the uncertainty of the data they collect. These do not always work. At Griffith University I studied global environmental models, such as the Club of Rome study "Limits to Growth" (1972); these suggested the world as we know it should have ended decades ago. The models were wrong and the world survived.

The difficulty is not with data from nature which can be measured with instruments, but the assumptions about human behaviour in response to that data. This is the most difficult part with environmental accounts, but the most important. As the ABS points out, government policy is shifting to an integrated approach considering the economy, society and the environment together.

In my own recent work, commissioned by the Australian Department of Environment, on how to reduce ICT energy use, I have pointed out the need for better measures of the energy use of the ICT sector in Australia (and therefore its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions). However, knowing how much energy is used will not necessarily reduce climate change. The actions I propose depend on the behaviour of people. At one extreme it depends on convincing individuals to turn off their computers when they are not using them, and at the other of convincing the Australian Government to buy energy efficient computers for the public service and schools. The resulting change in energy use can be measured, but there are is no perfect way to predict the behaviour of a person, or a government.

Some examples the ABS provides:

... Environmental-Economic Accounts:
    • enable the relationships between the environment and the economy to be analysed and understood, including understanding environmental and economic dependencies and outcomes;
    • present environmental data using a framework that is consistent with broader economic data, such as those compiled in accordance with the widely used economic accounting framework, the System of National Accounts;
    • show the distribution of environmental resources across different parts of the economy, which supports more targeted policy development;
    • follow internationally accepted guidelines and facilitate international comparisons; and
    • provide a system into which monetary valuations of environmental assets and environmental-related flows can be incorporated with physical data, so that monetary implications of environmental actions can be considered...

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Innovation and Technology Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released "8101.0 - Innovation and Technology Update" 29/07/2008. This includes stats on ICT in Australia, R&D and "innovation" They also have an ICT Theme page.
  1. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Statistics
  2. Research & Experimental Development (R&D) Statistics
  3. Innovation Statistics
  4. Business Characteristics Statistics
  5. Other

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Government Statistics Cutbacks Threaten Broadband Future

Every few months I attend the Australian Bureau of Statistics ICT Reference Group for the Australian Computer Society. These are some notes from the 2 April 2008 meeting held at ABS House in Canberra (previous meeting was November 08, 2007 and others are available). Please note these are not official minutes. They may omit some confidential material and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations mentioned.


1. Welcome

People introduced themselves. It was interesting that people from federal agencies were still not used to saying the new longer post-election names of the agencies. ;-)

The agenda was rearranged, moving item 4 and 8 after 2. I have retained that numbering.

2. Minutes from last meeting and action items status

No significant changes.

4. Changes in ABS work program in relation to ICT statistics

ABS has had about a 6% budget cut and has to make changes. They decided to drop whole items of work, rather than cut everything by an equal amount. Except the 2011 census will be run in the same way as the last one, saving on development work.

They will therefore run the Census much the same as the last one, without large changes. There was a 9% take up of the online eCensus (I expect it could reach 25% next time). The AIIA representative suggested AIIA and ACS could help promote it.

Also there will not be a “thematic” part to the census; everyone will get the same census form. There will still be a half page for Internet questions and the like. New “mesh block” output results will still be provided.

ABS will not run ICT industry survey 2008/08 (perhaps ACS could step in and help find some more money, or help do so some research?). There will be a reduction to the household and farm use surveys.

8. Presentation on Economic Significance and State of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Industry and Impact of the Mobile Phone on Work/Life Balance by Chris Althaus

Mobile statistics indicated revenue of $13B, employing 21,000 people. Mobile subscriptions are now at saturation point, with more mobile phones than people in Australia. Access Economics did some economic modeling of direct and spillover “Australian Mobile Telecommunications Industry: Economic Significance & State of the Industry” (July 2007).

Economy wide benefits are expected by a skilled workforce with mobile data. 3G is assumed to provide 20 minutes per week in productivity. By 2010 mobile data is expected to provide $1B more to GDP. 3G had a slow start, but is picking up (I suspect high costs for mobile data were holding things back).

Social research is looking at the impact of the mobile phone on work/life balance. M-Commerce, m-Education and m-Entertainment are major areas. ANU and others researched “Social Research - The Impact of the Mobile Phone on Work - Life Balance”. Surveys where mostly positive as to the impact of the mobile phone. One interesting outcome was the role of the mobile in micro-social management (travel with a family and see the way the phone is used to run a trip like a military operation). Males tended to emphasize work use of mobile, females social use.

Recycling is an issue, with phones replace every 12 to 18 months. The MobileMuster program aims to have old phones recycled. I suspect that the iPhone and Goole Mobile software equipped phones with large touch screens and good web access will disrupt the industry, creating a new category. In the short term this will result in more replacements and in the longer them might reduce replacement.

One issue raised in discussion that email on Blackberry type devices is a big driver as will be 3G in laptops. Convergence was also raised, as was social networking and its negative aspects. The role of 3G in providing broadband versus fiber to the node was discussed. SMS spam and scams were also raised. There was also an interesting discussion of the difference in the way mobile devices are used for payments in developing countries and developed ones. I saw this first hand in India.

3 ICT Strategic issues – current and emerging
  • Changes in policy landscape and priorities since the change of government (Presentation by Dr Judith Winternitz, DBCDE)
  • Emerging regulatory priorities (Presentation by Mr Joseph di Gregorio, ACMA)
  • Future directions for ICT statistics from a user perspective Emerging trends in technology
  • Other, as identified by members
5 Census of Population and Housing: Strategies for 2011 with regard to ICT related questions in view of changes to ABS work program.

The question asked last time was: “Can the Internet be accessed at this dwelling?”. The answers were: “no, dial-up, broadband, other”. The issue was how much this question could be changed. There is no budget to test new questions and so changes must be minimal. The obvious answer to add would be wireless and mobile phone, but it would be difficult to add these without testing.

It is ironic to think that some of the people filling in the census form may be doing so using a mobile phone, for whom the question about Internet access at “the dwelling” will not make a lot of sense.

Also there are political implications in the question. The Census will be around the time of the next election. The government made promises about broadband and the decision by the government to cut finding for ICT statistics may be seen as a way to avoid seeing if the commitment was met. As doctors and engineers get told: "If you can't measure it, you do not know if it is working".

For the Government to cut $22M from ABS to risk the Australian economy, as well as its own political future seems odd. This is a message which needs to get to the Treasurer. AIIA and ACS might make some representations on the ABS' behalf. This change, if it is to be made, has to be done in the next few weeks.

6. Future of Household Use of Information Technology survey

Plan to publish results around December 2008. Detailed data will be charged for. The next survey will be 2010. ABS wants to know what the industry wants to know.

Options for provision of ICT industry data following budget cancellation of 2008-09 ICTIS.

At this point government representatives discussed changed following the election. One of these was the increased emphasis on fiber broadband infrastructure by the new government and the “digital” economy being emphasized. The government has set a date for 2012/13 for digital TV switchover, freeing up spectrum for broadband wireless data.

One issue raised was the environmental issues with the changeover, as this is likely to accelerate the replacement of TVs (also digital TVs tend to use more power). But digital can;t really be blamed for this, as take-up of digital TVs is already up to 42%, due to the consumer's love of large flat screen TVs.

SMH reports OPEL has advised the stock exchange that the deal for them to provide broadband is off (I was interviewed by ABC TV News about this later in the day).

ACMA looked at the issue of voice (that is an ordinary phone service). Research published in “telecommunications today” shows that consumer see mobile and fixed phone services as complementary, not competing. The point was made that there is little regulation around Internet compared to phones.

Landlines are seen as critical services (this might be interpreted as reliable services). VoIP is not new, but still has issues for emergency services and enforcement agencies. One problem I had was that the discussion was that the role of mobile phones was not clear, between fixed traditional phones and Internet. In some ways mobile phones are like fixed phones and in other ways they are more like the Internet.

ACMA is not seeking to use regulatory powers to collect statistics, instead working with ABS. Given that ABS is having its funding cut and that statistics collection from ICT providers can be easily be automated, there is the opportunity to create standard automated collection formats for the industry.

The Innovation Department discussed the formation of innovation councils. There may be an ICT Innovation Council (AIIA and ACS might need to lobby for this). There is a review of the innovation system (I have suggested using GovDex for on-line consultation). This is likely to cover CRCs and government procurement.

ABS asked if a specific survey was needed for the ICT , or if this could be got from general collections. ABS is trying this out out on the pharmaceuticals industry first.

9 Recent developments, upcoming releases and work underway in ICT statistics (for information)

Work underway
  • ICT Industry Survey 2006-07 (report)

  • Integrated Business Characteristics Survey (IBCS) 2006-07 and 2007-08 (report)

  • Farm Use of IT 07-08 (status report)

This was going to be cut back, but ABS have been able to work out how to do it another way. The details escaped me.

  • OECD Information economy product classification : Current status (report)

  • Recent 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 (20 December 2007)

  • Australia and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (31 March 2008)

  • Upcoming releases (for information)

  • Internet Activity Survey, December 2007 (24 April 2008)

10. Other Business and conclusion

One amusing part of the meeting was that the screen saver on the projection screen showed a sequence of landscapes, but in between a field of flowers and stone hinge was the federal cabinet at government house. The significance of this was not clear.

Meeting closed 2 April 2008. Next meeting is in the first half of August.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

ICT Statistics Reference Group Meeting in April

ABS House foyerThe next Australian Bureau of Statistics ICT Reference Group meeting will be in Canberra in April 2007. The Reference Group has on it government agencies and industry bodies interested in computers and telecommunications.

If anyone has any issues please let me know, as I attend for the ACS. The agenda has not yet been prepared, but is likely to cover similar issues to the previous meetings:

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ICT in the Australian Economy

Australian Bureau of Statistics are holding a free seminar on how they measure the role of ICT in the Australian economy (all welcome):
ABS ESG Seminar Series

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Satellite Account: Concepts, Key Results and Uses

Presenters: Siddhartha De, Peter Comisari, Judith Winternitz (DCITA)

10.30 am - 11.30 am
Friday 17 November 2006
Knibbs Auditorium, ABS House, Canberra


Information and communication technologies play and important role in the way in which we live and do business. There is considerable interest in the role of ICT as a significant driver of socioeconomic development, for example, in the way that ICT has allowed business to increase productivity. For the official statisticians, the measurement of these technologies provides significant conceptual and measurement challenges. A key part of the ABS response to these challenges has been the development of an ICT satellite account for Australia for 2002-03.

In this seminar Peter Comisari will describe the ICT satellite account. He will outline the conceptual framework for the account, describe some of the difficult methodological issues that arose in the compilation of the account, and highlight key results. Siddhartha De will summarise how industry groups have used the information. Following this staff from DCITA, led by Dr Judith Winternitz, General Manager, Research, Statistics and Technology Branch, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts [DCITA], will provide a session on the use of the ICT satellite account from a policy perspective.

Details: (a)
See Also:

Labels: , ,

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:

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 16, 2006

ICT Statistics Reference Group Meeting: Table Top Sushi Trains and Better Than Tourism

This week I attended my second meeting at the Australian Bureau of Statistics at ABS House in Canberra:
"The ABS established an ICT reference group in early 2004 involving government, industry, academic and community representatives. The aim of the reference group is to improve the usefulness of ICT statistics in Australia from a variety of sources. The reference group provides a high level forum for understanding, improving and developing ICT statistics, providing members with the opportunity to discuss and consider strategies to address ICT statistical issues ..."

Items of note from the meeting:

1. MEETING OPENED AT 10:45AM. The meeting is in the Australian Bureau of Statistics board room, which has a table which seats 40 people. This is so large I suggested they run a sushi train around the table to deliver papers. ;-)

Something I did notice was that only three people, including me, had laptop computers (they were all sub-notebooks with 12 inch screens). In contrast, at a typical ACS Council meeting almost everyone has a computer in front of them, all networked together. The ABS has power and Ethernet cabled into the table, so I have suggested they offer access to attendees at the next meeting.

2. MINUTES FROM LAST MEETING WERE PRESENTED. My notes from the meeting are at <>. Action items were covered in the agenda.

3. EMERGING TRENDS AND POLICY ISSUES FOR ICT STATISTICS: We went around the room collecting ideas on trends from the attendees:

a. RFID got a mention as an emerging trend (CSIRO are looking at RFID and I am a member of their RFID Reading group.

b. HOME NETWORKS AND CONVERGENCE OF HAND-HELD DEVICES (mobile phone/camera). DCITA had just announced change to broadcasting policy, which might need some more stats to support it.

c. PODCASTING was something I mentioned as an emerging trend, blurring the lines between broadcasting and publishing and that the ACS is considering what policy it might recommend to DCTIA.

d. Also I had a grumble about how long ABS takes too produce some stats: by the time we have the stats on a technology trend, the trend may be over. This was supported by AIIA. There was a discussion of the usefulness of commercial surveys: quicker but less accurate. ABS working with other agencies to make stats they collect more widely available.

4. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN STATISTICS: ABS reported on a number of new ICT related statistics reports. Details of these are online:

a. FARM USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY 2004-05: Computer and internet usage showed only 1% growth from the previous year.

b. HOUSEHOLD USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY 2004-05: 67% of Australian households had access to a computer at home and 56% had home Internet access. 28% had broadband Internet access and 69% had dial-up access. 31% of Australian adults ordered goods or services via the Internet. Travel, accommodation and tickets of were most popular.

There was some discussion at the meeting as to how much detail could be asked without overburdening the people surveyed. IT Statistics are not a priority for the Census and will not be out for about a year. The Census will include an online collection option and if this is accepted by users may make statistics available quicker.

c. ICT SATELLITE ACCOUNT, AUSTRALIA 2002-03: This is the first official satellite account on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Australia. It measures the direct contribution of ICT to the Australian economy in 2002-03 -- in particular, the contribution of ICT to gross domestic product (GDP).

d. ACCC DIVISION 12A BROADBAND MONITORING AND REPORTING DETERMINATION: ACCC looking at collecting takeup of broadband, type, download and upload speeds, location (metro/non-metro). Data would only be collected from large carriers, not little ISPs. This reduces the burden for the industry in collecting data for ACCC. It is difficult to collect geographic data at a finer level (what Postcode the user is). Some data collection is voluntary and there is difficulty in getting emerging areas covered, such as wireless.

e. REVIEW OF INTERNET ACTIVITY STATISTICS: Next collection expected for September 2006. There will be a gap in the statistics between March 2005 and September 2006. Considering a reduced collection from small IPSs to reduce the burden on them.

f. INTEGRATED BUSINESS CHARACTERISTICS STRATEGY (IBCS): This will combine the Business use of IT and Innovation surveys. Will support microdata analysis and combine ABS data with ATO data via the data warehose. This sounded like very clever stuff, most of which I didn't understand. ;-)

All I could find about this on the ABS web site was one paragraph. I suggested ABS to put the details on their web site and send us the address, which they agreed to do.


a. ICT SATELLITE ACCOUNT: The headline figure was that ICT added 4.9% to the Gross value (this is more than tourism). Other ICT statistics were: 4.6% of GDP, 13.8% of total investment and 3.5% of household consumption (with 67% of this being phone bills). But it is hard to compare these internationally as ABS is the first to produce such national statistics (OECD may look at doing it). Overall the stats didn't tell us anything the we didn't already know, but do it in a rigorous manner. ACS put out a press release about it.

b. MEASUREMENT OF SOFTWARE IN ABS ECONOMIC STATISTICS: Provided some complicated diagrams about import and exports of packaged software. ABS is trying to work out how software sales work. But the models they use for physical goods (such as wholesalers) don't really apply to software. Free open source software is an extreme case, but when you buy Ms Word you don't own it, just have a license. I suggested ABS look at research papers on how the software industry works.

With a Google Schollar search I found some likely papers. Some of these are from the ACS's own research journal. May also be worth looking at the film and publishing industries for ideas on how to measure such intangible goods or services.


a. ANZSIC 2006 CHANGES TO ICT INDUSTRIES: The codes used to classify businesses (ANZSIC) have been changed. There are finer catagorisations for ICT industry, such as for Internet, wired and wirless communcations and web design. ABS is working out how compare statistics using the old and new codes. ABS will release a discussion paper on what they propose to do with the details (such as if copying CDs counts as ICT or not).


7. METHODOLOGICAL AND TECHNICAL ISSUES RELATING TO SAMPLE DESIGN: Overview of issues of sample size an the like. Shows that ABS knows how to do statistics (which is what you would expect).


9. NEXT MEETING: In six months time. Meeting closed at 2:44pm.

There was some discussion as to the frequency of meetings. I suggested more frequent shorter meetings with online discussion between meetings. But most attendees didn't want this as they are from interstate and don't seem to be convinced online working is a good idea.

PS: After the meeting I discovered ABS have quite a good library (available to the public) on the ground floor of their building. This obviously specializes in statistics related materials, but had an okay IT collection.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 13, 2005

ICT Reference Group Meeting

ABS House

10:30am 11 October 2005, at ABS House Canberra

Statistics aren't always dull. This week I attended a meeting at the Australian Bureau of Statistics at ABS House in Canberra:

"The ABS established an ICT reference group in early 2004 involving government, industry, academic and community representatives. The aim of the reference group is to improve the usefulness of ICT statistics in Australia from a variety of sources. The reference group provides a high level forum for understanding, improving and developing ICT statistics, providing members with the opportunity to discuss and consider strategies to address ICT statistical issues ..."

I was there as Director of the Communications Technologies (Telecommunications) Board of the The Australian Computer Society. The meeting was attended by about 20 people, one third from ABS, one third from other agencies and one third from non-government bodies, including AIIA, ACS, and Telstra. These are some notes I prepared (comments and corrections welcome).

ICT Satellite Accounts

A new macroeconomic report on ICT (to be called: "ICT Satellite Accounts") is due out in early February 2006:

An ICT satellite account defines ICT products and identifies their supply and use, so that a comprehensive set of economic data relating to ICT activity can be compiled for the Australian economy. Among other things, this allows us to quantify the size of ICT production relative to other types of economic activity.

This should provide some impressive numbers for the media, of the “IT contributes $XXX billion to economy” sort.

Live demonstration - National Data Network

The National Data Network will provide infrastructure, protocols, standards, and services to support acquiring, sharing and integration of data across Australia.

The NDN looked very good. It is essentially a catalogue and gateway to Australian statistics at various organizations. There are some publicly available statistics there, but much of the data will require prior apporval to use, for priovacy reasons.

Information Development Plan

Information Development Plan (IDP) - The ABS is in the process of developing an IDP for ICT information. The ABS is taking a lead role in this development, but will not be the owners of the outputs of this process. There are many stakeholders involved in the production and use of ICT information and it is important for the success of the IDP process to involve and engage with these users and producers. The development of IDPs is seen by the ABS as an important element in progressing the National Statistical Service. Its effectiveness is manifested in how useful it is for decisions made on statistical priorities.

ABS doesn't have the resources to work on the IDP at the moment and will see if they can do it next year. The work DCITA has done on ICT productivity (reported at SEARCC 2005) could do with more support with more stats. James Shaw from DCITA talked about this at the ANU and again at SEARCC 2005 in September:

... we have the paradox that while a lot of computers and telecommunications are being used, economists are saying this don't increase productivity. ...
To explore this paradox, DCITA funded research to produce better measures of efficiency. These show about a 40 to 80% productivity boost with technology. Of course it is the Information Economy Division of the Department funding this work, so you might suspect the researchers are telling them what they want to hear. ;-)
URL: <>

Broadband Statistics

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) produces a regular broadband snapshot and is looking at changes:

The ACCC collects data on broadband take-up from a limited number of broadband providers, cross-classified by technology type and type of customer. This information is summarised in the ACCC's snapshot of broadband deployment reports.
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts issued the Monitoring and Reporting on Competition in the Telecommunications Industry Determination 2003 (No. 1) (on the DCITA website) on 5 May 2003 under sub-ss. 151CMA(1) and (3) of the Trade Practices Act. The determination requires the ACCC to report quarterly at the aggregate level on wholesale and retail broadband availability and take-up, cross-classified by technology type, data speed, data usage, geographic postcode and business sector. ...
URL: <>

There was a long, and very familiar, discussion of what exactly is "broadband". ABS uses the definition of "always on 256k". This seemed to be the consensus and fitted with what I found when I asked ACS members about the government's Blackspots program. But in reality a claimed 256k connection might only give you 64kbps and even if you get 256k we should aim for more from a public policy point of view in the long term.

Others suggested a higher figure and more levels of measurement (ABS only measures up to 2Mbps). By the way my own submission to the previous Senate broadband inquiry was subtitled "Never mind the bandwidth, feel the quality". ;-)

One problem in conducting a survey of Internet access is that consumers may not understand what sort of broadband they have (whereas ISPs would). Another issue discussed was if wireless numbers should be collected. I suggested it was a good time to start collecting stats on wireless (have a wireless modem in my
Smart Apartment and noticed another one in the window of an apartment building opposite).

A fundamental problem with the definition of broadband is what are you measuring? As an example of the problems, one person at the meeting said they would compare dial-up use with broadband. But wireless ISPs now provide non-dialup non-broadband (less than 256kbps) services.

The ACCC is reviewing its broadband statistics for 2006. It is looking to collect more detail, such as: Retail V wholesale, postcode, transmission speed, business V residential. But this costs money and takes time. I suggested that the Internet itself might be used to collect statistics on subscribers and speeds. The routers in the network might be used to collect some statistics, for example. This got a sceptical reaction, but will be looked at. Might also be useful for DCITA's review of their Strategic Framework for the Information Economy (SFIE).

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

There was a general discussion of what VoIP stats might be useful (and useful enough for people to pay for). It would cost money to include questions about VoIP in household surveys. I suggested asking the ISPs how much voice traffic there is on their networks. Some suggested ISPs have such stats but wouldn't provide them unless compelled to. The take-up rate of Digital TV then came up. I couldn't see how this fitted with VoIP, apart from being another gadget. Also I pointed out that having the gadgets didn't mean they were used. I bought a VoIP box and a HDTV card, but so far don't use them much.

Follow-up on Value of Information Propositions

Value of information propositions - This item was introduced at earlier reference groups, proposing guidelines for a process of determining the value of information. A more in-depth discussion took place, with the basic hypothesis being that information is valuable if it causes a decision change, and information affecting multiple decisions is as valuable as the most valuable use.
URL: <>

Couldn't understand what this was about.

Collection of Business Characteristics Data

Collection of business characteristics statistics - The ABS is in the process of conducting investigations into better integrating business characteristics statistics. It is considered that this integration will yield efficiencies and an increase in the usefulness of these statistics.
URL: <>

There was some discussion of how to increase the accuracy of the stats. I didn't know what they were collecting so couldn't comment.

Next meeting

The next meeting will be around March 2006. It will discuss Spam. So I wonder if ABS will e-mail a survey out to everyone about Spam? ;-)

Labels: , , ,