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Australian Home Net Access Jumps

Home access to the Internet has risen 50 per cent in the past year, according to latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In the 12 months to February 1999, 1.3 million Australian households, or 18 per cent of the total, had Net access, up 423,000 from February 1998.

Of this new total, 40 per cent accessed the Internet daily, 38 per cent connected two to six times a week, and 10 per cent connected once a week. During the same period, the number of adults accessing the Internet jumped from 3 million to five million, or 37 per cent of Australia's population. Eighteen to 24-year-olds remain the most frequent Internet users, accounting for 65 per cent of the total.

The proportion of users in capital cities to those in other areas has evened slightly, going from 28 per cent to 14 per cent in February 1998, to become 42 per cent to 27 per cent in February 1999.

Part of this increase in Internet use in regional areas may be attributed to the Federal Government's Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts' (DCITA) push to improve access in rural and remote Australia. This policy has been in place for some time through such DCITA schemes as Networking the Nation, in which community groups apply for grants to pursue Internet-based projects.

The ABS study also found 480,000 adults used the Web to make an estimated 1.9 million purchases. By comparison, 207,000 adults used the Internet for shopping in the 12 months to February 1998.

Of the current total of Internet shoppers, 41 per cent bought books or magazines, 20 per cent bought music, eight per cent bought holidays and travel, and six per cent bought tickets for entertainment.

The ABS survey further showed that in the three months to February 1999, two per cent of adults used the Internet to pay bills or transfer funds, leaving it still a far less popular method than electronic funds transfer at point of service (EFTPOS) at 64 per cent, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) at 71 per cent, or the telephone at 39 per cent.