RealTime IT News

Record Number of Australians on the Net

The number of Australians on the Internet soared by 14 per cent in the months from February to May this year, according to the latest survey figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This brings the number of households with Internet access to 970,000, which accounts for 34 per cent of households with a computer. The ABS did not produce exact figures on the total number of Australian Internet users although estimates from external sources place it at around four million, roughly one fifth of the population.

It appears the confidence of these users is also growing. Arguments that people are reluctant to purchase over the Internet, have been justified to some extent with Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale (EFTPOS), with telephone the preferred way to pay bills. Fewer than one per cent of such transactions were paid over the Internet in the three months to May 1998.

The latest ABS survey also found that 409,000 adults undertook 1.1 million transactions in the 12 months prior to May 1998. This number of users is double that recorded in the year to February 1998 ABS survey.

What do these figures mean in the greater scheme of Internet use in Australia? Rob Durie, deputy executive director at the Australian Information Industry Associaton, said that while the figures show Internet usage is growing rapidly, online purchasing "is still nothing" when compared to other means.

Internet transactions are significant because these numbers indicate to advertisers the market at their disposal for Web advertising. Durie maintained that the online market "is still boutique." However, the fact that many Internet users are relatively well paid and well educated may be the impetus behind Web marketing strategies.

Ramin Marzbani, principal at Australian Internet research group www.consult, also found that the survey lit a small part of a very large picture of Internet use in the country. "But it's definitely a step in the right direction," he added.

Although Marzbani said that Internet use was slowly growing, Durie did say that the ABS survey definitely reflected "things are on the up and up." He added that while the ABS figures give a narrow view of the whole picture, they showed that at home consumption was increasingly important to the online market.