Sizing up the Australian Internet
By David Walker (Google profile)
Over the years, this site has kept hammering away at a simple point. The Internet gives us powerful new ways to communicate with each other, and the medium's users recognise that power. That's why the medium keeps growing so fast - though usually not in the way that most commercial Internet players expect.
The growth in users should surprise no-one. Email, instant messaging and the Web kill so many of the shortcomings of other media that they cannot help but succeed. They're cheap and text-centred, but alloow for expensive multimedia. They support collaboration. They're global and near-instantaneous. Even on the flawed platform of today's PCs they are, quite simply, ridiculously good.
During the Internet's 1996-2000 boom years, you had to become a virtual recluse (pardon the pun) to avoid hearing how people were flocking to the Internet. These days, almost no-one talks about it. But it's still happening. And we have Australian numbers to prove it. If you want to be optimistic, you can credibly say we have 50 per cent usage and nine per cent growth.
- The latest Bureau of Statistics figures - for the three months to September 2001 - show Australian Internet use growing by about 9 per cent a year. The ABS estimates that in late 2001 Australia had 4.3 million Internet "subscribers" - that is, households or businesses buying Internet access.
- Based on these numbers, the Australian Communications Authority has estimated (in its Telecommunications Performance Report 2000-2001) that by late 2001 half of all adult Australians used the Internet. That's up from 32 per cent two years before. This 50 per cent number is higher than the ABS figure - because it counts only adults, because it uses a longer period, because two or more people often use a single household subscription, and because an unknown number of people access the Internet through their work, school or university connection or by nicking over to a mate's place. Work use is particularly hard to pin down, though site operators can see it easily enough in the 12-to-2pm and 5-to-6pm spikes in their server activity.
- Jupiter Media Metrix estimates in a December 2001 report ("Australia: Online Projections") that by late 2001 Australia had 7.6 million Internet users - 39 percent of the total population. Jupiter uses the Bureau of Statistics numbers plus its own surveys and educated guesses. Jupiter's 39 per cent and the Communications Authority's 50 per cent are not that far apart, in part because Jupiter's number counts children as well as adults.
- By 2005, Jupiter expects, its 7.6 million figure will grow to 11.3 million, due in part to cheaper PCs and access fees. The growth rate essentially projects out the current nine per cent growth plus more, and it may be too optimistic. But so far, continued nine per cent annual growth post-boom looks at least plausible.
- Jupiter also estimates that 58 per cent of Australian businesses were online by 2001. Like households, businesses use the Net mainly for email and product research. (Business-to-business e-commerce remains relatively unimportant at around two per cent of all Australian transactions, although Jupiter claims it can reach eight per cent by 2005.)
- According to a Dun & Bradstreet survey, by January 2002 some 12 per cent of Australian businesses did more than 20 per cent of their business over the Internet - up from 8 per cent in January 2001. And 50 per cent said their Web site was an integral part of the way they did business. The Dun & Bradstreet showed business dividing into two camps - those for whom the Internet is relatively unimportant, and those who see it as important to their future.
You won't find a newspaper editor or a television station owner bragging about how they'll have nine per cent more readers or nine per cent more viewers next year. This sort of growth just isn't happening in other media. The Internet is still gaining. And the signs are that it will keep on doing so.