R e p o r t



Australia's Progress Towards Effective Use of Online Services
- Monitoring policy outcomes and market developments -

CIRCIT at RMIT, August 1998

Table of Contents

Objectives for Online Services
Developing a Monitoring Framework
Availability of Data
Government Uses
Business Uses
Education Uses
Health Uses
Residential Users
Groups with Special Needs


This is a prototype site for review and comment.

It reports on, and presents the working outcomes of, a study into ways of monitoring Australia's progress in the use of online services. It provides initial access to documents as work in progress. Over time these documents can be enhanced with links to their sources, and this site evolve into a learning environment for the use of online services.

As a prototype it has many gaps and necessary points of refinement. (Editor: The original Web version sought feedback so as to assist with further development, which unfortunately did not transpire.)

back to top


Australian government and industry have a major commitment to the use of online services. Much of what is happening is, however, still exploratory. How can we understand and share this experience? What assessment can we make of the effectiveness of strategies to promote the use of these services? What gaps and needs for action can be observed?

This is the report of a feasibility study into monitoring Australia's progress towards the effective use of online services. This project arose as a recommendation from the CIRCIT Policy Forum in November 1997 on Effective Use of Online Services: How Can Government, Industry, Business and Community Collaborate? It was supported by the National Office for the Information Economy; the State Governments of Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia; the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG), the Australian Information Industry Association, and Nortel Australia.

The objectives of a monitoring process are to assist the evaluation of national, state, and organisational strategies through:
• providing a comprehensive picture of the use of online services in Australia,
• comparing and benchmarking against international developments, and
• charting paths and stages towards desirable outcomes.

We conclude that an ongoing process would have developmental benefits. It should be owned by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) for the Ministerial Council for the Information Economy and the Online Council.

The Approach and Key Process Conclusions [acrobat PDF: 57 Kb] has a more detailed and reflective consideration of key issues in this Overview.

back to top

Objectives for Online Services

Australia has needed a concise statement of a national strategy for online services development, with long- and medium-term objectives to focus monitoring activities. Coincident with the production of this report, the Ministerial Council for the Information Economy has released a statement Towards an Australian Strategy for the Information Economy (July 1998) as a basis for consultation. This includes a mission statement:

To ensure that the lives and work of Australians are enriched, jobs are created, and the national wealth is enhanced, through the participation of all Australians in the information economy

The government’s values and vision statements, strategic priorities, objectives and proposed actions are also articulated.

It provides a source of relatively detailed objectives, such as:

• making high communication bandwidth available at low cost,
• access by all Australians to this capability wherever they live or carry on business,
• raising awareness of online business systems, so that by the year 2000 every Australian business is aware of the benefits of doing business online,
• delivering all appropriate government services online by 2001, and
• students leaving Australian schools with the online skills and knowledge they need to benefit from employment and other online opportunities.

With its focus on the health and education sectors, and taken with other objectives such as that of DIST that 90% of businesses in targeted industries be online by 2003, a set of long- and medium-term national objectives is becoming apparent.

The integration of this set with the framework of this report is a clear next stage of development of this study.

The report Towards an Australian Strategy for the Information Economy had the full statement of the Ministerial Council.

back to top

Developing a Monitoring Framework

In developing a framework for monitoring the effective use of online services, we have:

• Adopted a broad definition of online services. Though much of the focus of the report and the available data revolves around the Internet, our definition of online services also includes EFTPOS, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), videoconferencing and other forms of online communication.
• Distinguished between measures of access, use and effective use. The concept of "effective use" recognises that online services need to deliver value to users, content service providers (government agencies, businesses, schools, etc.), and communications providers, to be sustainable.
• While recognising that short- and medium-term objectives are likely to be expressed in terms of access and use, focused on the means of understanding "effective use" as a longer-term guide.
• Examined access, use and effective use in the government, business, education and health sectors, through identifying and illustrating key online applications.
• Monitored the effective use of online services by residential users and users with special needs.
• Sought to identify "change issues" - approaches to barriers - as a likely focus of policy objectives.
• Linked with policymakers and practitioners to confirm and expand the framework.

This monitoring exercise reveals the gaps in access, use and effective use. It is these gaps which suggest a re-examination of policy implementation and policy objectives.
See Frameworks for Monitoring Access, Use and Effective Use of Online Services [acrobat PDF: 41 Kb] for greater detail and definition.

back to top

Availability of Data

There are a number of data gathering and research organisations in Australia and internationally who are collecting information on the use of online services. We have tried to use quantitative and qualitative data where available and appropriate.

Integrating data from different sources raises issues of comparability because of differences in definition of categories and the nature of the sample.

In this report we have used public sources or proprietary data that have been made available. The most broadly based and regular data collecting exercises in Australia are those conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (householder and small business) and Yellow Pages (small and medium business). Organisations such as www.consult and APT Strategies specialise in online surveys of users of the Internet, providing a further source of information.

The comprehensive data on the use of online services obtained through the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey on the household use of information technology has allowed us to test our monitoring framework for residential users.

Internationally, there is a dearth of comparative points of reference. We have drawn on the project conducted by Spectrum Strategic Consultations for the UK Department of Trade and Industry. Focusing on the use of information and communication technologies by business (particularly small and medium), this study is now in its third year. The OECD and the International Telecommunication Union have been other important sources.

Data on use nationally and internationally is patchy for the sector studies. When available, data tend to illuminate issues of supply and access rather than use. An increasing amount of data is available from the use of the services themselves; e.g., the kinds of transactions or time of day for government electronic service delivery, or usage statistics associated with websites.

Refer to Australian Data Sources [acrobat PDF: 88 Kb] and International Data Sources [acrobat PDF: 95 Kb] for information about sources considered.

back to top

Government Uses

Governments in Australia are under increasing pressure to find more productive ways of addressing the needs of business users and consumers. They are now taking advantage of online channels for both the internal and external delivery of services. In so doing, the aim has been to make the right information available to more people when required (including those facing barriers of distance and people with disabilities), improve the response time of information access and transactions, and in the long term achieve cost savings through overall efficiency gains. The introduction of online services has also acted as a catalyst for the re-engineering of government processes.

We sought to monitor government online services by examining:

• Electronic Services Delivery (ESD;
• Inter & Intra-Department/Agency Communications; and
• Whole-of-Government Information Locator.

Departments and Agencies within Government at the Federal and State levels are increasingly seen to be at the forefront of the adoption of information technology and acting as exemplars of technological awareness and the application of information and communication services. Concurrently, industry developments, investment in telecommunication infrastructure and competitive provision of services have emerged as key enablers of the adoption of online services.

Through the efforts of the Online Council of Ministers and the Online Council Officials, supported by OGIT and NOIE, serious attempts are now being made to promote consistency across governments on a national scale.

Since some services cannot be delivered online and others must be delivered via a choice of delivery channels to address the varying needs of business users and consumers, traditional channels must be retained. Nevertheless, the opportunities to realize further economies encourage the integration of the various service delivery systems. The long-term objective is to establish common data structures that foster a 'single window' approach to accessing governments both across departments and agencies within a given level as well as between Federal, State and Local Government jurisdictions.

Refer to Online Services in Government [acrobat PDF: 70 Kb] for the full sector report.

back to top

Business Uses

New ways of conducting business are emerging as the Australian business community continues to develop its awareness of the Internet and Electronic Commerce (e-commerce).

Government is encouraging businesses to embrace the Internet and e-commerce, so as to increase efficiency, improve productivity, reduce costs, and access new market opportunities.

Four application areas are identified:

• Creating Market Presence (reflecting new market opportunity).
• Customer/Client Management (reflecting increased efficiency in managing relationships and includes transactions).
• Supply Chain Management (reflecting increased efficiency and cost savings).
• Work Group Collaboration (reflecting internal efficiency bringing with it increases in productivity)

Australian business leaders are becoming receptive to the impact that online services or e-commerce may have on the way they conduct business. The 1998 Andersen Consulting survey of CEOs found that "eighty per cent of CEO respondents agree that e-commerce will 'revolutionise' the way they do business in five years". However, the survey also indicated that while CEOs highest strategic priorities are to reduce costs, increase revenues from existing customers, use capital more effectively and increase revenues by gaining new customers, the use of online services is a low strategic priority.

Small and medium enterprises appear to be adopting the use of the Internet at least comparably with businesses internationally. The most advanced development is in the activities related to creating market presence and customer client management.

The financial services and media sector appear to be applying the services at a faster rate than other industry sectors. It is within these sectors that new services such as Internet banking, online share trading and online magazines are being extensively marketed.

The manufacturing and retail industry appear to be the most advance in relation to supply chain management. However for medium enterprises past experience with EDI has left a negative perception for many organisations. This, combined with a lack of technical capability has hindered development within this application.

In the area of work group collaboration e-mail is being used extensively as a means of communicating within organisations and externally.

Refer to Online Services in Business [acrobat PDF: 71 Kb] for the full sector report.

back to top

Education Uses

The uptake of online services in education is being driven by two main forces:

• development of pedagogical thought which emphasises the advantages of allowing the learner's needs and preferences to determine the time, place and form of the learning experience, and
• introduction of government policies which place education within a global business environment and look to ICS for cost savings as well as improvement of educational delivery.

In order to focus on the ideas of use and effective use of online services, seven categories of educational activity (applications) are identified. They are:

1. Classroom/remote delivery
2. Development of learning resource materials
3. Management of learning
4. Collaborative projects
5. Professional development
6. Information for prospective clients
7. Administration.

These are supported by services that include the Internet, video conferencing, audio conferencing, proprietary learning management software used on networks or modem-to-modem, interactive telephony, and some stand-alone multimedia services.

The use of these services varies between schools, vocational education and training, higher education, and adult and community education, and between public and private educational bodies.

Both Federal and State/Territory governments are strongly supporting the adoption of online technologies. DEETYA is strongly involved with the development of EdNA (Education Network Australia), an initiative which relates to all educational sectors, and has funded research on the use of technologies. ANTA is likewise funding development of online projects and professional development, and is investigating the use of capital funds for technology rather than bricks and mortar.

At State and Territory level, the development of online programs and learning materials is being extensively supported. Virtual Campuses (of varying kinds) exist or are in development in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. These types of development are supported on the strategic plans of government agencies. Private schools and other non-government educational organisations are also adopting online services both for the delivery and support of programs and also as a means of communication within proliferating consortium partnerships, both within Australia and overseas. Online services are breaking down geographical limitations both in the choice of organisation at which to enrol, and in the formation of organisational partnerships.

Refer to Online Services in Education [acrobat PDF: 80 Kb] for full sector report.

back to top

Health Uses

New visions of health care are emerging which are driving the uptake of online services. Consumers are demanding more responsive consumer focused care; providers recognise the dynamic nature of health care and seek to be more flexible and responsive to consumer needs, and to improve the quality of care; and governments seek more efficient and effective service delivery.

Governments, particularly at the Federal and State levels, are using on-line services in the anticipation of cost savings, improving the parity of health services, and to improve service delivery. There is also a growing interest in the export potential of telehealth applications and technologies. The introduction of online services is a catalyst for restructure in the health sector.

Three areas of activity have been identified where the use of online services is rapidly developing. We recognise that there are some limitations with this applications focus and we are examining other ways of differentiating the activities associated with the use of online services in health care. The three key areas are:

• Health Information Management.
• Professional Development and Continuing Medical Education.
• Remote Consultation and Diagnosis.

In the past decade, the Commonwealth Government has supported the development of telehealth. This was prompted by advances in information and communication services and a resurgence in telehealth activity overseas. The Department of Health and Family Services has funded numerous projects. The Department of Industry Science and Tourism, which is particularly interested in the development of a 'telemedicine industry' has conducted research into the telehealth market; and other bodies such as the Health Communications Network have been established. This company was created to exploit the potential of the Internet within the health sector.

In the past few years there has been a push to coordinate activity at a national level and to respond to the requirements and issues that are arising through telehealth activities. The creation of the National Telehealth Committee reporting to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council and the Commonwealth/States Health IT and Electronic Commerce Committee are leading bodies in the area promoting consistency and coordination.

Refer to Online Services in Health [acrobat PDF: 94 Kb] for the full sector report.

back to top

Residential Users

Government’s objective is to extend the range, accessibility and effective use of online services by residential users. It is believed the greater use of online services by consumers will improve their social and economic well-being.

Government and business are also trying to increasingly deliver goods and services online so as to become more efficient and competitive. Thus there is a greater supply of online services.

There is an increase in household access and use of the PC and the Internet in the last two years. Australia now ranks in the first three of selected countries for household and population access to the Internet. It also has the most even gender balance of Internet users of selected countries. Despite Internet access having quadrupled in the last two years, it is not a pervasive household communication channel as only 12.4 per cent of households have Internet access. The telephone and the television remain the dominant technologies.

The increase of household access and use have come together with the increasing usefulness and affordability of the PC and Internet access over the last two years. This increase has not been uniform across all socio-economic groups with the above 39 years old; those not employed and people in non-metropolitan areas using the Internet less than others.

The factors that hold back greater access and use are also those that relate to a lack of trust, fit with activities and a lack of comfort with new meanings made by online services. They also relate to relationships within the household and possibly the design of online services, for females in the home use the Internet considerably less than males.

These issues are further examined as they relate to online shopping and electronic money. These examples illustrate the continuing mix and match of new and old communication channels; the continuing popularity of the traditional though accompanied by an increase in the use of the online channels; and the greater male usage of online channels particularly for purchase and payment.

Refer to Residential Users of Online Services [acrobat PDF: 140 Kb] for full sector report.

back to top

Groups with Special Needs

There are particular barriers to, and potentially particular benefits from, the use of online services amongst different groups with special needs. These include

• Non-metropolitan users
• People with disabilities
• People without online access

At this stage, only the first of these is addressed here.

Non-metropolitan users

The communications needs of residents and businesses outside capital cities are receiving considerable political and other attention. Initiatives such as local call charging to service centres will have an impact on access to online services of remote users. The review of the Standard Telecommunications Service may influence the level of accepted universal service to accommodate better data transmission. Technology developments, particularly in wireless and satellite infrastructure, are opening up new avenues for servicing remote areas.

Broadly speaking, there are objectives that the

• range of online services and price to users be reasonably equivalent for non-metropolitan and metropolitan users;
• particular barriers experienced by non-metropolitan users be removed; and
• the potential for online services providing particular capacities to meet needs of non-metropolitan users (characterised by a degree of remoteness) be realised.

These objectives are being pursued through a combination of market and government initiatives. The 1997 report of the Information Policy Advisory Council "rural&regional.au/for all" provides a considered view of the barriers, change and development issues for rural and regional use of online services. It serves as a starting point for monitoring progress. A summary analysis of the recommendations of this report and their current status is included in this section.

The advent of the Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund and its "Networking the Nation" program is having a significant effect in implementing many of the recommendations; its evaluation project will be an important source of information. State Governments have also been active in developing infrastructure availability; and promoting awareness, access and skills development programs.

There is still a lack of equivalence in access to, and use of, services by non-metropolitan and metropolitan users. Some application developments – such as telehealth, and web information services for farmers – are being directed primarily to non-metropolitan users. There may be some evidence that remoteness is being overcome by greater use of online services where these are available.

Refer to Non-Metropolitan Users of Online Services [acrobat PDF: 56 Kb] for full sector report.

back to top


ABS Australian Bureau of Statistics
ACA Australian Communications Authority
ACCC Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
ACSI Australian Coalition of Service Industries
ACT Australian Capital Territory
AEBN Australian Electronic Business Network
AGPS Australian Government Publishing Service
AHMAC Australian Health and Medical Advisory Council
AIIA Australian Information Industries Association
ANTA Australian National Training Authority
APESMA Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia
ATM Automatic Teller Machine
ATUG Australian Telecommunications Users Group
AVCC Australian Vice Chancellor’s Committee
BSEG Broadband Services Expert Group
BTCE Bureau of Transport Communications Economics
CEO Chief Executive Officer
CIC Commonwealth Information Centre
CIO Chief Information Officer
CIRCIT Centre for International Research on Communication and Information Technologies at RMIT University, Melbourne.
CT Computerised Axial Tomography
DEETYA Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs
DIST Department of Industry, Science and Tourism
EDI Electronic Data Interchange
EdNA Education Network Australia
EFT Electronic Funds Transfer
EFTPOS Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale
E-mail Electronic Mail
ESD Electronic Services Delivery
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GOLD Government Online Directory
GOLS Government Online Service(s)
GP General Practitioner
GTTC Government Technology and Telecommunications Committee
HICAPS Health Insurance Claims and Payments Service
ICCP Information, Computer and Communications Policy Committee of the OECD
ICS Information and Communication Services
ICT Information and Communication Technology
IPAC Information Policy Advisory Council
ISDN Integrated Services Digital Network
IT Information Technology
IVR Interactive Voice Response
JITT Just-in-Time Training
LAN Local Area Network
NISC National Information Services Council
NOIE National Office for the Information Economy
NTHC National Telehealth Committee
NTIS National Training Information Service
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OFTEL Office of Telecommunications (UK)
OGIT Office of Government Information Technology
PABX Private Automatic Branch Exchange
PC Personal Computer
PEG Pharmacy Extranet Gateway
POTS Plain Ordinary Telephone Service
RIRDC Rural Industries Regional Development Corporation
RIN Rural Information Network
ROI Return on Investment
RTIF Rural Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund
SAHC South Australian Health Commission
STS Standard Telephone Service
TAF Telecommunications Access Forum
TAFE Technical and Further Education
TARDIS Telemedical Applications for Remote Distribution Systems
USO Universal Service Obligation
VDU Visual Display Unit
VET Vocational Education and Training
VGEMS Victorian Government Electronic Messaging Service
WAN Wide Area Network
WWW World Wide Web

back to top


© Ross Kelso