10 March 2009
Online skill levels essential to maximise benefits from the internet and minimise risks
While Australians value the internet and see it as critical to their daily lives, they nevertheless need to be more pro-active in protecting themselves online, according to a report released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The report, Australia in the Digital Economy: Trust and Confidence, presents the findings of a national survey of consumer attitudes and behaviour relating to online security. It examines Australian internet users’ levels of trust and confidence in the internet and the factors which may build or inhibit that confidence.
‘The report clearly shows that Australians see the internet as having a positive effect on their lives,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘However, internet users are either not taking or only taking limited measures to ensure their online security.’
Mr Chapman said that the report suggests that this lack of action, both behavioural and technical, can be linked to a high reliance by internet users on informal methods of training and acquiring knowledge about the internet. This may also impact on users’ awareness of available technical measures to protect home computers from online risks.
‘These concerns do not currently form a barrier to participation in the online environment—as evidenced by the increasing numbers of people using the internet for a wide range of activities, including e-commerce and social networking,’ Mr Chapman said.
‘While more than 80 per cent of Australian internet users consider themselves to have average or above average internet skills, these survey results highlight the need for more formal and continuing education for on-line users. Proficient levels of skill are critical for Australians to be able to maximise the benefits of the internet. Such education could also raise awareness of e-security and address knowledge gaps about the appropriate measures that can be implemented to mitigate online risks.’
The report is available on ACMA’s website.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager, on (02) 9334 7980.
ACMA is undertaking an ongoing examination and analysis of the use and provision of telecommunications services in Australia. The work program has been designed to assist ACMA in its role as the industry regulator and to meet its statutory reporting requirements under the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 and Section 105 of the Telecommunication Act 1997.
This report is the first in the Australia in the Digital Economy series highlighting changing trends in the take-up and use of the internet by Australian consumers. It aims to contribute to greater understanding of Australians’ attitudes and behaviours towards their online security. The next report in this series will be about online participation.
Key Findings of Australia in the Digital Economy: Trust and Confidence
The report presents the main findings of a national survey into attitudes and behavior of Australian internet users towards their online security, including:
- perceptions of the internet as a trusted source of information;
- the type of online protection adopted by internet users;
- levels of internet competency and sources of internet training;
- levels of awareness and sources of information about threats to online security; and
- how factors such as age, education level, frequency of internet use and online competency influence the above factors.
Internet attitudes: Concerns with the internet
The continued development of the digital economy hinges upon consumers’ willingness to undertake activities such as online transactions, which is in turn affected by concerns about the security of the online environment. While a majority of internet users are positive about the internet, they are still concerned with security issues associated with new technology.
Self-assessed skill level of internet users
While there is no single profile of those who rate their internet skills as above average, it does appear that males and 18 to 30-year-olds are more likely to be heavy internet users and are also more likely to rate themselves as having above average internet skill levels.
Internet users’ measures against online risks and dangers
Initial findings show that a majority of consumers are performing only one type of risk-mitigation measure. The installation of anti-virus and firewall programs on computers remain the two most common protective measures for home internet users, with 49 per cent having installed anti-virus software, and 21 per cent installing firewall software. The survey findings clearly showed widespread non-adoption of multiple protective measures.
The data in this report is drawn from a number of sources, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), private sector data sources from Nielsen Online and Roy Morgan Single Source Australia and a survey into online security attitudes and behaviours commissioned by the ACMA.
Note to editors
In Australia, concerns over the integrity of the online environment have also led to a range of initiatives aimed at building trust and confidence in the internet. These initiatives have ranged from increasing consumer awareness of online threats, through tackling spam, to filtering illegal content. ACMA’s website also provides tips for consumers on how to protect their computers against online threats. The information can be found on the ACMA website.
ACMA’s research program in 2009
ACMA has regulatory obligations to report and advise on telecommunications, radiocommunications, broadcasting and the internet.
ACMA is planning to issue a number of studies this year as part of its research focus on changing consumer use and attitudes towards communications and media services.
ACMA’s next report will be Convergence and Communication: take-up and use of communications by small and medium enterprises– which examines the level of adoption of new and emerging services such as VoIP and 3G by SMEs.
Other research ACMA is conducting under this program include reports examining technology trends, changes in communications and media business models, and spectrum management arrangements including auction design and pricing for allocations.