The ACMA

Research snapshots

14 August, 2014
12:00 PM

Research snapshots

RSS Feed

Blog

Regional Australia in the digital economy

By the Communications Analysis Section

Town in regional Australia with comms tower in background

Australians are online no matter where they live

Regardless of where people live in Australia, they are increasingly going online and using the internet more frequently.

Use of the internet via mobile phones has seen the biggest increase across Australia, with mobile phone internet services typically being used as a complementary service to a home internet connection.

Across all regions, Australians are diversifying their online activities, with the number and nature of activities performed online increasing and diversifying. This diversification is being led in particular by growth in two areas of activity—‘entertainment’, and ‘blogging and online communities’.

Streaming has been the most prominent development in online ‘entertainment’ activities, with the number of Australians who directly stream content overtaking those downloading content.

Unless otherwise stated, data used in this snapshot is sourced from Roy Morgan Research. [1]

How does the rest of Australia compare to major capital cities?

While Australians are embracing the digital economy regardless of where they live, disparities in participation levels still exist. However, this snapshot shows that the gap is closing in terms of a number of key indicators:

  • Internet users in major urban areas are only slightly behind those in major capital cities in terms of levels of internet connectivity and frequency of internet use but equal in terms of intensity of online participation.
  • While the proportion of people with a home broadband connection has grown significantly in areas outside major capital cities and major urban locations, these internet users are still trailing those in major capital cities in terms of frequency and intensity of online participation.

Growth in connectivity driven by mobile phone internet

There has been steady growth in internet connectivity (Figure 1). Growth in the use of mobile phone internet services has seen the largest increase across Australia, increasing by 36 percentage points at the national level in four years.

During the period December 2009 to December 2013, the proportion of the population using the internet via their mobile phone increased by:

  • 37 percentage points in major capital cities areas to 49 per cent
  • 37 percentage points in major urban areas to 46 per cent
  • 33 percentage points in urban areas to 41 per cent
  • 27 percentage points in non-urban areas to 32 per cent.

Regardless of location, between 80 and 91 per cent of mobile phone internet users also had a home internet connection, reinforcing the complementary nature of these services.

Figure 1—Internet connectivity

 Figure 1—Internet connectivity

Figure 1 (.csv) Internet connectivity

*During the December quarter. **During December.
Note: Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). Major urban (covering cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra).  Urban (town/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin). Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000).

Regional disparities in the take-up of some services still exist (Figure 1). For example, at December 2013, between non-urban Australians and those living in major capital cities, there was a:

  • 12 percentage point difference in the proportion of the population with a home broadband internet connection
  • 17 percentage point difference in the proportion of the population using the internet at locations outside the home
  • 17 percentage point difference in the proportion of the population using the internet via their mobile phone handset.

Locations of internet use

More Australians are going online at multiple locations (Figure 2). Nationally, the proportion of Australians who went online at three or more locations increased by seven percentage points in the four years to December 2013, to reach 28 per cent of internet users. This increase has been relatively consistent across regions.

Figure 2—Number of locations of internet use during the December quarter

 Figure 2—Number of locations of internet use during the December quarter

Figure 2 (.csv) Number of locations of internet use during the December quarter

Percentages may not add to 100 per cent due to rounding.
Note: Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). Major urban (covering towns/cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra).  Urban (town/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin). Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000).

Capability—shift to more intense participation

Digital economy capabilities are developing across Australia, witnessed by the increasing frequency of internet use and the increasing scope and variety of activities undertaken online.

Since December 2009, there has been a shift to more intensive participation online. The proportion of people using the internet more than once a day has increased across the board by a consistent proportion. Correspondingly, the proportion of those who have never used the internet has fallen, declining by five percentage points nationally and four to seven percentage points depending on location (Figure 3).

As with internet connectivity, there are some disparities in the frequency of internet use between major capital cities and regional areas. People in major capital cities and major urban areas are more likely to use the internet more than once a day compared to those in urban and non-urban areas—64 and 59 per cent respectively compared to 52 and 46 per cent respectively at December 2013.

Figure 3—Frequency of internet use

 Figure 3—Frequency of internet use

Figure 3 (.csv) Frequency of internet use

Percentages may not add to 100 per cent due to rounding.
Note: Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). Major urban (covering towns/cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra). Urban (town/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin). Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000).

Australians are undertaking an increasingly diverse range of activities online, with growth in most activities performed online across the regions. ‘Entertainment’ activities and ‘blogs and online community’ activities are driving growth in online participation. The proportion of the population undertaking these activities online across regions increased by 19 to 26 percentage points for ‘entertainment’ activities, and 21 to 26 percentage points for activities relating to ‘blogs and online communities’ from December 2011 to December 2013 (Figure 4).

Figure 4—Activities undertaken online during December

 Figure 4—Activities undertaken online during December

Figure 4 (.csv) Activities undertaken online during December

Note: Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). Major urban (covering towns/cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra). Urban (town/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin). Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000). The category banking/finance includes transacting and information seeking activities.

It’s all about streaming

For ‘entertainment’ activities, growth in the use of streaming services such as catch-up TV and video-on-demand stands out (Figure 5). Regardless of location of internet users, performing activities relating to streaming (between 27 to 46 per cent of internet users) is now more common in Australia than downloading content (between 21 to 34 per cent). This may be a reflection of developments such as:

  • increased network capabilities
  • increased availability of content streaming services such as catch-up TV [2]
  • growth of cloud services, with 14.9 million people using a cloud service in the six months to May 2014—an increase of six per cent since May 2013. [3

The proportion of internet users in Australia streaming content increased by between seven to 14 percentage points during the period December 2011 to December 2013, compared to much smaller increases in the proportion of the population downloading content (three to five percentage points), and in the case of major urban areas, a small decline proportionally in relation to downloading activities.

Figure 5—Digital content activities undertaken online during December

 Figure 5—Digital content activities undertaken online during December

Figure 5 (.csv) Digital content activities undertaken online during December

Note: Data relating to streaming activities not available prior to June 2011.
Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). Major urban (covering towns/cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra). Urban (town/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin). Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000).

Growth in mobile phone internet activities

Growth in mobile phone internet users is accompanied by increases in the general level of activity being performed online via mobile phones (Figure 6).

Across Australia, the top three most common activities undertaken online via mobile phones were ‘communications’ (covering activities relating to emailing, internet telephony, instant messaging), ‘research and information’ and ‘entertainment’.

Across regions, significant increases were recorded in the proportion of people performing a range of activities online via mobile phones in the two years to December 2013 (Figure 6) including:

  • ‘communication’ activities, up 14 to 23 percentage points
  • ‘blogs and online communications’ activities, up nine to 18 percentage points
  • ‘banking and finance’ activities, up 10 to 16 percentage points
  • ‘entertainment’ activities, up nine to 14 percentage points.  

However, ACMA research shows that for some activities, consumers still prefer to use traditional devices such as computers and laptops rather than mobile phones. For example, proportionally fewer Australians undertake purchasing and bill payment activities online via mobile phones than via PCs including laptops. [4]

Figure 6—Activities undertaken online via mobile phones during December

 Figure 6—Activities undertaken online via mobile phones during December

Figure 6 (.csv) Activities undertaken online via mobile phones during December

Note: ‘Banking/finance’ includes transacting and information seeking activities. Data relating to streaming activities not available prior to June 2011. Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). Major urban (covering towns/cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra). Urban (town/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin). Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000).

More confident internet users

Australians are demonstrating ever-increasing online confidence, with the number of people undertaking a broader range of internet activities increasing significantly during the period December 2009 to December 2013. The highest increases were for the proportion of people performing five or more activities online, with:

  • major capital cities areas increasing by 23 percentage points to 69 per cent
  • major urban areas increasing by 29 percentage points to 71 per cent
  • urban areas increasing by 23 percentage points to 61 per cent
  • non-urban areas increasing by 25 percentage points 59 per cent.

As with internet use in general, there are also some disparities between major capital cities and non-urban areas in terms of the proportion of internet users performing five or more activities online in December 2013.

Sixty-nine to 71 per cent of internet users in major urban areas and major capital cities of Australia performed five or more activities online, compared to 59 to 61 per cent for non-urban and urban areas.

Figure 7—Number of separate activities undertaken online during December

 Figure 7—Number of separate activities undertaken online during December

Figure 7 (.csv) Number of separate activities undertaken online during December

Percentages may not add to 100 per cent due to rounding.
Note: Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). Major urban (covering towns/cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra). Urban (town/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin). Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000).

Definitions of regions

For the purpose of geographical analysis in this snapshot, the following definitions have been used: 

  • Major capital cities (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Excludes Hobart and Darwin). 
  • Major urban (covering towns/cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Includes Hobart. Excludes Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra).
  • Urban (towns/cities with populations of 1,000 to 99,999. Includes Darwin).
  • Non-urban (areas with populations less than 1,000).

Background to this snapshot

Data in this snapshot is sourced from Roy Morgan Single Source. Estimates published in this snapshot are based on the following sample sizes:

Table 1—Sample size (persons 18 years and over) going online during December by region

  2009 2013  Total population
18 years and over
going online during
December 2013 (millions)
 
Major capital cities
(Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne,
Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra)
5,567 4,234  8.99
Major urban  910  660  1.25 
Urban  1,976  1,371  2.89 
Non-urban  776  523  1.01 
Total  9,319  6,788  14.11 
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source 

ACMA research program

This snapshot is part of the ACMA’s research program, researchacma, which has five broad areas of interest:

  • market developments
  • media content and culture
  • digital society
  • citizen and consumer safeguards
  • regulatory best practice and development.

Each snapshot covers a single issue and allows the ACMA to focus on communications, convergence and digital economy issues of interest to stakeholders. Access other snapshots here.

Further information

The ACMA Communications report 2012–13 is available. In addition, two complementary reports were also released:

  • Report 1—Australian SMEs in the digital economy
  • Report 2—Cloud computing in Australia.

These reports can be accessed from www.acma.gov.au/commsreport

This snapshot and all the ACMA’s research publications are on the ACMA website at www.acma.gov.au/researchacma

Comments and enquiries about research snapshots should be sent to communications.analysis@acma.gov.au

Join the conversation and follow us on Twitter @acmadotgov  

End notes

[1] Roy Morgan Single Source.

[2] ACMA, Communications report 2011–12 series: Report 1—Online video content services in Australia: Latest developments in the supply and use of professionally produced online video content, October 2012.

[3] ACMA-commissioned surveys, May 2013 and May 2014.

[4] ACMA, Communications report 2012–13.

Add your comments
Back to top