Australia Bureau of Statistics may wind back internet usage data collection

Budget cuts lead bureau to wield the axe

The Australian Bureau of Statistics might discontinue the country's only authoritative survey about Internet users in Australia, as the cash-starved organisation prepares for another round of layoffs.

Facing a three-year cut of 10 per cent in its funding – $29 million out of its $290 million allocation – the ABS has published its forward work program, revealing that the cut will lead to 17 per cent of staff being jettisoned.

The loss is roughly 480 full-time equivalent positions out of the bureau's 2,833 current positions. Since last year, the ABS has already shed around 220 staff.

Its forward work program identifies two long-standing technology research series as under threat: Household Use of Information Technology, published since 1996; and the bi-annual Internet Activity, Australia, published since 2000.

The forward work program proposes ending the household IT survey after the 2018-2019 cycle, while the Internet survey will only continue if the bureau can get “user funding”.

Also under threat are monthly motor vehicle sales stats, industrial disputes data collection, some international trade statistics components, housing finance, lending finance, and tourism regional mapping.

The bureau is already labouring under the pressure of preparing the next Census cycle, and had to divert resources to conducting the government's voluntary survey on attitudes to same-sex marriage. After an acrimonious political debate, Australia's government hit upon the idea of a postal survey gathering citizens' attitude to same-sex marriage, rather than conduct a plebiscite. ®

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