Why are we stuck on Census 1.0?

Why are we stuck on Census 1.0?

Summary: Millions of Australians sat down this week to give the government a snapshot of what the country looks like and what its citizens are up to, but I don't think the census went far enough with its line of questioning.


Millions of Australians sat down this week to give the government a snapshot of what the country looks like and what its citizens are up to, but I don't think the census went far enough with its line of questioning.

The census had the opportunity to shine a light on so much more than just the age, ancestry and job status of almost 22 million Australians. The online version of the census presented a great opportunity to add extra questions about technology.

There was only one technology question in the census, and it was about whether I had access to the internet at my house. Shame, Australian Bureau of Statistics, shame.

Your census could have shone a light on how many Aussies prefer Mac and how many prefer PC, or it could have asked how many of us actually want the National Broadband Network.

Such questions would have done Australians a service too, because then we'd be able to have concrete statistics to fall back on when spats erupt between technology companies.

Apple and Android, for example, are constantly at war over their activation figures around the world. With a tech census, we could have cleared such problems right up. It's tech stat reliability that we need.

Without it, a technology company could just as easily get 10 people together, ask them a question and use that as their primary statistic for the next major advertising campaign.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had the opportunity to clear up these foggy tech statistics for us, to give us an accurate representation of how people use what technology. But they didn't. And I'm disappointed.

Next time, ABS. Next time.

Watch the video to see the results of Nerdcam's very first census.

Topics: Apple, Broadband, Google, Government, Government AU, Mobility, NBN

Luke Hopewell

About Luke Hopewell

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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  • I agree that they could have got a fuller picture, but the problem with questions like preference of platform is that they're subjective and the ABS is more concerned about questions that can be objectively answered. (They're also somewhat niche questions - could they have asked Holden or Ford? and how would the Nannas, who don't know what a browser is, go about answering?) In terms of tech stats, I think there's more to be learned from the demographics of people who submitted their census online vs paper forms, and in the case of online, logging stats relating to choice of browser, perhaps even connection speed or ISP. I hope the ABS recorded that information and I hope they do something with it.
  • Forgetting about the Apple-Android battle (may not be relevant by the time the stats are available to actually use), extra questions could have been about:

    - how much internet bandwidth was used (across all devices) last month

    - how many internet-connected devices the dwelling has

    - actual use of the 'bedrooms', instead of just how many (as two of our three are actually used as offices).

    These are some of the things that could have gone into this snapshot to help future planning, including what builders really need to fit out new buildings. New buildings could really do with Gigabit ethernet (and even more power points) to every room with the switch next to the security box.
  • The BIGGEST letdown was the question on internet access. I was very happy to see that included in the Census only for my excitement to turn into UTTER disappointment when there was no follow up question. If they had delved deeper and asked at the very least what TYPE of internet access people had (wireless, cable, ADSL1/2 and maybe even what speed) this would have been ENORMOUSLY useful information. It would given an insight into what the prevalence of the different technologies are and would put an end to the debate as to whether Australia does have the tragically slow and under delivering broadband the OECD reports have always told us we have.

    A hugely lost opportunity considering the massive cost of running the census.
  • Mac vs PC? iPhone vs Android? C'mon, let's worry about the big things. Will comparisons of X vs Y market share matter in 5 years? If not, Census is not the way to do it.

    Re the other more important things, some users (probably noone reading this site) have troubles differentiating wifi (e.g. ADSL+wifi router) from 3G connections, let alone being able to report speed or Gigabyte usage. "A giga-what?". Pop census isn't the way to get even these 'important' questions. Going straight to the ISPs would be much better. Population censuses aren't the way to get this info.
  • um people the census isn't an opportunity to obtain marketing survey information for private corporations.

    I agree though that the census could have asked more questions, especially those about lifestyle. For example the only health questions related to those who require carers etc however why not have things like; do you smoke and do you use illegal drugs. If so which ones and how much a week/day/month.

    Definitely the questions relating to a NBN would have been good however I would imagine that the ABS makes significant efforts to appear apolitical. The phrasing of such a question would have been battled between the marketing/colour departments of the LIBS & ALP and neither party would have been satisfied. This would have made the ABS some powerful enemies, and open to the accusation that its biased.
  • Are you sure it's Census 1.0? I thought it was a beta-test version.
  • Probably the more relevant questions to ask about technology would be (not in any order):

    1) How many computers or other Internet-capable devices are in the home?
    2) On average, how often would you spend time on the Internet per week?
    3) How would you say the majority of your time is used on the Internet? (Now, although it may be true for some, let's not all answer "Porn" on this one)
    4) What is your Internet connection speed at home?
  • Anyone can come up with a great idea.
    You have the basic technology. YOU do it.

    Create a website. Run weekly surveys.