Australia’s booming internet population is increasingly dismissing security concerns and performing
more and more transactions online, according to a new survey out this week.

Almost six million Australians are now connected to the internet and the great majority have been
quick to embrace applications such as online banking, bill payments and trading, the government
study found. It showed that for many people the convenience of using the internet has far outweighed
any security concerns but that nonetheless, some Australians who transact online should
do more to improve their online security.

According to the survey, around 46% of Australians believe that the technology, including the
internet, makes life easier. That percentage peaked at nearly 70% in the 14-17 age groups and
steadily retreated to around 20% in the over 65 bracket. The most popular internet applications
were email (84%), searching for product information (59%), general surfing (58%), downloads
(51%), checking bank account balance (50%), travel information (44%), search for company information
(42%), bank funds transfers (42%), bill payments (39%) and accessing news and current affairs
(38%).

Reflecting increased promotion by banks and wider penetration of internet connections, around
50% of all internet users are now using online banking. 65% of users are keen on online buying and
selling, while around 45% of users are paying bills online.

According to Communications and IT Minister Helen Coonan however, there are still risks involved
with online commerce. “While an increasing number of people recognise the benefits of the
online environment, this research shows that Australians should become more aware of the need for
safe and secure online practices,” she said.

Coonan said the report highlighted how the issue of trust in online activities shapes how people
and organisations use and respond to the online environment on the one hand, and how businesses
and governments seek to engender trust on the other. She said that the government “wants to build
trust and consumer confidence” and would continue to act on the recommendations of its Strategic
Framework for the Information Economy. Early initiatives have included research into esecurity,
and collaborative efforts between government agencies to address online security, she
said.

Peter Fray

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