Sun, 29 Mar 2015 - 21:00
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Some Leading Indicators of the Information Economy

Are citizens interested in getting access to government data and information online?  The evidence suggests that they are – and increasingly so.

In the 12 months to October 2014 there was an 18% increase in the number of datasets accessed on the Commonwealth Government’s open data website, Data.gov.au. The most frequently-accessed datasets were location data for Medicare offices (with over 180,000 visits) followed by the locations of Centrelink offices (over 75,000 visits), both through the Department of Human Services. Other datasets in the top-ten most viewed included Federal Budget 2014–15 tables and data, court judgements in ACT, Victoria school locations, and even the national public toilet map (with over 3,600 visits).

These figures come from the latest ‘Leading Indicators’ report published this month by the Bureau of Communications Research which sits within the Commonwealth Department of Communications.  These insightful reports give a brief overview of shifts in the Communications sector to help inform policy debate. As the Bureau notes, leading indicators are “measures that foreshadow where things will go in the future” as distinct from trend analysis which projects possible future trends by looking back into the past.

Another shift the report identified is that while overall employment in the information, media and technology sector (IMT) increased 6% to 209,100, there was a slower growth rate in 457 visa employees and approved 457 visa grants in 2013-14. After the industry saw a doubling of 457 Visa grants and a 40% increase in Visa holders between 2009–10 and 2011–12, there has been a subsequent 22% decrease in 457 visa grants and a slowing of the growth rate in the number of visa holders to 7% between 2011-12 and 2013-14. The correlation between the two latest sets of figures suggests that employers in the sector are looking to the domestic market to meet demand in the short to medium term.

A further set of leading indicators canvassed in the report is the latest engineering construction activity data, which suggests that the telecommunications sector has outperformed other sectors in the economy. This set of data segments construction work into ‘commenced’, ‘done’, and ‘yet to be done’, finding that the value of the work ‘yet to be done’ in the telco sector for the second quarter of 2014 stood at $2 billion – no doubt a combination of network expansion by the private sector telcos such as Telstra and Optus as well as activity from the government owned NBN Co.