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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Household Internet Use Survey


After surging during the late 1990s, the growth in Internet use among Canadian households has levelled off, according to new data from the Household Internet Use Survey (HIUS).

In 2002, an estimated 7.5 million households had at least one member who used the Internet regularly, either from home, work, school, a public library or another location, up only 4% from 2001. This rate of growth was far below the gains of 19% in 2001 and 24% the year before.

These households accounted for 62% of the nearly 12.2 million households in 2002, a slight increase from the previous year. The proportion of households using the Internet regularly almost doubled, from only 29% in 1997 to 60% in 2001.

Households with high income, members active in the labour force, those with children still living at home and people with higher levels of education have been in the forefront of Internet adoption. Because the majority of these households have already adopted the Internet, the capacity to sustain high growth rates is much reduced.

Internet use highest from home

Internet use was highest among households with members who surfed at home. These households accounted for 51% of the total in 2002, up from 49% in 2001. In 2002, about 6.3 million households had at least one member who regularly used the Internet from home, up 7% from 2001. This was only a fraction of the 23% growth in 2001, and the 42% increase the year before.

Use of the Internet has remained fairly consistent. In 2002, three-quarters (75%) of households using the Internet regularly from home reported that someone went online at least once a day on average, compared with 73% the year before. Two out of every three households (65%) using the Internet from home reported spending 20 or more hours each month surfing, up from 63% in previous year.

HIUS data showed continued growth in Internet connections by cable from home. In 2002, an estimated 2.2 million households, or 35%, reported regular Internet access from home through a cable connection. This was up from 1.75 million, or 26%, in 2001. The majority of the remaining households (almost 4 million) connected using a telephone line.

Internet a growing source of information for households

Canadians still use the Internet mostly for e-mail and general browsing. However, growing numbers of households rely on the Internet to obtain information on their health, to research and make travel arrangements and to obtain information from various levels of government. Specialized uses such as electronic banking are also increasing.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of the regular users from home had at least one member in 2002 who used the Internet to search for medical or health related information, up from about 43% in 1998. After sending e-mail and browsing, this was the third most popular activity.

Nearly 3.6 million households that regularly used the Internet from home had at least one member in 2002 that used the Internet to obtain information or interact with government, up from 3 million the previous year. In 2002, they represented 57% of the total, up from only 36% in 1998.

Just over one-half (51%) of households using the Internet at home had someone who accessed online banking services, more than double the proportion of 23% in 1998. This might indicate that consumers are becoming more confident in the web's security aspects insofar as banking is concerned.

In 2002, about one-quarter of households that reported regular home use indicated that at least one member used the Internet for work-related business. This was the case for nearly 1.6 million households, up from fewer than 1.5 million in 2001. About 1 million households reported that at least one member regularly used the Internet at home for purposes of self-employment in 2002, unchanged from 2001.

Note to readers

The Household Internet Use Survey (HIUS) was conducted as a sub-sample of the Labour Force Survey. The HIUS collected information on the household as a whole. In total, 44,142 households were eligible for the HIUS and 31,650, or 71.7%, responded. Data gathered in January 2003 covered household Internet use in the 2002 calendar year.

The respondent provides a proxy response to questions for all members of the household. Of households indicating that they regularly use the Internet, about 88% of the individuals answering the survey for their household were one of the members that regularly used from various locations. Regular-use households are those that responded "yes" to the question: "In a typical month, does anyone in the household use the Internet from any location?"

Almost one-fifth of regular home use in 2002 was by employees taking advantage of the Internet to work scheduled hours at home. This was also relatively unchanged from 2001.

Lower income households making gains

Although households with the highest incomes still have the highest penetration rates, Internet use continues to make gains among households in the lowest income level. The HIUS divided households into four equal groups based on income, each representing 25% of the income spectrum from highest to lowest.

In 2002, 78% of households in the highest income group had a member who used the Internet from home. Five years earlier, 33% of households with the highest incomes used the Internet from home. Households in the second highest income group exhibited the largest increase in Internet use from home in 2002 rising from 56% of households in 2001 to 62% of households in 2002.

In contrast, among the households in the lowest income group, only 25% had a member who used the Internet from home. However, this proportion had increased five times from only 5% in 1997.

Rates of Internet use still varied substantially across family types, with children still a key factor. Single-family households with unmarried children under the age of 18 had the highest rate of Internet use from any location last year, about 81%. This proportion was double the level of 38% in 1997.

Internet use highest in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan

All provinces showed relatively constant Internet use rates or slight increase in penetration rates from home. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario and the west showed slightly increased rates

Only three provinces - British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta - had rates of Internet use from home higher than the national average of 51%. About 58% of households in Ontario and British Columbia had someone who used the Internet regularly from home, the highest proportions. They were followed by Alberta at 54%.

Regular use of the Internet from work edged up slightly, with Ontario and Saskatchewan taking the lead.

Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan exhibited overall increases in use from various locations for regular use: home, work, school, public library and other locations, referred to as use from "any location."

Households that are no longer connected

In 2002, 896,000 households indicated that a member of the household either used the Internet infrequently, or had pulled the plug entirely. The size of this group has remained relatively unchanged over the past three years.

Of these former or infrequent users, 402,000 had a computer at home. Asked why they no longer used the Internet, 32% said they didn't have a need or interest in using it, 22% said it was too costly, and 12% indicated their computer was too old or broken.

In 2002, about 3.8 million Canadian households had never used the Internet. Most of the households in this group (85%) were either families without children or one-person households. As well, many of these non-users earned below-average household income with 47% in the lowest group.

Among households with a member who had never used the Internet, about 477,000 said they had a computer at home. Of these households, more than four in ten indicated they had no need of the Internet, or did not find it useful. About 16% said the Internet cost too much, while just over 10% said their computer was too old, or it was broken.

Available on CANSIM: tables 358-0002 to 358-0006, 358-0017.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4432.

Additional data tables related to the information presented in this series are available on Statistics Canada's website (). From the Canadian statistics page, choose Culture, leisure and travel, then Internet.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jonathan Ellison (613-951-5882;, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division.

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Date Modified: 2003-09-18 Important Notices