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Canadian Internet Use Survey

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The Daily

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Canadians are making greater and more diverse use of the Internet, but a digital divide persists among various groups, according to new data for 2007 from the Canadian Internet Use Survey.

Almost three-quarters (73%), or 19.2 million Canadians aged 16 and older, went online for personal reasons during the 12 months prior to the survey. This was up from just over two-thirds (68%) in 2005 when the survey was last conducted.

For the first time, the survey covered young people aged 16 and 17. They accounted for almost one of the five percentage point increase in Internet use between 2005 and 2007.

Survey results showed that the digital divide, or gap in the rate of Internet use, still existed among certain groups of Canadians on the basis of income, education and age.

The survey also showed that people living in urban areas continued to be more likely to have used the Internet than those from smaller towns and rural areas. Only 65% of residents living in small towns or rural areas accessed the Internet, well below the national average, while just over three-quarters (76%) of urban residents did so. Both proportions were higher than in 2005.

Among people who used the Internet at home, 68% went online every day during a typical month and 50% for five hours or more during a typical week. On average, men were online more often and for longer periods than women.

Digital divides in Internet use persist

Findings reveal gaps in the rate of Internet use among certain groups of Canadians, specifically on the basis of income, education and age.

Households were divided into five equal groups, or quintiles, based on income.

The vast majority (91%) of people in the top quintile (more than $95,000) used the Internet. This was almost twice the proportion of 47% for the lowest quintile (less than $24,000). This gap in use has narrowed slightly since 2005.

Note to readers

The 2007 Canadian Internet Use Survey was conducted in October and November 2007 as a supplement to the Labour Force Survey. More than 26,500 Canadians aged 16 years and over were asked about their Internet use, including shopping, for the past 12 months. Estimates of Internet shopping (e-commerce) will be released in November 2008.

Caution is required comparing these results with those from 2005, when the survey was restricted to persons aged 18 years and older. In 2007, respondents aged 16 and 17 accounted for almost an entire percentage point of the overall increase in Internet use since 2005. They also affect estimates of online behaviours.


An Internet user is someone who used the Internet from any location for personal non-business reasons in the 12 months preceding the survey. A home user is someone who reported using the Internet from home, for the same reasons.

Urban boundaries are based on Statistics Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMA) and census agglomerations (CA). The rural and small town category consists of Canadians living outside CMAs and CAs.

In terms of education, 84% of individuals with at least some post-secondary education used the Internet in 2007, compared with 58% of those who had less education. Again, this gap has narrowed slightly since 2005.

Age remained an important factor. In 2007, 96% of persons aged 16 to 24 went online, more than three times the 29% among seniors aged 65 and older. However, Internet use increased among all age groups since 2005.

The proportion of men and women using the Internet during 2007 was just below three-quarters for both.

Among people born in Canada, 75% used the Internet, compared with 66% of those born elsewhere. However, the rate was 78% among immigrants who arrived in Canada during the last 10 years. Most of these recent immigrants live in urban areas.

High-speed connections more popular

The vast majority of Internet users aged 16 or older, 94%, reported personal Internet use from home during 2007, while 41% said they used it from work, 20% from schools and 15% from libraries.

High-speed connections are becoming far more prevalent. An estimated 88% of people who accessed the Internet at home did so with a high-speed connection in 2007, up from 80% two years earlier. This growth was driven by new users and by existing users switching from a slower service.

Over 9 in 10 urban home users reported using a high-speed connection, compared with just over 7 in 10 home users in rural areas. More than one-half of rural and small town residents using a slower service reported that a high-speed telephone or cable service was not available in their area.

Growing online activities: blogging, chatting, downloading

E-mail and general browsing continued to be the most popular online activities from home. The web remained popular for finding government or health information and making travel arrangements. And many Canadians also used it for banking, paying bills and ordering goods or services.

However, survey data show that more Canadians are participating in additional activities.

For example, one-fifth (20%) of home Internet users reported contributing content by posting images, writing blogs, or participating in discussion groups. Of these people, over one-half were under the age of 30.

Some 50% of home Internet users used an instant messenger during 2007. Again, relatively more young Canadians reported going online for this reason.

The increased use of broadband has also meant a rise in downloading or watching movies or television, and downloading music.

Concerns about online privacy and security

In 2007, the survey estimated that approximately 50% of Canadians (Internet users or not) were very concerned about online credit card use, 44% about online banking transactions and 37% about online privacy.

While all three estimates are below 2005 levels, they do not necessarily indicate that online privacy and security threats have declined. Other factors may be at work.

For instance, the 2007 survey included individuals aged 16 and 17 who, on average, expressed lower levels of concern. Canadians have also become more experienced online, with 54% reporting five or more years of Internet use in 2007, up from 45% in 2005.

Survey data show that the proportion very concerned about security was lower for people who had used the Internet longer and for more activities.

The provinces: Rates highest in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario

Rates of Internet use among Canadians increased in every province between 2005 and 2007. Rates were above the national average of 73% in three provinces: British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Rates in the two western provinces were boosted by high usage in major census metropolitan areas. In Calgary, 85% of people aged 16 and older used the Internet, as did 83% in Victoria, and 78% in both Vancouver and Edmonton.

Urban-rural differences in Internet use persisted during 2007. In Quebec for example, rates ranged from 58% in small towns and rural areas to 78% in Quebec City.

In general, cities have younger populations and proportionately more residents with higher levels of income and education. These concentrations of population are attractive markets for Internet service providers.

Available on CANSIM: tables 358-0122 to 358-0126, 358-0128 to 358-0132 and 358-0134.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4432.

For further information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, please contact Larry McKeown (613-951-2582;, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division.

Tables. Table(s).