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Canadian Internet Use Survey

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The Daily

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Two-thirds of adult Canadians surfed the Internet in 2005, and those living in larger cities were much more likely to have done so than those in rural areas and small towns, according to the new Canadian Internet Use Survey.

An estimated 16.8 million adult Canadians, or 68%, used the Internet for personal non-business reasons during the 12 months prior to the survey.

Only 58% of residents living in small towns or rural areas accessed the World Wide Web, well below the national average. In contrast, rates in Canada's largest census metropolitan areas ranged from 68% in Montréal to 77% in both Ottawa–Gatineau and Calgary.

The survey also showed that the Internet has changed the way many Canadians do banking and access news. Roughly 6 of every 10 Internet users used it to read news or sports, or to conduct their banking online. Even so, three-quarters of Canadians expressed strong concerns about privacy and security.

The new survey, which replaces the Household Internet Use Survey, was redesigned to focus on individual Internet use. The CIUS did show that in 2005, an estimated 7.9 million Canadian households (61%) were connected to the Internet, up slightly from the nearly 60% reported in 2004 by the Survey on Household Spending.

Urban areas have big impact on usage rates

In general, Internet use rises provincially from east to west, although only three provinces had usage rates above the national average of 68% — Ontario (72%), Alberta (71%) and British Columbia (69%).

Note to readers

The 2005 Canadian Internet Use Survey (CIUS) was conducted as a supplement to the Labour Force Survey in November 2005. The survey excluded residents of the territories, inmates of institutions, persons living on Indian reserves, and full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The survey asked more than 30,000 Canadians aged 18 years and over about their Internet use, including electronic shopping, for the last 12 months.

Information on electronic shopping (the number and value of purchases made online by Canadians) will be released by October 2006.

This survey replaces the Household Internet Use Survey (HIUS), conducted from 1997 to 2003, which focused on households. The new survey focuses on individual Internet use to more closely conform to international standards. This change in focus prevents direct comparison between HIUS and CIUS estimates.


An "Internet user" is someone who used the Internet from any location during 2005 for personal non-business reasons. 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.

However, urban areas had a huge impact on usage rates. For example, in Nova Scotia, 67% of adults aged 18 and over used the Internet in the year prior to the survey for personal non-business reasons. But the rate in Halifax was 75%, much higher than the 62% in the rest of the province.

Percent of adult Canadians using Internet during 2005 
Halifax 75
Montréal 68
Ottawa–Gatineau 77
Toronto 75
Winnipeg 70
Calgary 77
Edmonton 69
Vancouver 71
Other urban areas 68
Rural and small town areas 58

Halifax has a concentration of universities, government and health care institutions that attract younger students and professionals with higher incomes.

In general, larger cities have younger populations and more residents with higher levels of income and education, all related to higher rates of Internet use. The concentration of population also presents an attractive market for Internet service providers.

Digital divide persists among certain groups

Canada's digital divide (the gap in the rate of Internet use among certain groups of people) still exists, according to CIUS data. Income, education, age and the presence of children in the household all influence Internet use.

About 88% of adults with household incomes of $86,000 or more used the Internet last year, well above the proportion of 61% among adults living in households with incomes below $86,000.

Similarly, 80% of adults with at least some post-secondary education used the Internet, compared with just under one half (49%) of adults with less education.

Canadians between the ages of 18 and 44 (85%) were over one and a half times more likely to use the Internet than those 45 years of age and older (50%).

The presence of children under 18 years in the household is also associated with a higher rate of Internet use among adults. About 81% of persons in households with children used the Internet, compared to only 61% of persons in households without children.

While there was no clear pattern between the proportion of men and women using the Internet, there are differences in their intensity and types of use.

Vast majority accessed the Internet at home

Just over 15 million individuals aged 18 or older were estimated to have accessed the Internet from home for personal non-business reasons, about 90% of all Internet users.

About 39% of Internet users used it from work, the second most frequent location, while 30% reported accessing it from other locations such as from the home of a friend or relative, or from an Internet café.

Just under one-half (49%) of employed Internet users from age 35 to 54 reported accessing it from work for personal non-business use, while 9 out of 10 (91%) full-time students under age 25 who used the Internet reported accessing it from school.

Of the more than 15 million adult Canadians who used the Internet from home in 2005, almost two-thirds used it every day during a typical month, and just under one-quarter reported using it 10 hours or more during a typical week.

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Among home users, over 4 out of 10 (43%) men aged 18 to 24, and about one-third (34%) of their female counterparts, spent 10 hours or more on-line during a typical week.

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Internet use from home: More than half paid bills online

The vast majority of home users reported using the Internet in 2005 for e-mailing and browsing. Around two-thirds used it to obtain information about weather and road conditions and for travel information. About 62% used it to view news or sports.

The Internet has also become an important way to conduct financial affairs and to interact with governments. About 6 in every 10 home users (58%) used it to do their banking, and 55% used it to pay their bills online. Just over one-half searched for information on governments and 58% searched for information about health or medical conditions.

Over one half (57%) of home users went online to window shop while 43% reported ordering personal goods or services over the Internet.

Individual use varied with age and sex. About 79% of home users under 25 reported using it for education, training or school work, and 61% used it to play games.

Women were more likely than men to use the Internet from home to search for information about health or medical conditions. Among home users, about 63% of women did so, compared with 53% of men.

Reasons for adult home users to go on-line during 2005 
E-mail 91
General browsing 84
Weather or road conditions 67
Travel information or making travel arrangements 63
View news or sports 62
Search for medical or health related information 58
Electronic banking 58
Window shopping 57
Pay bills 55
Search for information about governments 52
Ordering personal goods or services 43
Education, training or school work 43
Research community events 42
Play games 39
Chat or to use a messenger 38
Obtain or save music (free or paid downloads) 37
Obtain or save software (free or paid downloads) 32
Research investments 26
Listen to the radio over the Internet 26
Communicate with governments 23
Download or watch TV or a movie over the Internet 12
Any other personal non-business reason 11

These women reported searching for information on specific diseases, on lifestyle, on certain symptoms, and for information on drugs or medications.

In contrast, men (56%) were more likely than women (48%) to use the Internet from home to search for information about governments. Men did so mainly to access government programs, download government forms and file income taxes online.

Majority had high-speed Internet connection

The majority of home users reported accessing the Internet over a high speed connection, according to the survey (only home users not accessing the Internet by cable or satellite were asked about high speed).

About 50% who accessed the Internet at home did so using a cable line connected to a computer, while 44% used a telephone line connected to a computer.

However, of the group that used a telephone line, about 59% reported it was a high-speed connection (cable Internet service providers typically offer a range of package options with various speeds, all faster than conventional dial-up service).

An estimated 2.7 million individual home users reported that they did not use a high-speed connection to access the Internet in 2005. They accounted for about 18% of all home users.

Among these individuals, just over one-third (922,250) reported that a high-speed Internet service (either cable or phone) was not available in their area. Almost 70% of these people lived in smaller towns and rural areas.

Security a concern for three-quarters of adult Canadians

Almost three-quarters of survey respondents (both Internet users and non-users) said that they were either concerned (33%) or very concerned (40%) about privacy and security. More than one-half (57%) of all Canadians were very concerned about Internet credit card use.

Some differences by language of use were reported. Among Internet users who indicated English as their preference, over 97% reported obtaining information in the language of their choice. Among those indicating French as their preference, just 83% did so.

Canadians with a personal computer or another device to access the Internet but who did not use the Internet from home last year, or had never used it, gave a variety of reasons. Many said they had no interest (29%) or no need for it (25%) while others said it cost too much (16%) or it was too hard to use (12%).

Even so, almost one-third of these non users said they plan to use it during the next 12 months from one location or another.

Available on CANSIM: tables 358-0122 to 358-0134.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4432.

Additional data tables on Internet use by province and on the characteristics of individuals using the Internet are available online. From the Summary tables page, select What's new? Or from the Summary tables page under Subject, choose Communications then Internet.

For further information or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Larry McKeown (613-951-2582, For custom table requests, contact Lyne Lafontaine (613-951-6288,, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division.