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How have Canadians been using the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic?

December 3, 2021, 2:00 p.m. (EST)
Image of hand holding cell phone displayed behind a graphic image showing virtual web-shaped diagram and icons of megaphone, envelope, notepad, laptop, globe, mobile phone, computer monitor, shopping cart, headphones.

For many of us, the Internet has been somewhat of a saving grace as we navigate life in an ongoing pandemic. In fact, 75% of Canadians aged 15 and older told us that they used the internet more often since the start of the pandemic. More people are connecting to the Internet to work from home than ever before. Responses to the Labour Force Survey show that at the beginning of 2021, 32% of Canadian employees worked from home, compared with 4% in 2016. But besides school and work, how exactly have Canadians been spending their time online since the beginning of the pandemic? 

Well, here's what we know thanks to the Canadian Internet Use Survey. While many stores were physically closed, more than four in five Canadians (82%, to be exact) shopped online in 2020. In total, Canadians spent $84.4 billion online in 2020.

More time at home also meant that Canadians turned to the Internet for entertainment: 83% watched streamed content, and 35% played online video games.

And of course, we relied on the Internet more than ever to remain socially connected during a time where in-person contact was not an option. In 2020, Canadians used instant messaging apps (76%), social networking websites (71%), and online voice or video calls (64%).

The Internet was also an extremely helpful tool for staying informed, with 78% of Canadians using the Internet to access news. Similarly, 69% of Canadians searched online for health information. In total, 25% of Canadians said they used the Internet to track their personal fitness or health, and 14% said they used Internet-connected wearable smart devices such as smart watches and glucose-monitoring devices.

It should be mentioned that important gaps still exist when it comes to Internet use. For example, compared with the Canadian average of 92%, just 62% of Canadians 75 years of age and older used the Internet in 2020. Internet use was also lower on average among people with a disability (84%), those who are not employed (85%), Indigenous people (88%), and those who live outside of a census metropolitan area or census agglomeration (i.e., those who live in more rural areas) (87%).

Check out the Digital economy and society statistics portal for easy and central access to data, publications and interactive tools related to this topic, and the digital economy and society, more generally.

For further reading

Internet use and COVID-19: How the pandemic increased the amount of time Canadians spend online (

Study: Working from home: Productivity and preferences (The Daily) (

Online shopping by Canadians in 2020: Results from the Canadian Internet Use Survey (infographic) (

Canadians online in 2020 (infographic) (

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