The Digital Divide

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.

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.

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.

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.

Source:  The Daily, Statistics Canada,