Canadians continue to be among the heaviest Internet users in the world with broadband now reaching more than 80 per cent of the country’s population, according to a recent Canadian Internet Project (CIP) survey.
The report, which was culled from interviews with more than 3,100 Canadians, found that users are spending more time than ever before on the Internet with the average online usage reaching 17 hours per week. Canadian users were also found to be very experienced with the Web and have been online for an average of nine years.
While the study found that online activity is nearly universal among Canada’s youth, more than half of Canadians over the age of 60 indicated they use the Internet regularly as well.
“Fifty-one per cent of those over 60 years old are online and they’re going online not just for e-mail and search engines, but they’re actually doing many of these social engagement activities that their grandchildren engage in,” said Charles Zamaria, principal investigator and project director of CIP. “As an example, 22 per cent of those over 60 engage in social networking sites. That was a pretty unusual finding for us, but it really gives you an idea of how prolific Canadians are on the Internet compared to the rest of the world.”
Zamaria, who is also a professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University, added that 40 per cent of Canadians Internet users have visited a social networking site and almost one in four visit them on a weekly basis. The most popular social networking sites, he said, were Facebook and Hi5.
The study also found that Canada has also begun to bridge the digital divide. Zamaria indicated that inequalities in Internet access and usage within specific demographics have now lessened.
“Income, education and gender don’t play out as much as they did a few years ago when we saw a much wider gap,” he said. The existing divide, he said, can be attributed to language, as English predominates on the Web. He added that some of this could be attributed to the lack of technical infrastructure for broadband access in some areas of rural Quebec.
And with the increasing technical demands of Web-based applications and video services throughout the rest of the country, other studies have suggested that Canada’s broadband networks might be hard pressed to meet future Internet traffic requirements.
According to a recent survey, commissioned by the Oxford Said Business School in London and the Universidad de Oviedo in Spain, Canada ranked 27th out of 42 nations for future readiness of broadband standards. Researchers indicated that Canada’s current networks are barely good enough to deal with today’s online traffic, due to a lack of investment by providers.
The survey, sponsored by Cisco Systems, focused on the broadband speeds that users averaged in each country rather than just broadband penetration, the often-used figure for measuring the maturity of a country’s Internet infrastructure.
But quality of the broadband connection is just as important, as it is linked to how quickly consumers can use bandwidth-intensive video, photo, music services and other applications, said Fernando Gil de Bernab