May 17, 2022

New Report: “Canadians’ Use of the Internet and Digital Technologies Before and During COVID-19 Pandemic”

From Statistics Canada:

As the COVID-19 pandemic moved many activities online, did Canadians’ Internet proficiency increase? A new study entitled “Canadians’ use of the Internet and digital technologies before and during the COVID-19 pandemic,” released today in Economic and Social Reports, documents the changing distribution of Canadians across internet user groups prior to and during the pandemic. Data taken from answers to 29 questions available on both the 2018 and 2020 Canadian Internet Use Surveys were used to categorize Canadians into one of five Internet user groups, ranging from Non-users to Advanced users. A shift of the population into more adept user groups is observed, particularly among Canadians in older age groups and with lower levels of educational attainment.

Fewer Canadians are on the ‘have not’ side of the digital divide

From 2018 to 2020, the shares of Canadians identified as either Non-users or Basic users of the internet and digital technologies declined by almost 5 percentage points, from 23.8% to 18.9%. This represented a shift of almost 1.4 million Canadians from the ‘have-not’ to the ‘have’ side of the digital divide. Over the same period, the share of Canadians classified as Advanced users increased by more than 4 percentage points, reaching 36.7% in 2020. Among all the user groups, the shares of Canadians classified as Intermediate Users increased by 1.3 percentage points and the share classified as Proficient Users declined by 0.9 percentage points over the period. Almost 23% of Canadians were in the Intermediate user group, and 22% were in the Proficient user group in 2020.

Many online activities became more prevalent, but Basic Users did not keep pace

Among Internet users, some online and digital activities were more prevalent in 2020 than in 2018. For example, the share of Basic users who changed their location privacy settings on a digital device increased by about 13 percentage points, from 6% in 2018 to 19% in 2020. Similarly, the shares of Intermediate and Proficient users who changed their location privacy settings on a digital device increased by 22 and 26 percentage points respectively, suggesting a widespread change in practices among these groups. Among Advanced users, 88% reported that they changed their location privacy settings in 2020, up 4 percentage points from 2018. The smaller increase among Advanced users reflected the greater prevalence of this activity, already evident in 2018 and more limited scope for further increase. Increasing shares of Internet users also changed personal information privacy settings and blocked messages on their digital devices, indicating that more Canadians were taking steps to increase their online security and privacy.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.