Do we know what we don’t know?

Who are the Canadians who aren’t online? Do we know enough about them?

Billions of dollars are being spent in government connectivity programs; is it money well spent? Are we focused on the right areas?

Where is the Canadian research that looks at who isn’t online and asks “why”? Historically, data has shown that a disproportionate number of low-income households have no connection in their homes. But what is behind that data point? For example, in 2013 information from Statistics Canada showed that 28% of Canadians aged 65 or over in the lowest income quartile used the Internet, compared with 95% of individuals aged 16 to 24. In addition, we have seen significant increases in internet adoption among low-income seniors. Using the internet is not the same as having an internet connection at home.

Are there households who consider themselves on-line without subscribing to a broadband connection? For example, are some students finding that they can rely on broadband connections on campus and in coffee shops and use their mobile broadband for the rest of the time?

How many elementary and secondary school kids still don’t have access to a connected computer at home?

The latest Statistics Canada Survey of Household Spending (2015) shows that there are more households with internet use at home (86.9%) than households with a computer (84.5%). I find that to be fascinating. At least 2% of households in Canada make use of the internet at home and they don’t have a computer. What are the characteristics of these households and their internet use?

Dwelling characteristics and household equipment 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Households having a home computer 84.3 84.0 85.4 84.3 84.5
Households having Internet use from home 80.4 81.4 83.7 84.9 86.9

So in 2015, about 13% of Canadian households still did not have internet use from home. Of these households, how many are in urban versus rural settings? How many have access to internet, but have not subscribed? What are the reasons? What is the breakdown by age, by occupation, by income, by household composition? Are we targeting solutions in the most efficient manner?

Is Canada doing enough research to explore the nature of its digital divide? How can we find solutions for a problem that we may not fully understand?

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