“Digital Divide” Remains Wide – Only Six-In-Ten Canadians Aged 55+ Have Access To The Internet

Canadians Aged 55+ Have Not Integrated The Internet Into Their Daily Lives

February 15, 2007 Vancouver, BC – A new study released by Ipsos Reid, Older Canadians and the Internet1, has found that older Canadians lag significantly behind those in other age groups when it comes to their online usage and proficiency, showing that ‘digital’ divide is still alive and well in Canada.

Currently, only 61% of Canadian adults aged 55 or older have access to the Internet from any location, compared to 88% of adults aged 18-54, a gap of 27 points. And while this gap has narrowed slightly in the past three years, it is not significant enough to draw any conclusions about longer-term implications. In 2001, just over eight-in-ten Canadian adults aged 18-54 (82%) had access to the Internet, while just under half of those aged 55 or older (48%) had access. The gap was between 34 and 36 points from 2001 to 2003, and has since narrowed to 24 to 27 points in the past three years. In addition to being less likely to be online overall, older online adults spend nearly 35% less time online per week than younger Canadians (8.7 hours aged 55+; 13.3 hours aged 18-54), and the gap in terms of usage has not narrowed appreciably over the past six years.

Steve Mossop, President of Market Research Canada West for Ipsos says “Some ‘experts’ would like us to believe that the Internet is a universal medium that can reach all Canadians whether it be for a marketing, communications, or social perspective, but our research shows that there are considerable flaws in this thinking. The Internet is by no means universal, and there are important gaps like the older Canadians segment that it simply cannot be ignored. The ‘digital divide’ was predicted to disappear – but our research shows that while the gap is narrowing slightly, the divide is very real.”

Behaviourally, older Canadians lag behind the younger groups in each of 20 common online activities online Canadians have ever participated in. The gap is largest for listening to Internet radio ( 34%), downloading free MP3 files ( 32%), visiting blogs ( 23%), conducting online banking ( 21%), researching courses and schools ( 21%), comparison shopping ( 20%), searching for real estate ( 18%), researching trips ( 17%), using the Internet at work for personal reasons ( 17%), and purchasing online ( 14%). The gap is smaller for activities such as purchasing travel ( 6%), using online photo services ( 7%), and visiting homes for sale first found online (zero gap). The only online activities online Canadians aged 55 and older are more likely to participate in are taking courses directly online (+3%), buying/selling investments (+3%), and earning a degree or diploma online (+4%).

Attitudinally, the gaps are quite large. Only one-in-eight online adults aged 55 and older (13%) claim expert/very skilled experience and knowledge of the Internet, compared to 35% among 18 54 year olds. There is a large difference in how older and younger Canadian adults feel they use the Internet in their daily lives. Those aged 55 and older are less likely to feel the Internet is an important part of their daily routine (41% agree among those aged 55+ vs. 53% agree among those aged 18 54), and online Canadians aged 55 and older are significantly more likely to be “very concerned” about online security (45% aged 55+; 37% aged 18 54).

Steve also says, “This large gap in access combined with older Canadians’ lack of experience and skill and what appears to be an inherent distrust of online security begs whether online marketers are truly reaching this audience with their current campaigns and efforts. Further, it indicates that new and unique strategies may need to be developed to reach what is a rather lucrative and rapidly growing2 spending group in Canadian society.”

1The “Older Canadians and the Internet” survey is a special feature of The Canadian [email protected] Reid Report, Quarter 3, 2006.

2According to Statistics Canada, 2001, Canadians aged 55 and older accounted for about 6.8M residents, or 22% of the overall population, and in 2005, they grew to 7.7M residents.

About Ipsos Reid

Ipsos Reid is Canada’s market intelligence leader, the country’s leading provider of public opinion research, and research partner for loyalty and forecasting and modelling insights. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos Reid employs more than 300 research professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in the
country, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and online panels. Ipsos Reid’s marketing research and public affairs practices offer the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada, all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, Ipsos Reid offers syndicated information or custom solutions across key sectors of the Canadian economy, including consumer packaged goods, financial services, automotive, retail, and technology & telecommunications. Ipsos Reid is an Ipsos
company, a leading global survey-based market research group.

To learn more, please visit www.ipsos.ca