Canadian Internet Project releases optimistic survey findings

The wealthier and more Internet-addicted they are, the more Canadians see the Web as a workplace productivity tool, according to survey data gathered as part of an international research effort.

Academics from Ryerson University, York University and the Université de Montréal on Wednesday released the results of the Canadian Internet Project (CIP), a study based on responses of more than 3,000 Canadians polled over the past spring. CIP is a partner of the World Internet Project, a consortium that exchanges and compares data about Internet users based on a 30-question survey.

The CIP said 62 per cent of Internet users claimed it helped them be more productive in their work, with those in higher income brackets and more frequent users feeling this more strongly than others. Less than a quarter of those surveyed said they felt the Internet gives them more political power, however, although more than half said they had accessed either a federal or provincial government Web site in the 12 months prior to the survey.

The study also indicated 19 per cent of users are already using voice-over-IP to make phone calls, a statistic that surprised Charles Zamaria, a professor at Ryerson University who is helping lead the CIP.

“You have to remember that this was conducted in May and June, before the real marketing of VoIP was happening,” he said. “The fact that 83 per cent were aware of it is extraordinary. It bodes well for telcos that want to get into that space.”

Respondents told CIP researchers they spend an average of 13.5 hours a week online, about two-thirds of which is devoted to searching for data.

“A great preponderance saw the Internet as information-seeking as opposed to an entertainment-seeking medium,” Zamaria said. “We’re expecting that to change over time, but that’s where we are today.”

CIP distinguishes itself by tracking the opinions of non-users as well as those who regularly go online. Of current non-users, for example, about 34 per cent said they had previously gone on the Internet. 

“Only a small proportion said cost was a deterrent,” said Fred Fletcher, a professor at York University. “The most important category they fit into was lack of interest – there were no services that this group wanted. I would say that might be ten per cent of the total in that sample.” Other non-users cited social concerns, including the safety of children online, spam and privacy issues, Fletcher added.

Compared with other countries involved in the World Internet Project, Canada was an e-commerce leader, with 52 per cent shopping over the Internet, followed by Germany at 48 per cent and Swedan at 41 per cent (the U.S. placed fifth, at 39 per cent).

“We want to not only inform research and academia, but also policy and practice from an industry point of view and a government point of view,” Zamaria said. “We asked a lot of questions about cultural content, and we’re hoping that as they think about the direction and ubiquity of the Internet this will help how things can be positioned and strategized.” 

CIP will be an ongoing project that will probably release results on a two-year basis, the professors said.

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