Is Canada The Wired, Internet Country We're Told It Is?

Toronto - Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - By: Stewart MacDonald

Canadian media, business and government groups claim that Canada is the high-tech haven of the North and and one of the most internet-friendly countries in the world. It looks, however, as if the average citizen doesn't agree.

With the assistance of a couple of co-workers, I conducted a controlled e-mail survey of 500 Canadians to identify how strong an identity Canada has developed in the on-line community and the visibility of key public and private sector groups.

What I found is that 40% of Canadians are unhappy with the availability and variety of Canadian services offered on the internet. This is a surprisingly high figure considering the strong presence the internet has in our day-to-day lives. Over one third of us have connections in our home and even more have access at work.
Those that are unhappy claim that there are only a limited number of good Canadian sites and that it's difficult to find much Canadian content. As part of identifying overall satisfaction, respondents were asked to select the statement (below) which they agreed with most:

Rating Corresponding Statement

very satisfied: "I can always find what I'm looking for and I'm happy with the choices which are available to me."
somewhat satisfied: "It's fairly good, however there are some key services or resources which I can't find."
somewhat dissatisfied: "There are only a limited number of good Canadian sites."
very dissatisfied: "I can never seem to find much Canadian content."

Some Important Industry Sectors Are Going Unnoticed
Study participants were also asked to rate the on-line visibility of various Canadian industries (with 1 being not visible at all and 10 being extremely visible). Answers show that some important sectors have not developed a very strong internet presence.
Respondents advised that those with the weakest presence are individual private sector companies and charities.
Only two groups (bank, finance and investment & media, news and publishing) achieved relatively high ratings. All other sectors need to become more visible on the world-wide web.

The On-Line Visibility Of Various Canadian Industries

(1 being not visible at all, 10 being extremely visible)


mean rating

bank, finance and investment


media, news and publishing


government organizations


educational organizations


entertainment/diversions (ie. music, games, movies)


directory/information services (ie. maps, phone books, search engines)


travel, tourism and hospitality (restaurants, Cdn. holidays, local nightlife)


private sector companies (both large and small)


charities and non-profit groups


If we didn't know any better we would assume that most Canadian organizations don't have web sites. In fact the opposite is true, it only takes a quick glance at business cards and letterhead to see that this isn't the case. It's just that a large number of us aren't noticing them. And if you don't notice them or can't find them you can't use them.
Part Of The Problem Is That We Are Not Relying On Canadian Services

A small percentage of respondents (15%) couldn't say who provides most of the web services they use. The majority of those who have paid attention, however, advise that the services they use most often, even if they carry Canadian content, are run by foreign companies.

Is it any wonder that a large part of our web activity remains unseen?
Does Canadian Business Need To Be On The Internet?
As more and more people jump on the internet bandwagon there are fewer groups which dismiss e-commerce as a flash in the pan. For those who persist in claiming that it holds no real value, here is an interesting figure:
Almost a third of survey respondents advise that they have either visited a Canadian website, used a Canadian service or purchased a Canadian product as the result of on-line advertising.
The message is clear that the general public is actively looking for Canadian sites and that Canadian organizations which succeed in being noticed are getting their message across. Do the math: one third of us (out of approximately 31 million people) have the internet at home and a third of those are willing change their browsing habits to visit a Canadian site if it seems interesting.
That's as many as 3.3 million people almost begging to beat a path to the door of some lucky Canadian website.
How Canadians Prefer To Find Out About New On-Line Services
When new on-line services are introduced, Canadians prefer to find out about them via print ads in newspapers or magazines, followed by television and e-mail. The least popular methods are direct mail, radio, newsgroups and transit ads.

How This Survey Was Conducted
The fieldwork for this project was conducted during the month of February. Five hundred study participants were recruited from on-line Canadian discussion forums (i.e. moderated bulletin boards, usenet groups and opt-in mailing lists) which address a wide variety of topics. A high level of co-operation was received from residents in all provinces as well as among all age groups, from young adults through to senior citizens.
Note: This is not an anonymous internet survey. Participants were required to provide full contact information including first and last name, a contact phone number and complete demographic information to be eligible to take part. Once this was done they were directed to a dedicated web site with a secure survey form.
Study Accuracy
A survey of 500 respondents from a total Canadian population of 31,156,393 1 has a statistical accuracy of +/- 4.3% , 19 times out of 20.
Market Research On The Internet
The commonly accepted estimate is that over one-third of Canadians have an internet connection at home and an even higher percentage have access via their workplace. As long as the proper controls are in place a study conducted among those with access to the internet will accurately reflect the views of the entire Canadian population with a margin of error of 0.3%, 19 times out of 20.

1. Statistics Canada, reflecting an October 2001 population count.


Stewart MacDonald is a Toronto-based management & technology consultant. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about taking part in upcoming reviews he can be reached at