The Hamilton Spectator
Saturday, March 21, 1998
page A12

Homes with kids more likely to have a computer

by David Akin, dakin@ham.southam.ca

A Statistics Canada report says half of all Canadian households with children own a computer.

The survey also confirms a trend: households with higher incomes are four times more likely to own a computer than lower-income households.

The survey, conducted last spring and released yesterday, links demographic and income data to the kinds of household products Canadians own.

For the 20 per cent of households with the highest incomes, 62 per cent owned a computer and 26 per cent had access to the Internet from home.

For the 20 per cent of households in the lowest-income group, 15 per cent owned computers and 5 per cent used the Internet from home.

The disparity highlights the importance of libraries and community networks, such as the Hamilton-Wentworth CommunityNet, says a computer expert.

"I think we would all agree we don't want to have some Canadians ... becoming the information poor and have them increasingly disconnected from a very connected and wired society", said David Jones, a McMaster University computer science professor and co-founder of Electronic Frontier Canada.

The group prompts extension of Canadian charter rights in cyberspace.

"We want everyone to have equal opportunity."

Overall, 36 per cent (4.2 million) of Canadian households own a computer.

In Ontario, 40 per cent of all households have a computer, making the personal computer about as common a home appliance as the dishwasher.

While parents may be the only ones using the dishwasher, Jones says kids are putting the computer to the greatest use.

"Some parents are taking the opportunity to get a computer into the house ... and they're getting their kids to teach them how to use the computer and how to use the Net", Jones said.

Home Internet use has doubled compared to 1996. StatsCan said 13 per cent (1.5 million) households accessed the Internet from home last year.

A 1996 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found the cost of dial-up Internet access was cheaper in Canada than any other country in the world.

Several public and private studies have linked knowledge and use of computers and the Internet to improved educational opportunities and earnings.

Many post-secondary institutions now require students in some programs, such as engineering, to own their own computers.

"Libraries have an increasingly important role in providing access to information in all of its forms", said Jones.

"Rather than just being warehouses of information, libraries have professional staff who are information intermediaries. They can help you find the information that you want."


Copyright © 1998 by The Hamilton Spectator. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.