General Social Survey - Access to and Use of Information Communication Technology (GSS)

Detailed information for 2000 (Cycle 14)




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The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

This survey collects detailed information on access to and use of technology in Canada.

Data release - March 26, 2001


The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

This survey collects detailed information on access to and use of technology in Canada.

Statistical activity

This record is part of the General Social Survey (GSS) program. The GSS, originating in 1985, conducts telephone surveys. Each survey contains a core topic, focus or exploratory questions and a standard set of socio-demographic questions used for classification. More recent cycles have also included some qualitative questions, which explore opinions and perceptions.

Until 1998, the target sample of respondents was approximately 10,000 persons. This was increased in 1999 to 25,000. With a sample of respondents of 25,000, results are available at both the national and provincial levels and possibly for some special population groups such as disabled persons and seniors.

Reference period: Calendar year

Collection period: Each month from January to December


  • Individual and household internet use
  • Information and communications technology
  • Society and community

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population is non-institutionalized persons 15 years of age or older, living in the ten provinces.

The samples for most GSS cycles are selected using random digit dialing telephone methods and the interviews are conducted by telephone. Thus persons in households without telephones cannot be interviewed. However, persons living in such households represent less than 2% of the target population. Interviews are not conducted by cellular telephone so persons with only cellular telephone service are also excluded; again, this group makes up a very small proportion of the population, less than 3%.

Instrument design

The questionnaire was designed based on qualitative testing (focus groups), a pilot test and interviewer debriefing.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Data for Cycle 14 of the GSS were collected in 12 independent monthly samples from January to December 2000. The target sample sizes for each month were initially the same but were adjusted slightly during the year to try to achieve a final overall sample size of 25,090 respondents. These samples were all selected using the random digit dialing (RDD) technique known at Statistics Canada as the Elimination of Non-Working Banks (ENWB).

In order to carry out sampling, each of the ten provinces was divided into strata and separate samples were selected from each stratum. These strata were defined geographically.

The provincial boundaries were used as the first level of stratum boundary. Then, within each province, a separate stratum containing the Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), taken together, was created. Finally, separate strata were created for Toronto and Montreal. This resulted in 21 strata being defined: a single stratum for PEI (since it doesn't contain a CMA), two strata (CMA and non-CMA) each for Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, and three strata (Toronto / Montreal, other CMAs, non-CMA) each for Quebec and Ontario. This is the same stratification used for many previous cycles of the GSS but is different from that used for Cycle 13, when there were 27 strata in all.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: January 2000 to December 2000 (12 independent monthly samples)

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) was used to collect data for the GSS. Households were selected through Random Digit Dialling methods. When a private household was reached, interviewers enumerated all household members, collecting basic demographic information including age, sex and marital status. An algorithm was then used to randomly select one household member (age 15 and older) to participate in the survey. Respondents were interviewed in the official language of their choice. Interviews by proxy were not allowed. The overall response rate during collection for Cycle 14 was 80.8%.

All interviewing took place using centralized telephone facilities in four of Statistics Canada's regional offices, with calls being made from approximately 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday inclusive. The four regional offices were: Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Statistics Canada staff trained interviewers in survey concepts and procedures as well as telephone interviewing techniques using CATI. The majority of interviewers had previous experience interviewing for the GSS.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

Error detection was done through edits programmed into the CATI system.

The CATI data capture program allowed a valid range of codes for each question and built-in edits, and automatically followed the flow of the questionnaire.

All survey records were subjected to computer edits throughout the course of the interview. The CATI system principally edited flow of the questionnaire and identified out of range values. As a result, such problems could be immediately resolved with the respondent. If the interviewer was unable to correctly resolve the detected errors, it was possible for the interviewer to bypass the edit and forward the data to head office for resolution. All interviewer comments were reviewed and taken into account in head office editing.

Head office edits performed the same checks as the CATI system as well as more detailed edits.


The flow editing carried out by head office followed a 'top down' strategy, in that whether or not a given question was considered "on path" was based on the response codes to the previous questions. If the response codes to the previous questions indicated that the current question was "on path", the responses, if any, to the current question were retained, though "don't know" was recoded as 8 (98 or 998, etc.) and refusals were recoded as "Not Stated", i.e. 9 (99 or 999, etc.). If, however, a response was missing to the current question, it was coded as "Not Stated", i.e. 9 (99 or 999, etc.). If the response codes to the previous questions indicated that the current question was "off path" because the respondent was clearly identified as belonging to a sub-population for which the current question was inappropriate or not of interest, the current question was coded as "Not Applicable", i.e. 7 (97 or 997, etc.).

Due to the nature of the survey, imputation was not appropriate for most items so missing data were coded as 'Not Stated'.

However, non-response was not permitted for those items required for weighting. Values were imputed in the rare cases where either of the following was missing: sex or number of residential telephone.


When a probability sample is used, as was the case for the GSS, the principle behind estimation is that each person selected in the sample represents (in addition to himself/herself) several other persons not in the sample. For example, in a simple random sample of 2% of the population, each person in the sample represents 50 persons in the population (himself/herself and 49 others). The number of persons represented by a given respondent is usually known as the weight or weighting factor.

WGHT_PER: This is the basic weighting factor for analysis at the person level, i.e. to calculate estimates of the number of persons (non-institutionalized and aged 15 and older) having one or several given characteristics. WGHT_PER should be used for all estimates. For example, to estimate the number of persons who used a computer in the last 12 months, the value of WGHT_PER is summed over all records with this characteristic (A7=1).

GSS Cycle 14 was a survey of individuals and the Microdata file contains questionnaire responses and associated information from 25,090 respondents.

GSS Cycle 14 was not designed to be a survey of households, so questions such as A1: Is your household connected to the Internet?, and M1: In what type of dwelling are you now living? should be used to estimate the number of persons who live in households connected to the Internet or the number of persons who live in a particular type of dwelling. For example, to estimate the number of persons who live in low-rise apartments, WGHT_PER should be summed over all WGHT_PER:

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any data which would divulge information obtained under the Statistics Act that relates to any identifiable person, business or organization without the prior knowledge or the consent in writing of that person, business or organization. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

A method of Suppression is applied to the unweighted and weighted tables.

The proposed public use microdata file contains a subset of the variables on the internal analytical file. To avoid the possibility of disclosure, some variables will not be made public, many variables were capped and categories were collapsed. These steps allow the publication of certain respondent and household members' characteristics without compromising confidentiality.

The Data Dictionary contains a list of all variables proposed for the public use microdata file, including frequencies and weighted estimates.

Geography variables have been limited to two indicators:

1. PRV - Province, excluding the Territories
2. CMAURIND - Urban-rural indicator of the respondent's residence.1

Three-way cross tabulations were created and examined for possible disclosure problems, both at the Canada level and for the four CMA in provinces were there is only one CMA (St John's, NFLD; Saint John, NB; Halifax, NS and Winnipeg, MB). The first step was to create a list of variables that could potentially identify a respondent. The variables that were included contain elements that are clearly visible or known to members of the community. Questions from the core content of the survey were considered but because Internet and computer use are not visible characteristics, they were not included for further analysis.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

The coefficient of variation (CV) was verified for each figure produced from the cycle 14 data file.

A set of CV tables is included in the documentation package of the cycle 14.


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