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Amy Walters/Amy Walters

A new study says 80 per cent of Canadians aged 16 and older, or 21.7 million people, used the Internet for personal reasons last year.

That's a big increase over 2007, when the figure was just 73 per cent.

Statistics Canada reports rates of Internet use increased in every province, with New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador recording the highest increases, at 15 per cent.

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The agency says Internet use was highest at 85 per cent in both British Columbia and Alberta, followed by 81 per cent in Ontario.

Calgary and Saskatoon were the most online-savvy cities, with web-usage rates at 89 per cent apiece.

They were followed by Edmonton, Ottawa-Gatineau, Vancouver and Victoria, each at around 86 per cent.

Among Canadians living in communities with populations of 10,000 or more, 83 per cent used the Internet compared with 73 per cent of those from communities with fewer people.

This "digital divide" - or gap in the rate of Internet use on the basis of community size - has persisted since 2007, when the respective proportions were 76 and 65 per cent.

StatsCan says digital divides on the basis of income, education and age narrowed between 2007 and 2009.

To examine the Internet use divide by income, Canadians were divided into four equal groups based on household income.

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The vast majority (94 per cent) of people from households with incomes of $85,000 or more used the Internet, compared with 56 per cent among households with incomes of $30,000 or less. The respective proportions in 2007 were 90 and 48 per cent.

The agency reports 89 per cent of Canadians with at least some post-secondary education used the Internet in 2009, compared with 66 per cent among those with no post-secondary education. This divide narrowed from 84 and 58 per cent in 2007 respectively.

Internet use increased among all age groups but at different rates.

In 2009, 98 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 went online, up slightly from 96 per cent two years earlier.

Of those aged 45 or older, two-thirds went online during 2009, up from 56 per cent in 2007. This age group, traditionally slower to adopt and use the Internet, accounted for 60 per cent of all new Internet users since 2007.

A similar proportion of men (81 per cent) and women (80 per cent) used the Internet in 2009.

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