This month, the Bank of Canada, the country's central bank, released a staff analytical note analyzing the results of a survey it conducted to assess the Canadian population's general awareness of bitcoin. The survey took place in three separate waves (or installments), the most recent in 2017. That wave had a sample size of 2,623.
According to the analytical note, awareness of bitcoin rose from 64 percent toward the end of 2016 to 85 percent near the end of 2017. In general, Canadians earning at least $70,000 annually were the most aware – 92 percent of individuals in this income group had heard of bitcoin.
The note also commented on Canadians' fundamental knowledge of bitcoin. Similar true-or-false statements were used in each wave of the survey, but some of them were adjusted for clarity in 2017:
The bank found that, overall, respondents scored higher on the quiz in 2017 versus 2016. For example, 78 percent of bitcoin owners in 2017 correctly answered the fourth statement – related to government backing of bitcoin – as opposed to 37 percent in 2016. (The note implies that owners' scores improved because the statements on the updated quiz were clearer.)
Additionally, the bank discovered increased bitcoin ownership in Canada, rising from 2.9 percent in 2016 to 5 percent in 2017. The note suggests the increase comes from newly aware bitcoin users, as ownership rates were relatively similar between 2016 and 2017 among those already aware of the cryptocurrency.
Considering demographics, ownership among men almost doubled (from 4.2 percent to 8.1 percent). However, among women, it remained around 2 percent. This shift in ownership has ultimately widened the gender gap in Canadian bitcoin ownership.
Before concluding its note, the bank addressed the question "Why do people own bitcoin?" To answer this, the 2017 version of the survey asked how often bitcoin owners used the cryptocurrency to pay for goods and services as well as send money to others. The bank separated users into two groups: transactors who use bitcoin at least once per year and non-transactors who have used it once or twice but do not use it regularly. The results were almost even – about half of those surveyed were transactors, while the others were non-transactors.
The bank also wanted to know what would drive non-transactors to own bitcoin. The note mentioned that, in 2017, the biggest motivation was for investment purposes, as 58 percent of owners identified this as the main reason for owning the cryptocurrency. However, in 2016, a plurality of respondents (39 percent) identified payment-related reasons as the primary motivating factor.
The note ended with an equivocal conclusion. Although bitcoin has seen a rise in usage, it only increased 2.1 percentage points from 2016 to 2017. This is notable to the bank because the 2017 installment of the survey was conducted during the peak of the bitcoin price rise in December 2017. It seems that the bank expected a larger increase in the cryptocurrency's usage. Regardless, the conclusion did note the change in user motivation (from payment to investment) as significant.
Survey results such as these demonstrate a growing interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency technology from centralized authorities. Canada itself has a track record of monitoring its citizens' cryptocurrency use, as Ontario securities law enforcer, the Ontario Securities Commission, published a survey in late June documenting province residents' knowledge (or lack thereof) of cryptocurrencies.
From a macro perspective, the shift in survey results, whether in Canada or elsewhere, represents the ever-changing nature of the blockchain industry. In one year's time, more Canadian bitcoin users saw investment opportunity with the cryptocurrency. Of course, on a more basic level, it never hurts for more people to be familiar with the technology and the cryptocurrencies associated with it, and the Bank of Canada's analytical note shows just that.