• The Netherlands is 10th on the world ranking list of human development (Source UNDP) with a Gini of 28.2 (Source: Worldbank).
  • 98% of the UK population has recently used the internet (Source CBS Statline); physical access to the Internet is almost saturated
  • Media studies and the computing curriculum are part of the (elementary and secondary) educational provision in the NL
  • The Dutch government is active in relation to policy making around digital inequalities, but this mainly accounts for providing accessible content for all. There is limited attention for improving motivation, usage opportunities and outcomes. Some agencies focus on digital skills (e.g. municipalities, UWV, Tax and Custom organization).
  • There are multi stakeholder partnerships working on issues of digital skills and inequalities such as Mediawijzer.net and ECP.
  • There is a research group (led by Alexander van Deursen) at the University of Twente who actively work on conceptualizations and measurements of digital inequalities.
Alexander van Deursen – Digital inequalities and IoT Alexander van Deursen – Digital inequalities and IoT
In this video, which is part of a series of short interviews with the international partners of the From Digital Skills to Tangible Inequalities project, Professor Alexander van Deursen (University of Twente) summarises his research agenda and shares some surprising insights resultant from his study.


Projects in the NL

In the NL the DISTO project has the bi-annual DISTO NL survey and two related spin-offs that use DISTO thinking: Inequalities in the Internet of Things and digital skills for the Dutch workforce). This project is also involved in ySkills.

Digital Inclusion at Work

Despite the growing role of the Internet in all industries, many organisations are not yet fully exploiting the opportunities offered. For example, we know from research that many managers overestimate the level of digital skills among their staff. These skills, which also involve (digital components of) creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and cooperation, that should be considered a prerequisite for innovation – the 21st-century Digital Skills.

One of the current projects focuses on the creative industries, which have innovation, creativity and entrepeneurship as the besis for their products and services. Despite the fact that ICTs play an enormous role in the sector, organisations need further development, especially around skills. In order to achieve the intended competitive advantage, it is necessary to map the current and expected needs for 21st Century Digital Skills: what exactly are these skills? What is the current level of those skills? How can organisations and workers support further development?


Further information: Centre for Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion in a Smart Society

The range of devices that communicate via the Internet – the Internet of Things (IoT) – is growing rapidly. This, however, requires a population that can make use of the IoT. This may seem quite easy at first: whereas the 'normal' Internet requires digital skills for operating hardware and software, and for online information, communication, and content creation, these are partly unnecessary with the IoT, where data is processed in the background and decisions are made without user intervention. It seems a matter of just turning on the device and connecting it to the Internet. But it is not that simple, and our research shows that there is a greater need for digital skills.

The project 'Any Thing for Anyone' was launched to investigate digital inclusion in relation to the IoT. After all, there ar emany potential benefits for individuals and for society. Smart devices can support individuals in making better decisions, for example, about energy consumption or health. Furthermore, the production of so-called big data that smart devices collect is a public good that policymakers can use for critical decisions.

Funding: NWO VIDI

Further information: Centre for Digital Inclusion

UK/NL Surveys

DiSTO NL was part of the original projects (in collaboration with the UK) which started in 2014 with, as their main objective, the development of theoretically informed measures that can be used to explain how people use the Internet and what the benefits might be. This was achieved through:


  • A systematic review of the literature to develop the scales
  • Conducting cognitive interviews in the Netherlands (and the UK) to refine the scales (N=30)
  • Online survey pilot tests of the instrument in the Netherlands and UK with a representative sample of Internet users to test the internal validity of the scales (N=300) 
  • Conducting a full nationally representative survey of Internet users in the Netherlands to test the scales for both internal and external validity of the scales(N=)


  • The measures have fed into the world internet project surveys, the Global Kids and Mobile Kids Online surveys, and are developed and adapted in close collaboration with the other partners on the DiSTO survey projects.
  • The conceptual model has informed the skills and use scale development used by ITU (International telecommunications Union), DigComp (EU commission), and UNICEF and the Essential Skills Index in the UK.


The model has been used by various stakeholders to shape tools for evaluation of policies and interventions in the NL. 


Research Team



Alexander van Deursen

Alexander van Deursen is chair of and professor at the department of communication Science at the BMS-faculty of the University of Twente. He has published widely in communication science journals that critically discuss key issues arising from the scale and speed of technology development. Professor van Deursen has advised the Dutch government, European Commission, International Telecommunications Union, UNESCO and other national and international organizations on the social implications of the Internet, specifically on how to account for the contribution of technology to increasing social inequalities.



Ester van Laar

Ester van Laar currently works as a postdoctoral researcher on the ySKILLS project, which is concerned with measuring children’s and adolescents’ digital skills and wellbeing. In her research she combines various qualitative and quantitative research methods to identify and measure the skills youth and working professionals need to learn in the 21st century. She has substantive experience with measuring innovative and new conceptualisations of digital skills by means of both performance tests and surveys. Her research interests include digital inequality, digital skills, 21st-century skills, the workforce, and wellbeing in a digital age.