The Dutch government and public libraries collaborate closely in projects to enhance people’s digital skills. With 2,5 million people in the Netherlands being functionally illiterate, the digitization ambitions of the Dutch government run the risk of social failure, as a significant part of the Dutch population does not have the digital skills to communicate with the government. BOLD Cities researchers participated in a research project to evaluate the implementation and impact of one of the instruments that the government has launched to counter digital illiteracy, the so-called Information Points Digital Government (IDO). The research demonstrates that the full potential of these IDOs is not yet reached, and identifies the factors that undermine their success.
The Dutch government is increasingly digitizing. Communication with the government about, for example, applying for a passport or social security benefits, has to be carried out online, via digital platforms and using digital identification methods (DigID). However, 2,5 million Dutch citizens are estimated to lack the necessary digital skills, resulting in a high risk of exclusion from government services. To increase the digital literacy and inclusion of this group of citizens, the government thinks they need to develop ICT-skills, online communication skills as well as the ability to critically evaluate online information and the safety of their online behaviour. The Royal Library and the so-called Manifestgroep (a collaboration of eight governmental organisations) have initiated the program “Digital Inclusion, Support of Vulnerable Target Groups” to work on these challenges. Libraries play an important role in this program, by facilitating (and organizing) several courses on working with computers, as well as walk-in session during which people can ask concrete questions about their digital machines and the facilitating of the so called IDO’s (Information Point for questions about the Digital Government). The target group of this programme is often hard to reach through formal-education routes and communication channels, possibly explaining the low participation in the digital literacy programs. Therefore, the programme collaborates with local public libraries which are considered to be a low-threshold venue for people that need digital support. The Royal Library asked the consortium of researchers from the University of Groningen, the Open University, and the Erasmus University Rotterdam to help them understand how to boost the number and participation of relevant target groups in libraries’ digital support services, particularly in the IDO’s
The purpose of the research was to analyse how the IDOs are used and appreciated by the main stakeholders (librarians and target groups) and which enablers or barriers to the success of the IDO’s could be identified. The three main research questions were as following:
What do people with a low digital literacy expect from programs on digital literacy?
What barriers obstruct the participation in these activities?
How can the library enlarge the participation in these programs?