CTIT University of Twente

2008-04 Digital skills of Dutch citizens

April 2008

Alexander van Deursen & Jan van Dijk

Digitale Vaardigheden van Nederlandse Burgers (Digital skills of Dutch citizens.)

van Deursen, A. & van Dijk, J. (2008). Digitale Vaardigheden van Nederlandse Burgers: Een prestatiemeting van operationele, formele, informatie en strategische vaardigheden bij het gebruik van overheidswebsites. Enschede: Universiteit Twente.


In summer 2007 an average of the population of the region Twente was tested on their internet skills in a governmental context. Organizations like the CBS and the SCP measure this skills by using surveys, which is less reliable than using performance tests in a laboratory, as done by the University of Twente. It was the first time these performance tests are done in Europe. The study was sponsored by the Ministry of internal affairs. Within a 1.5 hour test the subjects had to perform nine complex assignments of which the government assumed that citizens could complete them successfully.

Of the 109 subjects, many lacked the necessary skills. They were not able to complete the assignments successfully and needed a lot of time. Of four tested skills, an average of 80% of the tasks for measuring operational skills (button know how) was completed successfully. For formal Internet skills (the skills to orientate and navigate during surfing) 72% were solved successfully. Information skill assignments were completed at an average of 62%. The most problematic were the strategic skills, the skills to reach a particular goal using the Internet, for example to find out whether it would be reasonable to appeal against a disposition of the government. Only 25% of the tasks in which citizens had to find important financial information or to select a political party based on some preferences, were solved successfully.

There was no difference found between men and women. Highly educated and young subjects performed better than lower educated and seniors at operational and formal tasks. The highly educated were also more successful in the information and strategic assignments. However, no age differences were found.