See Employees CS

A.J.A.M. van Deursen, Dr. Alexander

Associate Professor

Building: Cubicus, room C 2.15
Phone: +3153489 6102; +3153489 3299 (secretary)


As a scholar at the University of Twente, I work in three lines of research with the overarching theme of digital inclusion. Within debates concerning social inequality, inclusive societies, or the grand challenge of well-being, it is my goal to evaluate the contribution of technological developments. Original utopian views - based on extrapolations of the Internet’s technological characteristics - predicted levelling effects on existing forms of social inequality. We now know that such prospects of techno-gurus are unrealistic. In a scientific manner I map barriers of online engagement and explain differences in the outcomes that people get from engaging with digital content.

Research line 1: Digital inequality

In the first line of research I focus on the use and effects of Internet (technology) in relation to a person’s position in society. I recently showed that some sections of the population more frequently use applications that have the greatest advantages for accruing capital and resources (such as work, study and societal participation), while other sections relatively often choose to use entertainment applications that have little advantage. Besides increasing relative differences, there is the disturbing trend of absolute exclusion; when offline alternatives become unavailable. By building on traditional classifications of potential areas of exclusion in my theorization, I try to understand who benefits in what way from the Internet. To further enrich quantitative work, I focus on specific types of internet usage that affect offline outcomes across several areas of society.

During my stay at London School of Economics and Political Science (LsE), I worked on the project 'From digital skills to tangible outcomes’ (DISTO). With scholars from LsE and Oxford University we created a theory driven index for digital exclusion. The index follows the process of technology appropriation by accounting for motivation, access, skills, uses and offline outcomes. Last year, I was awarded a grant to study the interrelationship between social and digital inequality by following technology use in the household context for several months.

Research Line 2: Digital skills to participate in the information and network society.

Digital skills play an important role in the translation of a type of use (e.g., search for a job) in the corresponding outcome (employment). Performance tests based on my framework of six types of skills (operational, formal, information, communication, content creation and strategic) revealed that assumptions about the level of digital skills among citizens are unjustified. I have for example shown that older users outperform young users in content-related digital skills, and that we should not underestimate the importance of traditional skills for performing on digital skills. With graduate students, I am currently conducting performance tests of skills that are required for new – supposedly more intuitive – devices. From a practical perspective, much of the interest in this research line comes from the public domain, for example in relation to the objectives regarding the digital government. Digital skills are considered an important requisite to achieve this objective.

Research Line 3: Digital skills for 21st century labor

The third line of research is an extension of the previous one and concerns the skills needed in the context of employment. In political and economic discussions about what knowledge and skills are important in our current and future society, these skills are referred to as ‘21st century skills.’ Examples are information management, communication, collaboration, problem solving, or critical thinking, skills that are also needed in the digital environment. In this line of research I respond to challenges such as the increasing demand for high skilled jobs, or the mismatch between what students learn at school and what the labor market requires. In 2012 and 2013, I conducted vignette studies and interviews that revealed that much time is lost in the workplace because of digital skill shortages, that organizations take few initiatives to support the worker, and that the effects of training are underestimated. Last year, I was awarded an NWO project (eskills in the Dutch creative sector) which aims to identify digital skills for workers in the creative sector and to determine the level of these skills and the interplaying factors influencing this level. The results help to establish policy that will be applied in the last phase of the project.

For more information on my work and projects visit


  • 2013 – 3th Prize Decentral Educational award
  • 2013 – UT in the media Award
  • 2012 – NeSCOR Dissertation Award
  • 2011 – Herbert S. Dordick Dissertation Award (ICA)
  • 2010 – ICA 2010 Top Faculty Paper
  • 2009 – GW Communication Science Prize 2009
  • 2008 – Outstanding paper award nomination


  • Use and effects of new media
  • Role of technology in the social inequality debate
  • Digital divide and Digital inequality
  • Social (and institutional) context of digital inequality
  • Digital skills / Digital literacy / eSkills
  • Observational methods for measuring Internet skills, uses and outcomes
  • e-Government
  • Media theories and Communication


Alexander’s current projects involve:

  • Internet skills, uses and outcomes among populations at large;
  • Interrelationship between social and digital inequality;
  • Inequalities online / amplification effects of inequality;
  • Support when using the Internet;
  • Skills in the Dutch creative sector.

PhD Supervisor

  • 2012 – now Niels Baas
  • 2014 – now Lia Yuldinawati
  • 2014 – now Refi Rifaldi
  • 2015 – now Ester van Laar
  • 2016 – now Mirjam Koehorst
  • 2016 – now Anique Scheerder


  • Communication Science
  • E-government
  • New media and communication
  • Public communication
  • Social Implications of the Internet
  • Social media and networks


  • Board member Centre for eGovernment Studies
  • Member of the International Communication Association
  • Member of NeSCOR
  • Editorial board Tijdschrift voor Communicatiewetenschap 2011



Refereed Journal Articles

37. Helsper, E.J. & Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (in press). Do the Rich get Richer? Quantity and Quality of support online. Information, Communication & Society.

34. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., Helsper, E.J. & Eynon, R. (2016). Development and validation of the Internet Skills Scale (ISS). Information, Communication & Society, 19(6), 804-823.

33. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2016). Modeling Traditional Literacy, Internet Skills and Internet Usage: An Empirical Study. Interacting with Computers, 28(1), 13-26.

31. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Helsper, E.J. (2015). The third level digital divide: who benefits most from being online? Studies in media and communications, 10, 29-53.

30. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2015). Internet skill levels increase, but gaps widen: a longitudinal cross-sectional analysis (2010–2013) among the Dutch population. Information, Communication & Society, 18(7), 782-797.

29. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2015). Towards a Multifaceted Model of Internet Access to Understand Digital Divides: An Empirical Investigation. The Information Society, 31(5), 379-391.

28. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Helsper, E.J. (2015). A nuanced understanding of Internet use and non-use amongst older adults. European Journal of Communication, 30(2), 171-187.

27. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. & Ten Klooster, P.M. (2015). Increasing inequalities in what we do online. A Longitudinal Cross Sectional Analysis of Internet Activities among the Dutch Population (2010 To 2013) over Gender, Age, Education, and Income. Informatics and Telematics, 32(2), 259-272.

25. Van Deursen, A. & Van Dijk, J. (2014). Loss of labor time due to Skill insufficiencies and malfunctioning ICT. International Journal of Manpower, 35(5), 703-719.

23. Van Deursen, A., Courtois, C. & van Dijk, J. (2014). Internet Skills, Support Sources and Beneficial Internet Use. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 30(4), 278-290.

21. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2014). The Digital Divide Shifts to Differences in Usage. New Media & Society, 16(3), 507-526.

16. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (2012). Internet skill-related problems in accessing online health information and services. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 81(1), 61-72.

15. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2011). Internet skills performance tests: are people ready for eHealth? Journal of medical internet research, 13(2), e35.

14. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2011). Internet skills and the digital divide. New media and society, 13(6), 893-911.

11. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. & Peters, O. (2011). Rethinking internet skills. The contribution of gender, age, education, internet experience, and hours online to medium- and content-related internet skills. Poetics, 39, 125-144.

10. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2010). Measuring Internet Skills. International journal of human-computer interaction, 26(10), 891-916.


2. Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. & Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (2014). Digital skills, unlocking the information society. Palgrave Macmillan

1. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (2011). Internet skills, vital assets in an information society. University of Twente. Dissertation.

Edited volumes

6. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2015). New media and the digital divide. In J. Wright (ed.) International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Edition 2 (pp.787-792). Elsevier.

5. Helsper, E.J. & van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (2015). Digital Skills in Europe: Research and Policy. In K. Andreasson (ed). Digital Divides: The New Challenges and Opportunities of e-Inclusion (pp. 125-144). CRC Press.

4. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (2015). Digitale ongelijkheid in Nederland. In: ICT kennis en economie 2015. CBS, 274 - 281.

1. Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. & Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. (2009). Inequalities of Digital Skills and How to Overcome Them. (pp. 278-291). Hershey - USA: Information Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global).

Research Reports

12. Helsper, E.J., Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., & Eynon, R. (2016). Measuring Types of Internet Usage. From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes Project Report. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

11. Helsper, E.J., Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., & Eynon, R. (2015). Tangible Outcomes of Internet Use. From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes Project Report. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

10. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., Helsper, E.J., & Eynon, R. (2014). Measuring Digital Skills. From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes. Project report. London: London School of Economics and Political Science.

9. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2013). Zicht op ICT-competenties. Een werknemers- en managersperspectief in zes sectoren. Enschede: Universiteit Twente.

8. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2012). CTRL ALT DELETE. Productiviteitsverlies door ICT‐problemen en ontoereikende digitale vaardigheden. Enschede: Universiteit Twente.

7. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2012). Trendrapport internetgebruik 2012. Een Nederlands en Europees perspectief. Enschede: Universiteit Twente.

Academic Conference Papers

16. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., Helsper, E.J., Eynon, R. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2016). Sequential and Compound digital deprivation. To be presented at the International Communication Association Conference 2015, Fukuoka Japan.

15. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2015). Internet Skill Levels Increase, But Gaps Widen. Presented at the International Communication Association Conference 2015, Puerto Rico.

14. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Van Dijk, J.A.G.M. (2015). Changing Inequalities in Online Engagement. Presented at the International Communication Association Conference 2015, Puerto Rico.

13. Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. & Helsper, E.J. & Eynon, R. (2015). Measuring Internet skills. Presented at the ECREA Conference 2015, Lisboa.