UTFacultiesBMSCentreLatest NewsInvestigating the contribution of social work to digital inclusion

Investigating the contribution of social work to digital inclusion

Marcha Hartman-van der Laan will start her PhD research on 1 September. A brief introduction to the project: To promote digital inclusion and combat digital inequality, a lot of training has been developed to make people more digitally skilled. However, people who need it most make little use of this offer (Van Deursen, 2018). They experience a barrier to follow a formal course or even to enter a library. Accessible help is crucial here (Dedding & Goedhart, 2021).

Social work is a profession that is committed to a society in which everyone can fully participate (Movisie, 2020). The core perspective of social workers is to promote social functioning of individuals, groups and communities in vulnerable situations (BPSW, 2022). Social workers work in all kinds of functions: as probation workers, elderly workers, youth care workers, community workers, etc., and come into people's homes. They work methodically and process-wise on the (complexity of) problems that people experience in daily life. Social workers also work out-reaching, which means that they enter into dialogue with people in a neighborhood on their own initiative. That is why social workers are able to identify problems with digital functioning first and offer support in this regard. However, an exploratory preliminary study in the field and interviews with social workers reveal that they do not always identify problems with digital functioning.

“Social workers often do not ask about people's online lives and whether they manage to arrange their (financial) affairs online, such as a housing benefit, tax refund or health care declaration,” says Marcha Hartman-van der Laan, lecturer at the Social Work course. at the NHLStenden University of Applied Sciences and a PhD candidate at the Center for Digital Inclusion at the University of Twente. Social workers also say that they do not know exactly how they can support their clients in this and this support is experienced as a difficult task. On the other hand, they notice that if they refer clients to the existing offer (for example in the library or the community center), clients ultimately do not arrive here.

The place social workers operate in (out-reaching, behind people's doors, in community centers, etc.), makes social work an important partner in contributing to digital inclusion in order to combat digital inequality. In the coming years, research will therefore be carried out into the possibilities that social work can offer, in line with the core values of social work and methodical working in daily practice. The research will take place in practice where, after an initial exploratory study, we will work together with organizations, social workers and clients on an appropriate intervention that social workers can use in daily practice. During the development of the intervention, it will be tested in living labs and publications will become available.

The doctoral research is being carried out on behalf of NHLStenden University of Applied Sciences and the University of Twente by Marcha Hartman-van der Laan.

BPSW (2022). https://www.bpsw.nl/app/uploads/Beroepsprofiel-van-de-Sociaal-Werker.pdf
Dedding, C. & Goedhart, N.S. (2021). “Uit beeld geraakt. Digitale ongelijkheid als maatschappelijke opgave. Amsterdam UMC. https://researchinformation.amsterdamumc.org/en/publications/uit-beeld-geraakt-digitale-ongelijkheid-als-maatschappelijke-opga
Hooghiemstra, E. en Pelt van, M. “De kennis en onderzoeksagenda sociaal werk”, Movisie, 2020. https://www.movisie.nl/sites/movisie.nl/files/2020-12/De-Kennis-en-Onderzoeksagenda-Sociaal-Werk.pdf
van Deursen, A. (2018). Digitale ongelijkheid in Nederland anno 2018. Universiteit Twente. http://www.alexandervandeursen.nl/Joomla/Media/Reports/2018_Digitale_Ongelijkheid_vanDeursen.pdf