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From digital skills to tangible outcomes: improving measures and models of Internet use

From digital skills to tangible outcomes: improving measures and models of Internet use


In the UK and across Europe many policies have been developed to improve individuals’ Internet access and skills to ensure they can fully participate in all aspects of the information society. At the same time, a great deal of academic work has been conducted which has led to detailed knowledge about who is and who is not digitally included.

As the Internet becomes an increasingly embedded part of everyday life for many people, research into digital inclusion has been criticized. There are concerns about the lack of strong theoretical developments within the field and the limitations of the survey measures typically used in this research domain. In this project, we have aimed to address these criticisms through the development of theoretically informed survey measures of people’s digital skills, engagement with the internet, and the tangible outcomes this internet use has in their lives.

This was achieved through,

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


We have developed a questionnaire (on digital skills, Internet uses, and outcomes of Internet use) that can be used by the wider academic community in full or in short item versions. It is intended that these measures can be used internationally, and partnerships are currently being developed with universities in Australia, Japan, the UK and the US. This includes the use of the skills items in a survey on the impact of marketing through social media, online games and mobile applications on children’s behaviour that was conducted across eight European countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK) which enables the team to test the cross-cultural validity of the scales. We have also produced two reports, demonstrating how these instruments were developed and highlighting implications for future work in this area.


This research was supported by the John Fell OUP Research Fund at the University of Oxford, the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics, and the Department of Communication Science, University of Twente.

Key Information

  • John Fell OUP Research Fund
  • Department of Media and Communications at LSE
  • Department of Communication Science at the University of Twente
  • Project dates:
    August 2013 - June 2015

    All Publications

    Helsper, E. J., Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., and Eynon, R. (2016) Measuring Types of Internet Use. From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes project report.

    Helsper, E.J. & Kirsch, R.M. (2015) Technical Annex for the Exclusion in a Digital UK Heatmap Metrics. The Go ON UK Digital Exclusion Heatmap project.

    Helsper, E.J., Van Deursen, A.J.A.M. and Eynon, R. (2015) Tangible Outcomes of Internet Use. From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes Project Report.

    Van Deursen, A.J.A.M., Helsper, E.J. and Eynon, R. (2014) Measuring Digital Skills. From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes. Project report.