Wang, Yinhan; 2011, ‘Media Literacy Dossier: research review 5 (Deursen and Dijk 2009), LSE Media Policy

Project, April 12. Full reference details of reviewed article: Deursen, A. J. A. M. v., & Dijk, J. A. G. M. v. (2009). Improving digital skills for the use of online public information and services. Government Information Quarterly, 26, 333-340. Conceptions/definition of media literacy (or related concept) used The authors propose a framework of digital skills that distinguishes between four types of skills: - Operational skills: the skills to operate digital media; - Formal skills: the skills to handle the special structures of digital media such as menus and hyperlinks; - Information skills: the skills to search, select and evaluate information in digital media; - Strategic skills: the skills to employ the information contained in digital media as a means to reach a particular personal or professional goal. (p. 334) Research method/scope of empirical work The study asks: (i) whether Dutch citizens have a good level of all the four digital skills; (ii) whether the possession of digital skills differs among citizens; (iii) how can government improve their online services; (iv): how can the government and other stakeholders improve citizens’ digital skills level? Random sample was first selected from phonebook, and then a selective quota sample was selected for the strata of gender, age and educational attainment. Resulting sample is 109 citizens, not representative. Participants completed a test assignment consisting of nine assignments intended to test whether they can find the right answer online, and how much time it takes. In addition, they filled out a questionnaire collecting demographic and Internet use information. Key findings - On average, 80% of the operational skill assignments and 72% of the formal skill assignments were completed. But only 62% of the information skill assignments and 25% of the strategic skill assignments were completed. - Education level and age are the primary and secondary correlating factor in the participants’ level of digital skills performance. However, even though the younger group of participants (18-29) scored higher in the operational and formal tasks, their score in the information and strategic tasks are not significantly higher than the older participants.
1

-

-

Those with more years of Internet experience were able to complete more operational tasks and spend less time on the tasks. Those who spend more time online weekly also can complete formal Internet tasks with less time. As to information and strategic skills, they do not correlate with years of Internet experience and weekly Internet use time.

Key implications for research and policy-making - Senior people and those with lower education attainment are between the two groups that have low level of operational and formal skills. Every visit to a new public service website may involve a new learning process, which could be taxing for them. The authors suggest that governmental websites should offer a simple version and an advanced version, but with the same website design and menu structure, targeted to citizens of various skill levels. - Government portal website may contain information too excessive in scope and menu design too broad for users, which makes specific information search more difficult. Such portal website should state clearly the purpose, the information source of the website, and what people can expect to find there. - Children’s digital skills should be enhanced through regular education, focusing especially on information and strategic skills (given the already high level of operational skills). Parents should also involve their children more when they use e-government on issues related to the children. - As to the elderly, the illiterate, the disabled, and ethnic minority, there should be special courses offered to them, adapting to their needs, learning pace and style; government websites should also be designed with their needs in mind. - If nothing is done, the ‘information and strategic skill divide’ will continue to widen, with the skilled people being able to take advantage of the Internet to achieve their personal goals, while the less skilled continue their struggle to locate correct information.

2