IDEALiC project



The central research question of the IDEALiC project is how e-inclusion policies and initiatives can provide solutions for the mechanisms of digital exclusion that coincide with the digital turn. As such, the IDEALiC project aims at developing updated and systemic knowledge of e-inclusion today, in alignment with international research but rooted in the characteristics of the Belgian society and population and as such aims at setting the new scene of e-inclusion policy for the upcoming years. To realize this, it will build upon the expertise present within the partner consortium. Both teams, imec-SMIT and FTU Namur, are leading research institutions in the field of e-inclusion, respectively in the Flemish and Walloon Region, and their expertise is situated at local, regional and (inter)national level. The IDEALiC project is financed by BELSPO (Belgian Science Policy Office) in the context of the research program BRAIN-be.


The objectives of the IDEALiC project are fourfold:


First, to provide answers to the most prominent theoretical questions that are systematically brought to the fore in (inter)national research on e-inclusion, namely the conceptual evolution of e-inclusion towards empowerment, inclusion and participation; the complex nature of digital skills and the importance of aspects such as autonomy, self-efficacy, soft skills; and the changing na

ture of frameworks for e-inclusion policies from delivering access to a complex set of aspects such as (in)formal training, technical support, awareness raising…


Second, to redefine the groups at-risk of being digitally excluded by an innovative and new empirical approach that consists of considering experiences of e-inclusion from a life course perspective. Mapping usage patterns is highly complex and particularly difficult because of the reciprocal influence of determinant characteristics – eg. socio-economic background, skills, attitude, support networks, quality of access, etc. (Helsper, 2012). An explicit focus on life stages allows to grasp meaning through a focus on life events, life experiences and attitudes. Moreover, it enables an in-depth understanding of the subjective perceptions of individuals and the complexity, ambiguity and dynamism of their use of new media; along with their particular experiences regarding the acquirement of digital skills. Hence, instead of focusing on traditionally defined dichotomous and SES-oriented categories, new qualitative data amongst 90 respondents based upon three distinct life stages will be gathered and analysed. This will furthermore be complemented by three case studies in which the consequences and strategies of the digitization by (public) services suppliers will be examined and critically approached. Particular attention will hereby be given to the specificities of different technologies (eg. mobile, apps, tablets, internet…) and how these influence usage patterns and experiences when engaging with digitized services. 


Third, to deliver, but also go beyond, an extensive state of the art of e-inclusion in Belgium at local, regional and (inter)national level, by examining available quantitative data, existing e-inclusion policies documents, conducting expert interviews and by defining what non-involved actors or currently lacking actions, strategies and initiatives could bring e-inclusion policies in Belgium to the next level.


Fourth, to formulate policy recommendations, based upon two distinct participatory action-oriented brainstorm sessions in which a divers set of actors active in the field of e-inclusion in Flanders and Wallonia are brought together to discuss the results of the various research parts of the IDEALiC project and as such enable the process of identifying the most prominent challenges and policy-related solutions that are needed to ensure a sustainable and successful e-inclusion policy in Belgium. Moreover, in order to deliver policy recommendations that are of value to a large number of actors in the field of e-inclusion instead of being merely driven by top-down scientific reflections, the IDEALiC project aims to involve additional actors from civil society, public institutions, policy departments, private companies, local governments and academics by organizing two public workshops, respectively on the draft results of the theoretical reflections and on the draft policy brief with preliminary policy recommendations will be discussed. More concrete, to ensure the delivery of systemic knowledge on e-inclusion, the IDEALiC project is structured around six work packages:


2015 - WP1 - Setting the new scene of e-inclusion

2016 - WP2 - User research: Experiences of e-inclusion at micro-level

2017 - WP3 - Case studies: Institutions versus individuals

2017 - WP4 - e-Inclusion policies in Belgium

2018 - WP5 - Conclusion and policy recommendations

2015 to 2018 - WP6- Project management, dissemination & valorisation


The IDEALiC project will provide significant added value at three levels, namely (1) the scientific community; (2) e-inclusion policies; and consequently also (3) the society at large.


Aimed at the scientific community, the IDEALiC project will provide answers to a number of most prominent questions that are time and time again brought to the fore in (inter)national academic research on e-inclusion. Moreover, the IDEALiC project will ensure scientific valorisation by publishing and communicating to the scientific community on the following aspects of the research project:


  • An updated theoretical framework for understanding the new characteristics of digital exclusion, digital vulnerability, and e-inclusion, and this beyond the well-known notions of first order and second order digital divide;

  • A renewed and contextualised view on mechanisms of digital exclusion and inclusion, based upon a life stage approach, that will allow the construction of in-depth user media profiles and provides an understanding of these mechanisms from a micro-perspective;

  • A revised framework for understanding and studying digital skills, in which the role and influence of aspects as autonomy, self-efficacy and soft skills are highlighted;

  • An in-depth conceptual understanding of the notion of e-inclusion, and its evolution towards aspects as empowerment, participation and inclusion, and moreover what this entails for formulation policy strategies and activities.


With regards to decision-making processes at the level of e-inclusion, the IDEALiC project will deliver the basic information and knowledge that is needed to move forward with e-inclusion in Belgium and as such, counter the issues that are being brought to the fore by the digital turn:


  • An updated statistical mapping of ICT usage and e-inclusion in Belgium, going beyond existing descriptive data and including benchmarks regarding the neighbour countries.

  • An extensive state-of-the-art on e-inclusion policies in Belgium, at local, regional and (inter)national level, that includes existing actors, initiatives and policies along with potential actors, initiatives and policies that can bring an immediate added value.

  • A clear-cut view on the individuals and groups that are currently most at-risk of being digitally excluded based upon the extensive qualitative and quantitative analysis of digital exclusion in Belgium.

  • A well founded view on if, how, why and when the digitization of (public) services is leading to mechanisms of digital and societal exclusion, complemented by if, how and which actions are being taken by the service suppliers to ensure e-inclusion amongst the users of their services. 


Because of the multi-angle consideration and investigation of e-inclusion in Belgium, the IDEALiC project can bring significant added value to the society at large, and this mainly by the delivery of policy brief with policy recommendations that reflects the necessary steps to be taken to take e-inclusion in Belgium to the next level and is based upon the immediate wants & needs of stakeholders active in the field of e-inclusion in Belgium. This policy brief, edited in Dutch and French, and reflecting what is needed at all levels of government, will contain the following types of recommendations:


  • Recommendations towards policy makers of e-inclusion programmes and initiatives, at the level of both the federal State and the federated entities, including an evaluation of the relevance of the IDEALiC project recommendations in comparison to the contents of the national action plan e-inclusion 2014-2020 (if implemented).

  • Targeted recommendations in specific policy areas, such as ageing policies, intergenerational policies, lifelong learning policies or consumer policies.

  • Targeted recommendations towards (public) institutions concerning the user-orientation of the design and implementation process of digitization of services for the general public.

  • Recommendations towards policy makers in the wider area of social integration, highlighting the role of e-inclusion initiatives in a broader policy context of an inclusive and cohesive society.