Researchers imec-SMIT VUB

Dr. Ilse Mariën


Ilse Mariën is working as a post-doc researcher at imec-SMIT, a research centre attached to the Free University of Brussels (VUB) where she has been involved in several projects related to digital inequalities, e-skills and other policy aspects related to digital media. For the moment, she is leading a 4-year federal research project – IDEALiC – that aims at setting the future scene of e-inclusion policies in Belgium. In 2016, she also successfully defended her Ph.D. that entails (1) a more contextualized and comprehensive theoretical framework for digital inequalities; and (2) a concise strategic framework for developing sustainable e-inclusion policies. In addition, it examined the informal learning settings, methods and practices that are used by grassroots initiatives to enhance the development of media literacy amongst at-risk groups.


Pleinlaan 9 - 2 nd floor

1050 Brussels


Tel. +32 2 614 85 40

Fax. +32 2 629 17 00

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Prof. Dr. Leo Van Audenhove


Leo Van Audenhove is professor at the Department of Communication Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a senior researcher at imec-SMIT. He is also the Program Director of the Master of Communication Studies-New Media and Society in Europe and Director of, the Flemish Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy. Leo Van Audenhove will function as the overall coordinator of the project, and will as such take responsibility for ensuring the quality and supervision of the IDEALiC project.

Willemien Laenens 


Willemien Laenens is a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (imec-SMIT) in Belgium. Her main topics of interest are digital inclusion, digital exclusion mechanisms, and smart cities. In her research on the use of digital media and digital services, she particularly focusses on the involvement of vulnerable social groups, as their voices are often not heard. She has a bachelor degree in Graphic Design at Sint-Lukas Brussel (Belgium) and holds a master degree in Communication Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). 

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Axelle Asmar 


Axelle Asmar joined the SMIT research center in 2018 where she works within the Smart Cities Unit on projects revolving around digital skills, digital inequalities and policy aspects related to digital media. She is currently involved in the federal research IDEALiC that aims at setting the new scene of e-inclusion policy in Belgium for the upcoming years. She holds a Master degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology (KU Leuven) and a Postgraduate in Journalism and Communication (VUB).


Chantal Wauters


Chantal Wauters is a researcher at IMEC-SMIT-VUB, where she started working on the IDEALiC project in 2018. In the project, she'll be concerned with the e-inclusion policies in Belgium. Chantal holds a master's degree in Communication Science from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and an additional master in Art Management from the University of Antwerp.

imec-SMIT VUB - General info

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SMIT, established at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in 1990, is specialized in fundamental, applied and contract research in the area of ICT and media, markets and policy. With currently a staff of over 75 researchers, and an annual turnover of well over 5M€, SMIT is a major research center in Europe for policy and socio-economic research relating to ICT and media. SMIT specialises in social sceintific research on media and ICT, with an emphasis on innovation, policy and socio-economic questions. SMIT research combines user, policy and business analysis with both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. A continuing dialectic between theory and empirical research is one of the centre’s high-level objectives.


In terms of methodology, SMIT is experienced in: (a) user empowerment studies with a focus on qualitative methods; (b) policy analysis, encompassing impact assessment and improvement studies; and (c) market impact assessment & business modelling.


Over the years, SMIT has established significant research expertise in the field of e-inclusion and digital literacy. Several studies have been realized both at the level of social aspects of e-inclusion and digital literacy as at the level of policy analysis and recommendations. SMIT research is playing an important role in policy formulation and implementation at local, regional and national level in Flanders and in Belgium. As of 2013 SMIT also hosts, the Flemish Knowledge Center for Media Literacy. SMIT is also part of iMinds which is an independent research institute founded by the Flemish government to stimulate ICT innovation. iMinds brings together companies, authorities, and non-profit organizations to join forces on research projects.


Selection of 5 relevant publications in the area of the proposal


  • Mariën, I., Baelden, D., Bens, J., Schurmans, D., Van Audenhove, L., Smukste, K., Pierson, J., Lemal, M., Goubin, E. (2013) Van digitale naar maatschappelijke participatie: Opportuniteiten en uitdagingen. In Callens, M., Noppe, J. & Vanderleyden, L. (eds.) De sociale staat van Vlaanderen 2013. [peer-reviewed]

  • Mariën, I., Van Audenhove, L. (2012). Digitale inclusie: Het middenveld als structurele partners. In D. Dierckx, S. Oosterlynck, J. Coene & A. Van Haarlem (Eds.), Armoede en sociale uitsluiting. Jaarboek 2012: Lokale vormen van armoedebestrijding: een sociaal innovatieve benadering, pp. 317-332. Leuven: Acco uitgeverij. [peer-reviewed]

  • Mariën, I., Van Audenhove, L. (2011) Mediageletterdheid en digitale vaardigheden: naar een multidimensioneel model van digitale exclusie. In M.A. Moreas, & J. Pickery (Eds.), Mediageletterdheid in een digitale wereld, pp. 99-137. Brussel: Studiedienst Vlaamse Regering. [peer-reviewed]

  • Mariën, I., Van Audenhove, L. (2010) Van digitale kloof naar digitale geletterdheid: sociale uitsluiting in het internettijdperk. In: K. Segers & J. Bauwens (Eds.), Maak mij wat wijs. Media kennen, begrijpen en zelf creëren, pp. 25-39. Leuven: Lannoo Campus. [peer-reviewed]

  • Mariën, I., Van Audenhove, L., Vleugels, C., Bannier, S., Pierson, J. (2010) De digitale kloof van de tweede graad in Vlaanderen. Studie in opdracht van IST - Instituut Samenleving en Technologie. Brussel: Vlaams Parlement, 137p.


List of projects in the area of the proposal (past 5 years: 2009-2013)


  • The Digital Divide of the Second Degree in Flanders, 2009-2010, study commissioned by the Instituut Samenleving & Technologie (IST). Report and policy recommendations published by IST.

  • Media Literacy and Digital Skills: Towards a Multidimensional Model for Digital Exclusion, 2010-2011, study commissioned by the research department of the Flemish Government (SVR – Studiedienst Vlaamse Regering). Report in Dutch published by SVR.

  • MIDIS – Measuring Instrument for E-inclusion in Cities, 2011, study commissioned by the City of Ghent. Reports in Dutch published by the City of Ghent.

  • DGEI - Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion, 2012, study commissioned by IPTS, Joint Research Center of the European Commission. Report and policy findings in English published by IPTS.

  • From Digital to Societal Participation: Opportunities and Challenges, 2013, study commissioned by the research department of the Flemish Government (SVR – Studiedienst van de Vlaamse Regering). Report in Dutch published by SVR.

  • GameChangers – Kids Game Lab, in collaboration with iDrops vzw, 2013-2014, framed within the ‘Social Innovation Factory’, commissioned by the cabinet of Flemish Minister (Ingrid Lieten) for innovation, public investment, media and poverty. 


List of (inter)national contacts and networks in the area of the proposal


  • EU KidsOnline, a multinational research network with a focus on knowledge gathering concerning European children's online opportunities, risks and safety.

  • COST action 298, “Participation in the Broadband Society.

  • ANR TRANSLIT “Transliteracy as the Convergence of Media, Information and Computer Literacies” and COST action IS0903 “Transforming Audiences/Transforming Societies”.

  •, network organisation in the Netherlands, funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Youth.

  •, the Flemish Knowledge Center for Media Literacy, funded by the Ministry of Flemish Minister for Innovation, Public Investment, Media and Poverty Reduction. Prof. Dr. Leo Van Audenhove, one of the researchers involved in the IDEALiC project, is currently the Director of