Understanding, Measuring, and Alleviating Inequalities in Digital Technology Use

Research question/goal: 

Digital technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, are increasingly integrated into people's everyday lives. Social scientists have also started to use these technologies for data collection, such as through apps and sensors embedded in smartphones and wearable devices. Despite the increasing device penetration in the general population, inequalities in the access to and use of digital technologies persist, reflecting existing social inequalities. Digital exclusion additionally becomes a methodological issue if the digitally disadvantaged population subgroups are not well represented in social studies.

The proposed project investigates digital inequalities in Europe and the United States by focussing on three aims: 1) studying the correlates and mechanisms of digital technology acceptance, 2) improving the measurement of digital skills and technology use, and 3) identifying effective interventions to reduce inequalities in digital technology use.

Current stage: 

The project scope has been refined by focusing on the development of novel measures of smartphone skills and use based on survey data and digital behavioural data. The project proposal was revised and submitted for review to the German Research Foundation (DFG). Pilot work for the project has been presented at international conferences and workshops. An article about smartphone-specific digital inequalities has been published in a peer-reviewed journal; a second article about the measurement of smartphone use based on survey and digital behavioural data is currently under review.

Fact sheet

University of Mannheim
2021 to 2025
in preparation
Data Sources: 
Survey data, digital behavioral data
Geographic Space: 
Europe, United States