Enhancing Digital Literacy through Public Libraries

In our hyper-digital age, the ability to navigate the online world is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. However, approximately 4 million citizens in the Netherlands are less literate and/or digitally literate, making it challenging for them to fully participate in society. Recognising this issue, the Dutch government is on a mission to support citizens in this digital transition. Public libraries are financially supported to set up Digital Information Points and various (online) courses to guide citizens through this digital transition. This project looked at shaping a user-friendly prototype that allows various target groups to independently, easily, and safely use educational content from various providers.


Dutch Royal Library (DRL) and Rijnbrink


Build and research the potential of a digital platform that allows less literate (NT1 and NT2) and less digitally literate citizens to easily access e-learning materials from different content providers


Research insights resulted in reframing the planning and scope of the challenge. The conclusion was to not invest in building the envisioned proposition yet.

The challenges of digitalisation

The digital revolution is transforming societies worldwide. However, not everyone is equipped to navigate this new landscape. Although the Netherlands scores as the 3rd most digitised country in Europe, approximately 4 million people struggle to keep up with it because of limited language and digital skills. 

Subsidised by the government, public libraries are setting up Digital Information Points and various (online) courses to support citizens in this digital transition. The DRL purchases educational e-learning content from various providers (e.g. Klik en Tik, Digisterker, Digivitaler) and makes it available for public libraries to use. However, using this e-learning content brings several challenges:

  • Citizens and course supervisors find it difficult to keep an overview of all login credentials of the various content providers;
  • Course supervisors often manage several login credentials of citizens because they are less digitally savvy. Which might result in privacy issues.
  • There is a decrease in the workforce and volunteers at public libraries.

A shared learning environment

The envisioned proposition is a digital platform where all e-learning content is made available for both less literate (NT1 and NT2) and less digitally literate citizens. This digital proposition allows users to:

  • Have one account for all available e-learning content;
  • Learn and practice at home more easily;
  • Be inspired to continue learning because all content is easily available.


The product vision was tested by researching the context of the users and supervisors, and by testing important assumptions using a clickable prototype. 

Research insights allowed us to recommend to keep pursuing the proposition and first focus on less digitally literate citizens and their course supervisors. Research showed that less digitally literate citizens use e-learning content the most and have the biggest need to practise at home. 

Additionally, we found that course supervisors play an important role in supporting the target group to use the content and stimulate continuous learning. Therefore, we recommended to design a shared portal where supervisors can interact with the content and its users.

Inclusive design guidelines

Throughout the project, research allowed us to iterate on the prototype several times, which resulted in clear design guidelines and a design library for the proposition. The guidelines and library specifically focus on making the digital platform accessible and user-friendly for less literate and less digitally literate people. These resources guide on creating designs and can be used in future development efforts.

After developing the prototype, the user research provided several insights for the future design, such as allowing low-threshold login via a password, setting up a course/lesson for the student when possible, creating an environment with minimal distractions, providing options to have the page read aloud, adjusting the language, and minimising the amount of text while augmenting its size.

Our clickable prototype

Build, measure, learn

The goal was to better understand the context of the users and supervisors while creating an initial version of the digital platform. Therefore, we used the ‘Build, Measure, Learn’ approach and ran exploratory and usability research simultaneously. 

In 6 weeks, we iterated the prototype three times while building three customer journeys that visualised the current learning experience of less literate citizens, less digitally literate citizens and their supervisors. Our innovation consultant focused on the explorative research and creating the customer journeys, and our Digital Product Designer focused on designing, testing, and iterating the prototype.

Next to doing 1-on-1 in-depth interviews and usability research, we also joined several language and digital courses at public libraries. This was not only fun to do, but it also allowed us to experience the dynamics of the context better and understand the role and impact the supervisors have.

Pictures: Jimena Gauna (OBA)

Next steps

The research insights resulted in reframing the planning and scope of the challenge. DRL and Rijnbrink decided not to invest in building the envisioned proposition yet. It is always great to see your designs come to life, but killing or iterating your darlings in an early stage is also a great outcome because you prevent investing unnecessary resources.

Creating inclusive and accessible digital services is key to making sure everyone keeps up with society. Although the prototype will not move towards development (for now), we believe this project has laid a solid foundation for the next steps in enhancing digital literacy among citizens.



You can find the report here

You can find the clickable prototype here

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Joris Hens

Our service designer combines the user's qualitative perception with quantitative data like no one else.
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