Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Doctoral researcher Digital Inclusion

Apply before 30 Apr 2021

The research group SMIT (Studies in Media, Innovation and Technology) is a research centre connected to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel with over 75 researchers. It is part of the Faculty Social Sciences & Solvay Business School and the department of Communication Sciences. SMIT is also part of imec which is the world-leading R&D and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. For over 25 years now, SMIT specializes in social scientific research on media and ICT, with an emphasis on innovation, policy and socio-economic questions.

The increasing digitalization of our society comes with both opportunities and challenges. Within the research domain Digital Inclusion we combine policy and user research that focuses amongst others on 1/ identifying and explaining the underlying mechanisms of digital exclusion and inclusion, 2/ mapping the (dis)advantages of using digital tools and online services, 3/ identifying those at risk of being digitally excluded, 4/ identifying and evaluating best practices, and 5/ formulating policy measures and interventions required to prevent digital exclusion. From a methodological perspective, we consistently apply an action-oriented and participatory approach based upon permanent collaboration with different stakeholders such as governmental agencies, private sector, civil society, policy makers and citizens.

Within our current Digital Inclusion program, we are actively looking for a fulltime doctoral researcher for a 4-year PhD that focuses on whether the human rights of citizens are still guaranteed in a society moving more and more towards a digital-first and digital-only approach. Is the right to work, education, health care, social connections and so forth, jeopardized by the ongoing digitization of our society, especially for the digitally vulnerable or those at-risk of being digitally excluded? Emphasis will be put on the following two aspects:

  1. How digital is the societal norm of Belgian public and private services in the various life domains and how does this impact the civil rights of Belgian citizens?
  2. How digital is the personal norm of Belgian citizens, how has this been influenced, both positively and negatively, by the covid-19 crisis and what is the impact thereof in the use of digital public and private services?

Your tasks:

  • Literature review of the international body of literature and policy reports with regards to digital exclusion and inclusion, human rights in a digital society, inclusive digital service delivery and the recognition of access to ICT and internet as a basic human right…
  • Case study research to define and analyze the degree of digitalization of primary public and private services by way of desk research and expert interviews.
  • User research on the impact of digitalization on human rights among citizens in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia.
  • A participatory and action-oriented study in collaboration with partners from industry and policy sectors, civil society and civil rights organizations in order to develop a shared vision on inclusive digital service delivery, based upon mutually supported policy recommendations about the interventions needed to guarantee that all citizens’ human rights are met in a digital society.
  • Publish research results in renowned international academic journals and presentations at international scientific conferences.
  • Translate research results into strategic policy recommendations and/or hands-on tools; pay specific attention to science communication, vulgarizing publications and presentations towards a broader audience, civil society and policy makers; collaborate with actors such as Mediawijs, Media Animation, Caban in setting-up knowledge exchange events.
  • Successfully finish and defend a doctoral research thesis in Communication Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

We offer:

  • A dynamic and stimulating work environment with app. 100 enterprising young scientists and experienced senior research staff in an international setting.
  • High-quality innovative research that combines theory, practice and policy.
  • Support and guidance by an experienced team of senior researchers.
  • Opportunity for self-development and the strengthening of research skills via internal and external training possibilities.
  • A full-time PhD bursary contract, annually renewable for 4 years.


  • Master degree in a study field relevant to the topic (e.g. communication sciences, sociology, political sciences, social sciences…), with excellent academic results.
  • Intrinsic interest in ICT, digital media and innovative technologies.
  • Basic experience with qualitative and participatory research methods, and a will to further develop research skills; experience with policy research is a strong point.
  • Being able to work independently, show the necessary flexibility.
  • Excellent English proficiency. Fluency in Dutch and French is a must.
  • Prepared to travel abroad for international collaborations and scientific conferences.

Send your elaborated CV (with references), a letter of motivation and (if applicable) a scientific publication in English via mail to Ilse Mariën ( and Wim Cloots (, as soon as possible, and before 30/04/2021.

Sounds like the job for you?

Apply before 30 Apr 2021 by sending your CV and motivation to .