Societal cost-benefit analysis of the Digital Society Alliance

Digital inclusion is a complex task that requires the joint efforts of multiple parties. Alliantie Digitaal Samenleven (ADS) and the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) try to make this possible through the Local Chain Approach to Digital Inclusion, which aims to support non-digital residents and reduce the digital divide. Ecorys compared the societal costs and benefits of the activities of this approach in the study below.


In the Digital Society Alliance (ADS), the government, civil society organisations, businesses and experience experts join forces to achieve digital inclusion. The aim of the cooperation is for everyone to (continue to) participate in digital society. ADS supports non-digital residents, for example through the deployment of Digital Government Information Points (IDOs).

With a societal cost-benefit analysis (SCBA), the effects of a project such as ADS on society overall can be identified, and the effects found valued in monetary terms (euros) where possible. Through literature research, an Effects-Arena with stakeholders and interviews with VNG and ADS, we identified the effects. We then validated the effects with in-depth literature research and interviews with stakeholders (private parties, umbrella organisations, interest groups, researchers and public authorities).

Societal effects were quantified or qualitatively included as much as possible. Because ‘citizens’ are not a homogeneous group, personas and customer journeys were used based on literature research. With these, insight into how the local chain approach can work out for customers who differ in motives, desires and goals is provided.

Key Findings

As the local chain approach to digital inclusion is in its early stages, the SCBA has an indicative character. The social return for a fictitious municipality has been estimated at 100,000 inhabitants. The indicative SCBA shows a positive social return. Most benefits accrue to citizens and can be expected in the areas of

– labour market;

– more effective use of social services;

– decrease in online fraud victims;

– health gains; and

– business and government efficiency.

Because every city or region has its own challenges in terms of digital inclusion, there is a diversity of implementation variants of the local chain approach. Local policymakers choose the right form to suit their specific needs and challenges. Based on the study, the range of initiatives seems adequate and the added value lies in national direction and networking, in which an integrated approach with a package of measures works well.


This research has given VNG and ADS an improved insight into (local differences in) service delivery, a clear picture of the societal costs and benefits of the approach, and opportunities to improve and focus activities on the target group. In addition, the developed format ‘target range and output helps municipalities to get started with measuring effects and social value.

Client Rachida Moreira Figueiredo of VNG said the following about study:

“The SCBA has helped frontrunner municipalities to further shape the digital inclusion approach. For example, the SCBA includes a format target attainment and output that supports frontrunner municipalities for the local chain approach to digital inclusion in their accountability process towards politics and government.”

For a quick overview, take a look at the project flyer (Dutch). The results of the SCBA, more background, opportunities for scaling up the approach and recommendations for the future can be read in our final report (Dutch).

1 May 2024

3 minute read

Key Experts

Annejet Kerckhaert

Principal Consultant

Jelmer Schreurs