“Who can I ask for help?”: Mechanisms behind digital inequality in public transport

Anne Durand*, Toon Zijlstra, Marije Hamersma, Arjen't Hoen, Niels van Oort, Sascha Hoogendoorn-Lanser, Serge Hoogendoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Digitalisation in public transport has become pervasive over the past decade, especially in urban areas. While it benefits many, it also leaves some behind. Previous research shows that older adults, people with a lower education level, people with impairments and people with a migration background are more likely to be negatively impacted by digitalisation in transport services. In order to uncover mechanisms behind digital inequality in public transport, we interviewed 39 people belonging to these groups. They experience difficulties due to low digital skills, not using digital technologies on-the-go, not possessing the right devices and due to a complex design of technologies, among others. Many participants reap some benefits of digitalisation though. In fact, individuals can experience benefits on one aspect and difficulties on another. Nevertheless, experiencing difficulties with digitalisation does not necessarily equal to exclusion from public transport thanks to coping strategies like support from one's social network. Still, many coping strategies come with pitfalls such as hidden work and costs. Digital technologies facilitate a self-service approach that paradoxically makes some people more dependent on others. This study can support practitioners and researchers in developing a better understanding of the (sometimes insidious) consequences of technological innovations on individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104335
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Digital inequality
  • Digitalisation
  • Public transport
  • Transport disadvantage
  • Transport-related social exclusion


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