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Long-Term Monitoring of Digital and Data-Related Competencies of the German Population


The Data Literacy project conducts a long-term monitoring of the digital and data-related skills of a representative sample of the German population and helps to understand how these skills develop. The project focusses on the central, fundamental knowledge and skills that people need to be able to competently use digital information and data in their everyday lives. Two central goals are pursued:

  1. Long-term monitoring of representative samples of the German population: Measuring the digital and data-related competencies of the German population aged 10 to 69 using representative, recurring cross-sectional samples. This makes it possible to measure changes in knowledge levels, specific strengths and weaknesses, and their conditions over the years.
  2. Individual longitudinal observation from the 6th grade: Observation of the individual development of digital and data literacy of young people from the 6th grade over a period of several school years. This allows observing individual development and identifying factors with regard to, for example, school, family, and their interplay that are beneficial or disadvantageous for a positive development of the competencies. Thus, starting points for interventions and relevant context factors can be obtained.


In the context of the digital transformation of our society, the term "data literacy" describes a person's ability to appropriately deal with digital data and information, to interpret it, to derive recommendations or principles for action from it, but also to be able to assess the risks of data collection and data using. Digital and data literacy  is a key factor in developing one's own scope for action, for civic engagement and for dealing with one's own and other people's data in a responsible manner. At the same time, data is a central resource for added value, which - in order to be used for individual and corporate purposes - requires corresponding competencies on the part of the users.

This large-scale project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the German government's data strategy and the Digital Education Initiative. Promoting the population's data skills is a central component of the data strategy and is intended, among other things, to help tailor future learning opportunities specifically to the needs of the population.



In the project, two research design are combined to enable data-based statements about the digital and data-related competencies of the German population as well as statements about the development of these competencies at the transition to adolescence.

On the one hand, a research design will be implemented that captures digital and data-related competencies for the German population in the form of representative, recurring cross-sectional surveys (4-year rhythm with new sampling each time). For this purpose, a representative random sample of 6,000 people between the ages of 10 and 69 will be repeatedly surveyed and tested.

In addition, an individual longitudinal approach will be used to specifically focus on secondary-level students, who will be surveyed and tested at two-year intervals starting in 2023. This approach will make it possible to draw conclusions about the development of digital and data-related skills among children and young people in secondary school and to understand individual prerequisites. Here, a sample of 5,000 children will be monitored from the 6th grade onwards from 2023.


Data collection and processing

During the project period, three sub-studies are planned as computer-assisted personal interviews in the household. The first point of data collection in the population-representative monitoring is planned for fall 2023. Surveys and competency tests of the 6,000 target participants will be computer-based, which, in addition to providing test and questionnaire scores, will also allow us to collect data on the participants‘ strategic approach with regard to task completion (log and process data).  Thus, supplementary information on on digital and data literacy will be available.

The first wave of the individual longitudinal study will take place  at the same time as the cross-sectional survey in 2023. The second wave is scheduled for fall 2025.

As part of the project, the collected data will be processed and analyzed. This includes:

  1. providing recurrently collected representative data on digital and data literacy of the population in Germany (10 - 69 years) and on the development of these competencies in secondary tier education by publishing scientific-use files;
  2. regular reporting on the key findings on the status of and changes in the digital and data-related competencies of the population of Germany as well as the accompanying publication of research findings in scientific journals;
  3. the transfer of the findings to science, politics and practice.

Brief overview of the 2022 development study

The main purpose of the data literacy development study was to review the content and technical aspects of the test procedure to be used in the first main survey of the BMBF-funded data literacy study in fall 2023. In the run-up to the data literacy development study conducted in fall 2022, nearly 160 tasks on digital and data-related competencies were formulated.

These tasks were each presented to participants in the development study in excerpts, with each person completing about 80 tasks in 80 minutes, if possible. There was systematic variation in which tasks were presented in each case; the order of the tasks was also varied. A total of 240 persons aged 10 to 69 years participated in the development study. The average age of the participants was approximately 30 years. In addition to questions on digital and data-related skills, the development survey also included questions on self-assessment, use of data in work and leisure, interest in digital and data-related content, and an effort thermometer. Furthermore, the survey asked how useful and trustworthy participants considered science to be.

Overall, the participants in the data literacy development study performed quite well in the tasks. Very many of the tasks were solved correctly by many people. The results of the development study were used to select around 80 tasks that will be presented to a representative sample of the German population in fall 2023.

The evaluation of the remaining data is still pending. Specifically, the relationship of digital and data-related competencies to attitudes as well as gender differences in competency and self-assessment will be investigated.

LIfBi and the project team would like to thank all participants of the Data Literacy Development Study for their assistance!



Gruppenfoto Projektteam Data Literacy

Project team in May 2023 (credits: LIfBi/Marian Lenhard)


Project profile