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The Netherlands is leading the digital pack – But can it stay there

The Netherlands is leading the digital pack – But can it stay there

Digital TransformationGovernmentInsightsNetherlandsTop Stories

There’s no doubt that the Netherlands is one of Europe’s trailblazers when it comes to Digital Transformation. Michiel Eielts, Managing Director Benelux, Equinix, tells us how the Netherlands is rapidly developing into a breeding ground for digital innovation and new business models of the future, albeit with some hurdles along the way.

In the Netherlands, we’re proud to be playing a leading role in Europe around digitisation and digital tools. The facts bear it out: we have one of the most competitive economies in Europe and are one of the most digitised societies. Our digital infrastructure has made the Netherlands a gateway to Europe, as exemplified by Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam.

The government and the Internet, however, have a unique and paradoxical relationship. On the one hand, the information superhighway has unleashed countless opportunities to improve services for citizens, to create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and to grow the economy. Now, citizens and companies alike expect easy access to digital tools for doing business with the government and each other. On the other hand, however, the new digital technologies have unfortunately brought with them new and serious threats. In the most extreme cases, the negative consequences of digitisation, such as data security risks and privacy concerns, can even constrain governments from accessing the opportunities offered by digitisation.

How the government can contribute to a digital society

These contradictory trends lead us to the big question: how can the Netherlands strengthen its role as a digital pioneer while dealing with the threats that arise from its Digital Transformation? The digitisation of services is in full swing, but hurdles around IT infrastructure still abound for public institutions. These will have to be overcome before we can speak of a truly digital society.

Common Ground, the Dutch organisation for information sharing between government entities, highlighted the challenge in its vision statement. Public organisations will need to engage with suppliers and partners in the chain far more than they currently do. For government institutions to cooperate with other parties and work flexibly, they must deploy and use platforms and ecosystems. It’s the only way to simplify collaboration and provide easy access to the necessary links and domains.

These new digital possibilities, however, offer new risks at the same time. It’s more important than ever before to know where data is stored and how information is exchanged. Additionally, these digital services have to be constantly available once deployed, always and everywhere. If services are disrupted, a sector of society goes dark. The changing infrastructure means that IT security services have to be smarter and better organised.

Interconnected society

As lovely as it would be, there is simply no single comprehensive answer to all of these challenges. Digitisation has many different facets, after all. It makes sense that they would require multiple solutions. One key to the conundrum is the increasing necessity of organisations being able to exchange data in a way that is safe, secure and fast. This facet is also known as interconnection and it’s not a new phenomenon. For years, telecom and cloud providers have offered direct connections for exchanging data. However, the enormous growth of interconnection is striking. The Global Interconnection Index, an annual survey by Equinix, predicts that the number of private connections will grow by 51% in each of the coming years. Currently, organisations have an average of 340 direct connections to cloud providers and partner organisations.

In fact, this explosive growth of interconnection highlights how the Netherlands is rapidly developing into a breeding ground for digital ecosystems and new business models. The new interconnected society is largely designed by Dutch entrepreneurs and based in data centres in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, government organisations themselves are still on the sidelines. There are a few reasons for this, but there are two major ones. Often, government organisations rely on outdated systems while the decision-makers are concerned about security and worry about the cloud.

Digital future

If the Netherlands wants to remain a front-runner in the digital economy, the public sector itself must quickly engage with the hubs, networks and ecosystems. The direct exchange of data in a secure and scalable manner offers numerous opportunities to improve services to citizens and companies. It creates new opportunities for entrepreneurs and contributes to economic growth.

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