Accelerating the pace of digitalisation in the SME sector. Boosting digital innovation and skills. Creating the best parameters for a functional online market. Preserving and reinforcing the Dutch digital infrastructure. Improving cybersecurity. These are the five ambitions put forward by Minister Micky Adriaansens (Economic Affairs and Climate Policy) for the Dutch Cabinet’s Digital Economy Strategy. Among other goals, these ambitions (which have already been approved by the Council of Ministers) are intended to achieve that all consumers and all companies can connect to the Internet at speeds of 1 Gigabit per second or better, and that 95% of SMEs make digitalisation a priority.
Minister Adriaansens explained, “Together with our sustainability efforts, digitalisation is one of the engines driving future employment and income. This is why the Cabinet has set such ambitious targets. Although performances in the Netherlands are among the best in the world right now, we need to take care not to backslide. We are going to invest in technologies such as AI and quantum, but also in a strong and reliable infrastructure for both wired and mobile connections. Our ambitions will also mean a more active focus by the government on training, cybersecurity and more functional digital markets, with proper competition and consumer protection.”
Ultimately, the goal of the Cabinet’s strategy is to create a business-friendly, innovative, sustainable and secure digital economy with room for everyone in the Netherlands to participate. This focus will also help to reduce the unwelcome degree to which the Netherlands and Europe are reliant on third parties. The strategy offers better protection for public interests and will improve the economy’s defences.
Accelerating the pace of digitalisation among SMEs
The Cabinet’s ambition is to be among the Top 3 in Europe by 2030 in terms of the SME sector’s utilisation of digital technologies. This will require 95% of SMEs in the Netherlands to achieve at least a basic degree of digitalisation. At present, that figure is 75%.
Another target is to improve the SME sector’s use of advanced digital technologies – cloud applications, AI and big data, for example – to 75% or better by 2030. To achieve this, the government has set up programmes to accelerate the pace of digitalisation in the SME sector and to boost smart industry, and will invest €30 million in five European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) in the Netherlands, in regional partnerships between the business sector, the research sector and the public sector.
Boosting digital innovation and skills
Digital technologies create opportunities for economic growth. With this in mind, the Cabinet has announced plans for further investments in innovation: quantum, for example, as well as AI and applications using 5G and 6G communication technologies. Digital skills will also help to make the labour market future-proof. At present, the market is suffering from a serious shortage of ICT and technology workers. By focusing on reskilling, supporting alternative training forms and integrating digitalisation into education, as the National AI Education Lab does for example, the Cabinet hopes to have a million digital-trained workers by 2030.
Creating the best parameters for functional digital markets and services
The years ahead will see a major overhaul of the rules regulating the digital economy. At the EU level, more than ten pieces of legislation have gained force of law this year, or are expected to come into force within three years. Those rules will establish the best parameters for achieving more functional online markets and services for consumers to choose and trust, create a level playing field for companies and make the Netherlands attractive for companies.
Against this backdrop, the Cabinet is focusing on effective implementation, supervision and enforcement of European regulations. Where necessary, the government will work with Brussels (for example through the Digital Markets Acts (DMA), the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Data Act) to intensively pursue the best possible balance between regulation and innovation.
Preserving and reinforcing the digital infrastructure
Throughout almost the whole of the Netherlands, people have virtually unlimited fast access to a secure and reliable Internet connection, thanks to the digital infrastructure of wired and mobile networks, sea cables and Internet hubs. The Cabinet wishes to maintain and improve this situation. At present, 91% of connections in the Netherlands have access to fast broadband Internet (≥1 Gigabit per second) through cable or fibre-optic networks. The government has set the target of realising this quality of access everywhere by 203, including at some 19,000 addresses in “outlying areas”. Where the market is not already providing for this, it will require active government intervention in the form of state funding or, in extreme cases, ordering operators to supply these services.
The Cabinet also hopes to realise universal 5G mobile Internet coverage in the built-up parts of the Netherlands. To this end, the most important auction of the required frequencies for 5G technology can be held in 2023.
Digital security needs to become part of the day-to-day business of companies both large and small. Cyber incidents impact a company’s internal processes, its customers and in some situations even larger portions of society, if the company or its production processes are interrupted. According to a recent survey by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, digital awareness among business owners needs to improve. The Cabinet will now provide more active support, although the responsibility will remain with the companies themselves.
In the future, it will become possible to share specific information about cyber threats, vulnerabilities and incidents with individual companies. Starting in mid-2024, not only the “vital” sectors of the economy will be required to implement appropriate cyber measures: large and medium-sized companies in the foodstuffs sector, the chemical and manufacturing industries, waste disposal, postal and courier services and data centres will need to do the same. Their compliance will be monitored. Minimum digital security standards will be introduced for devices that are connected to the Internet (the Internet of Things, or IoT). Starting mid-2024, any products that do not meet those standards will become banned everywhere in the EU.
Download the Report on the Digital Economy Strategy (in Dutch) here: