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Topsector ICT reacts to the Digital Economy Strategy

Topsector ICT reacts to the Digital Economy Strategy


Frits Grotenhuis


Topsector ICT

Last Friday, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy presented the new Digital Economy Strategy. The Cabinet’s strategy has been defined in conjunction with the Value-Driven Digitalisation Work Agenda and the Dutch Cybersecurity Strategy.

Topsector ICT shared its input to help define the strategy. We recognise many aspects from our own efforts in several of its elements. For example, we are firm supporters of the ambition to establish “a business-friendly, innovative and sustainable digital economy with strong defences with room for everyone in the Netherlands to participate”. Our focus on the activities of international alliances, Human Capital Agenda ICT and strengthening the SME sector and its innovative capabilities is also very similar to the strategy as presented. Various of our key enabling technologies are also strongly represented: Future Network Services (5/6G), Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain and Cybersecurity.

This is explained below, according to the five pillars described in the strategy:

1. Accelerating the pace of digitalisation among SMEs

As part of the SME working committee on ICT innovations, Topsector ICT nurtures interaction between and representation of innovative SMEs. Participants in the working committee include industry association NL Digital, the Regional Development Agencies, industry association FME, the Startups and Scale-ups working committee and the parties that are involved in the SME plan of NL AIC, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Chamber of Commerce. Its goals include helping to accelerate the adoption of digital solutions for companies.   

Objectives include: Improving the awareness of and focus on key enabling digital technologies and commercialising research results for the benefit of innovative SMEs. Linking innovative SMEs to funding (e.g. under MIT innovation subsidy schemes) and resources to help them scale up. Fostering regional partnerships and connections to the regional hubs (EDIHs). Highlighting successful use cases. 

2. Boosting digital innovation and skills

With the Human Capital Agenda ICT, Topsector ICT endeavours to connect partners in the field of training, reskilling and nurturing future professionals. We do this, first, by helping to foster greater cooperation, at the national and regional levels, in linking supply and demand, drawing on local initiatives undertaken by the business, public and education sectors for lateral entry and reskilling programmes. We also raise awareness of the need to improve diversity and inclusion on the ICT labour market and in ICT education. To achieve this, we use evidence-based interventions and evidence-informed experiments.  

Objectives include: Bringing partners together, carefully mapping out financial instruments and encouraging consortiums to apply for innovation grants and subsidies. Matching education and digitalisation, plus encouraging regional partnerships. 

3. Creating the best parameters for functional digital markets and services

Topsector ICT agrees emphatically with how important this is. Legislation in this area represents a key step forward, for example for AI, the focus of NL AIC as one of the coalitions under the aegis of Topsector ICT. We also have partnerships working on other topics under the European Commission’s Digital Agenda: the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, for example, is working on a European digital identity. We also work in close partnership with the Data Sharing Coalition on matters of data exchange and establishing a uniform data exchange system within the EU.

4. Preserving and reinforcing a secure, reliable and high-quality digital infrastructure

Topsector ICT is setting up a Future Network Services coalition, to help improve the digital infrastructure. Communication networks are vital for Dutch business to tackle the major challenges facing society in areas such as sustainability, healthcare, the shrinking workforce and security. The new generations (5G, 6G) make ultra-fast mobile Internet connections possible, while also offering opportunities to create new digital services and applications.

Objectives include: Making secure data exchanges possible and reinforce the international position of the Netherlands as a country with a high-quality infrastructure, using a Growth Fund Proposition that companies and knowledge institutions in the sector are invited to join. Dozens of telecommunications companies, universities of technology and knowledge institutions are already taking part.

5. Improving cybersecurity

In partnership with the dcypher coalition and the various other Top Sectors, Topsector ICT recently took a vital step forward in improving cybersecurity in the Netherlands. CS4NL, formerly the Broadly Supported Programme for Cybersecurity, brings together the innovative capabilities in the field of cybersecurity of all the various Dutch Top Sectors. The programme will address cybersecurity issues arising in connection with major societal transitions, and organise efficient partnership chains to deal with them. CS4NL will have a 5-year budget estimated at €27-36 million.

Objectives include: Bolstering the cyber defences of Dutch organisations, and improving the Dutch economy and its competitive position in the world at large.

Topsector ICT believes that effective and efficient partnerships are a key requirement for digitalisation: not in and of itself, but as a means to provide solid support to help overcome the major challenges facing society in the areas of Energy Transition & Sustainability, Health and Healthcare, Agriculture, Water & Food and Security. As the Digital Economy Strategy shows, our efforts are very similar to the Cabinet’s larger plans.

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