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Digital Dutch


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Digital Dutch

  1. 1. Cover story The Digital Dutch Digitisation is one of the most From the invention of the electrocar- useful and popular innovations diograph (ECG), the audio cassette and compact disc, and the introduction of in recent years – taking real the world’s first traffic enforcement world images, sounds and camera (not so popular that one), scenarios and turning them into the Dutch have cottoned on to digital electronic representations – and opportunities faster than most. the Netherlands has been at the However, with CDs now being replaced by MP3s and streamed music channels, forefront from the start. and the Dutch multinational, Philips, pulling back from the production of televisions due to competition from By Cathy Leung the far East – is the Netherlands still a pioneering digital force? The answer is “yes”, of course.16 | access | winter
  2. 2. Mobile Dutch Augmented realityThe Dutch don’t sit still for long, that One of the newest areas of mobile devel-we know; nipping about on bicycles, opment, augmented reality (AR), hasplaying lots of sports, circumnavigating been the source of many global firsts forthe globe, etc. And mobile people Dutch innovators. Described as “a waydemand mobile digital productivity so viewing digital information which hasit’s no wonder that the Netherlands been superimposed – or augmented –has more than its fair share of mobile onto a live view of the physical, real-developers. Is it odd that a country world environment around you”, ARwith comparatively short road dis- buffs are often pointed to the Netherlandstances boasts one of the worlds’ most for the latest news, such as:popular satellite navigation brands, • the world’s first AR architecture appTomTom? Not once you take into from, UAR by the Netherlandsaccount that old Dutch knack of foster- Architecture Institute, with 3Ding creative, technical applications. ­models showing past, unrealised and » access | winter | 17
  3. 3. Cover story | The Digital Dutch future buildings in the urban land- tions. Use a real estate geo layar, for scape (2009) example, if you’re walking along a nice • the world’s first AR flashmob which street in the The Hague’s Archipelbuurt turned the crowd into superheroes, and wouldn’t mind moving there, or zombies, etc (2010)’s geo layar for job vacancies • the world’s first postage stamps near the very spot you’re standing in. utilising AR (2011). There’s even a Lost-and-Found Pets geo layar (a lizard was recently found Indeed, the global market leader in AR in IJselbuurt, by the way). is the Amsterdam-based start-up Layar – creator of the world’s first mobile Digital infrastructure augmented reality browser. Layar’s Just think, of all the Internet activity mobile app displays digital “layers” that goes on across the world, a dis- on your smartphone’s camera view, proportionately high percentage of enhancing your view of the real world that data could well be processed on with links, videos and useful informa- servers in the Netherlands. The non- tion. This could be a scanned link from profit Internet hub AMS-IX, for exam- printed media that leads you to extra ple, is one of the world’s largest and digital goodies, or a “geo layar” – a most stable digital exchange platforms. geographical scanning of your current Interestingly, geography is cited as one environment with all sorts of applica- reason for the Dutch dominance in this sector with UK internet hosting provider, Host1plus, referring to theDigital Dutch facts Netherlands’ coastline as an advantage; its “sea borders and ... several tubes of• The Netherlands has the highest number of Internet users in the EU, and 94% of Dutch households have broadband fibre optics”. Whereas, the American Internet access. data centre company Equinix recently• The Netherlands is at the top of the EU for online banking. lauded the “green hosting” credentials 79% of the Dutch aged 16-75 engaged in Internet banking in 2011 and nearly 4 in 5 Dutch people aged 16-75 do their of the region as a factor for locating banking online. their new data centre in Amsterdam’s• Twitter: Every day, more tweets are sent in Dutch than in Science Park. (That and the fact that Chinese, Arabic and Korean.• Almost half of all Dutch patent applications originate in 80% of European customers can be Brainport, Eindhoven. reached within 50 milliseconds.)18 | access | winter
  4. 4. Feature header Did you k n Childre ow... nw comput ho play er ga are quic mes ker learner sVideo games “games stimulate the learningOne of the fastest growing industries of facts and skills, strategicin the Netherlands, computer gamescontribute about €1 billion a year to the thinking and creativity”Dutch economy, with Utrecht emergingas the central hub and the base forDutch Game Garden, a business centre, Serious gamesnetwork and games industry event Besides such silliness, a significantorganiser. (See our Utrecht travel article, portion of the sector concerns ‘seriouspage 28.) Popular Dutch-developed games’, where entertainment is sec-games include Awesomenauts (Ronimo ondary to another purpose, for example,Games), and Killzone (Guerrilla Games), educational, social or commercial.but the cheekiest by far has to be the Rotterdam company Ranj are knownnew release, Save Harry ( – for their business game Sharkworld,in which players have to help a naked which tests players’ project manage-Prince Harry escape a Las Vegas party. ment skills as they oversee the con- » access | winter | 19
  5. 5. Cover story | The Digital Dutch struction of a shark aquarium in to the emergency room, complete with China. More recently, in 2012 the different player levels – let’s just hope Dutch hospital Erasmus MC started that they all made it to the top level. using a serious game to help train staff in the introduction of a new medical Political games standard. In ABCDE-Sim players get 15 There’s also strong representation minutes to stabilise a patient admitted from the Dutch in digital politics. In 2008 Dutch liberal MEP Toine Manders was responsible for drafting a pro-video game report on behalf of a European parliament’s commit- tee. In the report, con- trary to fears about the violent reputation of some games, he extolled the virtues of video games, saying that they “can stimulate learning of facts and skills such as strategic thinking, creativity, cooperation and inno- vative thinking, which are important skills in the information “ esides such silliness, B society.” The biggest Dutch name in digital politics, however, is Steely ­ a significant portion of Neelie, aka Neelie Kroes. European the sector concerns Commissioner for the Digital Agenda ‘serious games’” since 2010, she is a strong advocate for open source software and tweets regu- larly on digital developments.20 | access | winter
  6. 6. Digital data securityWith all of this widespread digitisation Organisationscomes some risks. Indeed it can seem • PKIoverheid (Dutch government Public Key Infrastructure):that never a month goes by without a digital data security scare. The • National Cyber Security Centre: • Ron Gonggrijp, blog (in English): rop.gonggri.jpDutch company DigiNotar was bank- • The Hague Mobile Academy: in 2011 when hackers gainedaccess to the website security certifica-tion. Several administrative functions for tram and bus transport that replacedof the Dutch government also used the much-loved strippenkaart, is widelythese systems – including the DigiID, known to be vulnerable to hacking (tothe Belastingdienst (Department of Tax enable free travel). Customs), the RDW (Department ofRoad Transport), and the Kadaster Indeed the National Cyber Security(Land Registry) – leading to a disrup- Centre admits “it is a challenge to puttion in access to services. into place effective ... measures to ensure that the Netherlands becomesThe security of digital medical records more resilient to threats in the digitalin the healthcare industry, particularly, world” and admits that a “wide range ofhas led to several high-profile news incidents feature in day-to-day reality.”stories; from a badly protected com-puter discovered at the Groene Hart Holland’s hackersHospital in Gouda in October 2012 and And so a more controversial breed ofthe revelation in Februrary 2012 of lax pioneers has thrived in the Netherlands:data storage procedures in the Dutch hackers. Often judged critically forpharmacy industry. malicious disruption to commerce and communication (see above), it’s per-Although hackers don’t appear to have haps characteristic of the Netherlandsrushed to download all this apparently that the hacker community also dem-accessible healthcare data, they have onstrates a benevolent side.acted on another digital data opportu-nity. The Dutch technology behind the Hacker Ron Gonggrijp, for example,new OV-Chipkaart, the smart card used has used his knowledge of field access » access | winter | 21
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  8. 8. Cover story | The Digital Dutchtechnology to help provide Internet At the same time there is noteworthyaccess at challenging locations such investment in the education of the nextas the Ter Apel refugee camp in generation of digital Dutch developers.Groningen, and the Occupy Camp in Utrecht University was the first DutchBeursplein, Amsterdam, in 2011. university to offer an MSc in Game andGonggrijp also founded one of the Media Technology, but there are now­earliest Dutch Internet service provid- several schools and universities here ers, XS4ALL (now owned by KPN), offering video game development as a which, in December 1996, enabled specific study. One municipality has online access to the Belgrade radio recognised the need for greater skills ­station, B92, after the jamming of its to feed the mobile developers industry broadcasts by Slobodan Miloševi´, c too, and a new initiative, The Hague and more recently in 2011 provided Mobile Academy, will welcome its first dial-in Internet access for use by students in January 2013. (See page 38) Libyian civilians cut off by political developments. Let’s keep up Hopefully you’ll find it exciting to beAttracting innovators living in one of the most technicallyIt seems that this innovative and cre- advanced and innovative countries inative environment also attracts digital the world. Maybe you’ll get to knowpioneers from overseas. Appsterdam, your neighbourhood better throughfor example, was a project started by one of the many AR applications, orAmerican and ex Apple employee, retrain as a video games developer.Mike Lee, after he grew frustrated by But at least remember to thank theexpensive healthcare and attitudes in ­digital Dutch when you’re streamingSilicon Valley. He toured the world your favourite TV show from backlooking for the just the right place to home on one of the world’s fasteststart a hub for app developers and all bandwidths. «the peripheral skills that they wouldneed. He chose Amsterdam. (And ofcourse the culture of financial invest- About the author:ment is here too – his Dutch backer Cathy is a freelance writer and radio presenter onprovided him with the funds.) Follow her on Twitter @cathycentral. access | winter | 23