Monday, March 19, 2007

Aussies and Kiwis sampling Dutch broadband (6)

The program of the Australian and New Zealand trade mission was not completely filled with technical lectures. Mr Jos Huijgen, a former consultant to the Dutch telecom watchdog OPTA and an assistant director of the Department of Economic Affairs had some lessons for the audience:
- Control game of the government is over;
- Promote competition;
- do not focus on infrastructure;
- move away from access now to services;
- invest in public services;
- use local initiatives for scaling of services;
- promote bottom-up initiatives.

Mr Huijgen made it clear that in broadband the time had passed that the government was in control. Competition in broadband has worked. But he did not mince any words in making clear that the services part was weak. The public sector services are too scattered and there is a lack of pilots.

Public private cooperation is key in the services area. The Dutch government stresses four policy areas: mobility, healthcare, safety and education. There are four assigned areas for public private projects. On the local and regional level people involved in initiatives and projects are stimulated to talk to each other. By linking the dots the government looks for best practices. Industry and government have formed an association Netherlands Broadband Country and is bringing parties together in theme areas such as digital life, health, leisure, mobility and nomadic labour, retail and education. Research and development institutes are linked to each other so that they can use broadband more effectively for research and development. In the public sector an action program has been started up between the social sector and ICT.

All these policies take the line that initiatives should come from the bottom-up. You have to start with the end-user. Essential is to use local initiatives for the scaling of services. Too often initiatives have failed as they were stimulated by government and eventually became a bureaucratic organisation hardly yielding any results. (To me, such a project was the heavily subsidised project Kenniswijk, Knowledge Neighbourhood, in Eindhoven, where 84.000 broadband connections were promised and not realised, but which was eventually superseded by a less ambitious and successful broadband project in the neigbouring village of Nuenen).

So the lessons learned are that demand and supply should be linked, bottom-up initiative should be promoted and that scaling up of successful initiatives should be supported.

Blog Posting Number: 697

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