More and more, communication in the Netherlands is digital. This has a large impact on everyone’s lives. Technology can prepare our country for the future. It creates chances. But for many people, developments are going too fast. We must take this into account. We will make sure that everyone can take part in the digital society. Even those people who need extra help.
Around 2.5 million Dutch people find it difficult to use digital devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets. 1.2 million Dutch people have never used the Internet. Going digital at work can also cause problems. Sometimes this means that people cannot do their job properly.
Last summer, I told the House that we are going to work on these problems. We have come up with two plans: The ‘Dutch Digitalisation Strategy’ and the ‘Government Digital Strategy: NL DIGIbeter’.
An important goal of these plans is: everyone can participate in the (digital) society. This is what we call ‘digital inclusion’.
We want to make sure that nobody is excluded. Digital services have to be secure, and people need to know this, so that they start to trust digital services. The government needs to offer digital services the user can really work with. That is why we will respond to what people want and what they need.
Improving digital inclusion is a major challenge. It is going to take time and many different parties will have to work together. The various plans need to fit together like a puzzle. That’s why we have set out four main goals:
- Making digital services easier for everyone.
- Helping people go digital.
- Explaining what happens when people go digital.
- Working together with companies and other organisations.
In this letter, I explain how we want to make things better for each main goal. The attachments to this letter then explain the actions that we are going to take.
1. Making digital services easier for everyone
It is important that as many people as possible are able to communicate with the government themselves. For this to happen, everyone needs to have access to the government. And everyone must be able to understand the information given by the government.
The government’s communication needs to be clear and as simple as possible. We want to reach this goal with the help of people who have difficulty with reading and writing. They can help us to make sure we use understandable language. This letter to parliament is an example of this. Language ambassadors have helped us to write down our plans in an understandable manner.
When we make new laws, we’ll make sure that they are workable laws. We will test if people can really benefit from our plans. We will also create digital services that will be as easy to use as possible.
We will build websites and apps that work well. All government organisations have to improve their existing digital services. When we build a new website or app, we will make sure that everyone can use it.
Even when we make digital services easier, some people will still need extra help. We will give them that help. We are also going to make it easier for family and friends to help.
2. Helping people go digital
Digital skills are just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. That’s why the government is already doing a lot to help people. But it is not enough. That’s why we are going to give even more help.
As the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK), we are responsible for the digital government. We are going to work together with more government organisations, for example, with ministries that work with social affairs and education. We will also work with local authorities, because they are in direct contact with the people who need extra help.
Many organisations help people with reading, writing and digital skills. For instance, libraries and the Reading & Writing Foundation [Stichting Lezen en Schrijven]. However, these organisations cannot reach everyone. That is why we are going to try to find out the reasons why people do or do not go digital.
There are already many people who want to help others with language and digital skills. We are going to make this support network bigger and stronger. This way, we can use the knowledge and experience that is already in place.
In order to reach out to more people, we sometimes need to try new things. For example, starting a different type of project or finding a new way of working together. This is how we will learn which approach works best.
3. Explaining what happens when people go digital
We cannot live without technology in our society. It is important that everyone understands this, and that everybody knows what this means. The government must do its best to reach that point, and people themselves must do this too.
If you want to understand the effects of technology, you have to work with it first. When people gain knowledge and experience, they also become more confident in going digital. With this knowledge and their own experiences, they can join in discussions about going digital. This will also make it easier for people to stand up for their rights.
Going digital provides chances as well as risks. People must therefore keep on learning about going digital. Learning takes place not only in schools, but also in other places. Going digital can be difficult in different ways.
We are going to give more information about going digital and explain what happens when people do go digital. As a result, people can think about the role of digitalisation in their lives. We will improve and expand the help that is already available.
To do this properly, we need to know which problems people face when going digital. For example, we can ask people what they think of government websites, if they trust the internet, and if they feel safe using the internet. We will do more research into this.
4. Working together with companies and other organisations
Companies, researchers and other organisations also have a lot of knowledge about going digital. The government wants to use this knowledge. Together we can think up creative ways to help people going digital.
Other countries are also helping people go digital. In the Netherlands, we can learn from those countries. We may learn new things about how to reach more people and help them go digital.
Since the summer, various organisations in a network have been discussing going digital. This network is called the ‘Alliantie digivaardig Nederland’. We are going to expand this network and make better use of it. We want to share more knowledge and experience with each other in the Netherlands.
Our focus on going digital can and must become better. Together we are working on becoming a country in which everyone can take part, digitally or otherwise. In 2019, I will give you more information about our approach.
The State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations,
Drs. R.W. Knops