The Netherlands

“Internet is the most-preferred medium”

How would you define e-content in The Netherlands?

E-content is hard to define. It has been tossed around as information, basically meaning relevant data. But with the rise of Internet, e-content has received another meaning besides a technical definition. It now also has an economical, a social and even a political dimension.

In the book e-Content: a European Outlook (Springer), the editors describe: E-Content is digital information delivered over network-based electronic devices, i.e. symbols that can be utilised and interpreted by human actors during communication processes, which allow them to share visions and influence each other’s knowledge, attitudes or behaviour. E-Content allows for user involvement and may change dynamically according to the user’s behaviour. It is a subcategory both of digital and electronic content, marked by the involvement of a network, which leads to a constant renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a

 

“Now attention is being paid to quality and usability”

CD-ROM, or the content broadcast via TV and Radio). This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allows for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content.
The second part of this definition contains a static vision on CD-ROM and a timeslot vision on radio and television. CD-ROM is not static; it is frozen online and the medium is usually used by the absence of bandwith. Also the timeslot vision of radio and television as defined is narrow as timeslots can be seen as an advertisement for the time independent broadcasts and theme channels on Internet.

What’s the status of e-content in The Netherlands?

E-content is changing fast in the Netherlands due to changes in the infrastructure. In April 2002 ADSL was introduced on the consumer market and is now reaching 20Mbps. Cable is upgrading its speed for Internet traffic and will reach 30 to 100 Mbps. In 2004 a digital terrestrial television network, named Digitenne was launched. And in 2005 interactive television is really stimulated as more than 2 million set-top boxes will be distributed by the cable operator UPC.

These infrastructural changes have an effect on e-Content. Were the Internet sites first electronic brochures, now video and audio are added, while more interactivity is introduced. Broadcasting companies are now ready to use Internet to the fullest by streaming and downloading and broadcasters as well as other Internet producers are discovering theme channels. ADSL as well as cable give them also opportunities for interactive television.

Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in The Netherlands?

In the Netherlands all categories of e-Content are well developed. But if a priority listing has to be applied, it would rank the categories in the following order:
1. e-Business;
2. e-Culture;
3. e-Government;
4. e-Learning;
5. e-Inclusion;
6. e-Entertainment;
7. e-Health;
8. e-Science.

E-business and e-culture are well developed. E-culture did get a boost with the program the Memory of The Netherlands (www.geheugenvannederland.nl) and the Institute of Image and Sound (www.beeldengeluid.nl/template_subnav.jsp?navname=english&category=english). E-government has matured over the years; every municipality has its own site, while the government, the legislative body and even the royal House have their own sites. More than 2,5 million tax applications were delivered electronically in 2005.

Also e-learning has matured due to the Kennisnet (Knowledgenet), an infrastructural and e-Content network for schools; universities and junior colleges did have the SURF network already since the nineties.

E-inclusion gets more attention. Digitale trapveldjes (www.trapveld.nl), digital playgrounds is a low-threshold computer club, implemented in neighbourhoods. Usability is an issue. The social aspect is also part of the education for young producers at the Amsterdam Institute of Multimedia, while the non-profit organisation de Waag sets up many socially oriented projects.

E-entertainment has received a lot of attention lately as cities are competing to become the game centre of the Netherlands (Breda, Leeuwarden) or Europe (Amsterdam). There is much doubt whether the e-Entertainment industry will make it in the Netherlands as it needs a close cooperation between companies and a well-organised network of venture capital companies.
E-health is starting to develop, be it mainly on the software side.

After years of infrastructural developments, e-science starts now to develop as an e-content area. Projects are stimulated by SURFnet, the national academic network in the Netherlands.
Which sector (business, private sector, government or civil society) in the Netherlands is advance in developing e-content?

Business has been the driving force behind Internet since 1994. But with the dot.com crash many companies disappeared. Since 2003, however, the industry is repositioning itself and rationalising. This leads to new and better underpinned content and sites. The sites are interesting for acquisition and mergers.

Also government has gotten involved in Internet towards the turn of the millennium. The government got its own site, municipalities and provinces as well as government institutes have their own sites. The development of e-government has matured and the investments are now slimming. Now attention is being paid to quality and usability.

Broadcasting companies are developing their sites aggressively. Commercial broadcasting companies are using their sites as platforms for the sales of movies and programmes.
How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has a long tradition in content with international publishing companies like Elsevier, VNU and Kluwer. And also the e-content tradition has a respectable tradition of 25 years.

“Presently there are 4,5 million internet hosts and 1,6 million .nl domain names”

Although the term e-Content did not exist in 1967, the road to eContent was launched by Mr Pierre Vinken, later the chairman of Reed Elsevier, who was involved in a medical company, named Excerpta Medica. This company produced abstracts of scientific medical publications, entered then into a database, attached key-words to these abstracts and published these online and in print. In 1970 a publishing company Uitgeverij Het Spectrum started to use a computer to assist editors in their encyclopaedic reference work and production people in the production of digital text.

By 1980 the first phase of e-Content set in with the launch of Viditel on August 7, 1980. This videotext system run by the Dutch PTT provided a consumer and business information, communication and transaction service. The service became the Volkswagen of the online, while ASCII services were serving the higher end of business.

This tender phase of online was temporarily disturbed by the development of compact discs in the formats CD-ROM and CD-i. This was the advent of multimedia products, which has led to such beautiful products as The Netherlands: a compact world and Anne Frank – The House with a Story as well as the e-learning series Professionals: Operation Ibiza and Pool Paradise.

The second phase of e-Content started in 1994 when Internet was introduced as a consumer service. In the meantime all types of e-Content are covered, ranging from newspapers to blogs. Presently there are 4,5 million internet hosts and 1,6 million .nl domain names.

What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in the Netherlands?

In 1998 the Dutch Government set out its goals in e-Government. One of the measures was to bring all municipalities online by 2002. Presently the government is struggling with the ID issue on Internet. It had planned 5 million e-ID card by 2006.

Kennisnet (Knowledgenet) was a major infrastructural project in education, bringing schools online. The project also triggered many e-Content projects by publishers and teachers.

Kenniswijk (Knowledge neighbourhood) was a project of five years, researching the effects of broadband. It ended in 2005, having used up 30 million euro. The organisation itself swathe project as a success having reached 15.000 broadband subscriptions and 65 operating broadband services. Outsiders consider the project not successful as a higher number of subscribers should have been reached given the wave of broadband and the high mortality rate and low innovative character of the services.

What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in the Netherlands?
One of the major bottlenecks is the recognition of e-Content as an issue. ICT is seen as a spearhead of the Dutch industry. But e-Content is not recognised as an area to be stimulated. It is smuggled into one of the new spearheads, Creative Industry, of the Innovation program as the digital creative industry.

Another bottleneck is the fragmentation of the associations concerning multimedia production. There are many associations, which aim at bringing professionals into a kind of social clubs. However there is no serious attempt like in Finland (www.contentbusiness.fi) to coordinate industry, government and export issues.

There are also very few inventories identifying e-Content companies. This is clear from studies on behalf of the government, when the incumbent telco KPN and the electronics multinational are mentioned and on the other small hand non-profit companies. The estimated other 1500 companies with 15.000 employees (2002 data) are not identified.

In most countries, especially developing, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become pervasive and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc.

What is the situation in the Netherlands?

The development of e-Content in the Netherlands is rather mature. ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities contribute to the development of the e-Content. However there are two views on the contribution of ICT. In the Netherlands ICT is well-organised and seen by the government as an innovative sector. ICT itself has not organised itself in such a way that it absorbs the digital creative companies as a sector. On the other hand the multimedia producers do not consider themselves to be ICT companies; they consider themselves as companies working with copyrighted content and see themselves more as the new publishers with ICT as the printing part of the process.

How would you describe the ICT scenario in the Netherlands in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?

The Dutch government innovation platform has appointed ICT as an innovation axe, which runs through all sectors of the economy. This vision stems from the conviction that ICT is an important enabler for the knowledge economy. ICT yields an important contribution to the knowledge society in different ways: it takes care of growth of productivity; it is an important factor in economic growth and it contributes to solutions of social problems. ICT is seen as a catalyst for innovation.

This vision has lead to 14 actions arranged according to the four ICT pillars:
Utilisation of ICT-applications

“The mobile platform has so far hardly delivered relevant content”

ICT activity
ICT research and education
ICT-infrastructure.
The ICT~Office association has established areas of importance such as: network society, security, intellectual rights and open source.

What’s the future of e-content in the Netherlands?

As the capacity of the infrastructure will not be a problem in the future, e-Content development will be speeded up. Combinations of text, audio and video and interactivity will offer new forms of content in various domains.

In the meantime schools deliver multimedia experts, usually hard- and software specialists. Given the digital creative industry perspective, specialisation in domains and content treatment will be forthcoming. Domain experts will develop the basic ideas in a domain, while content experts will translate these to content formats and package them in content related technology.

Which is the most preferred medium for e-content production in the Netherlands?

The most preferred medium for e-Content development is dependent on the availability or absence of an infrastructure. In the Netherlands CD-ROM/DVD media were interesting in a time when broadband capacity was not available. CD-ROM/DVD represent frozen online productions. Even now that there is broadband capacity there are still silver discs produced as the broadband capacity is not everywhere available or not with enough capacity. Internet is the most-preferred medium. The mobile platform has so far hardly delivered relevant content.

How do you recognize and appreciate e-content producers and best practices in The Netherlands?
In the Netherlands there are a number of multimedia competitions. Organising another national selection would have crowded the agenda with a risk of a few entries. So it was decided to put together a list of the 48 nominated products of the existing competitions and offer these to the jury.

The Dutch jury was chaired by Bernhard van Oranje, a royal and entrepreneur in the ICT company Levi9 Global Sourcing. He was assisted by Anton van Elburg, editor-in-chief of the magazine Emerce; Martijn Arts, managing director of the Internet bureau ZappWerk and national expert of the WSA 2003; Anne van Brussel, instructor at Rotterdam Hogeschool; Nienke Meyer, managing director of the daily newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad. The jury session was held at the Kennissatelliet of the Hogeschool Utrecht in Amersfoort.large;”>

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