From: Robert Schipper
Date: August 1, 2000
Subject: The Dutch lead Europe's online charge
The Hague has been the site of key international events since the beginning of the 20th century. In November 1999, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Annemarie Jorritsma, chose this city as the backdrop for another historic milestone: introduction of the groundbreaking Dutch Code of Conduct for E-Commerce.
The Netherlands is the first country to develop such an e-commerce protocol, which is intended to increase public confidence by ensuring safe, confidential and transparent transactions. The strategy is being studied by the European Union as a model for future codes.
The Dutch fell in love with the internet early on, and much like in the US, it has become an integrated and highly visible part of daily life in Holland. Visitors to Amsterdam, one of the most wired cities in Europe, see banks of internet kiosks set up throughout the city offering quick internet access to passersby.
In June 2000, the largest internet cafe in the world opened in Amsterdam's Reguleirsbreestraat. It offers 650 connected internet terminals.
According to the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, nearly 53 percent of Dutch people are online, making them one of Europe's most tech-savvy populations. Meanwhile, the US & Foreign Commercial Service and US Department of State report that the Netherlands is only 12-15 months behind the US, the world market leader, in the use and implementation of the internet.
Though e-mail and the search and supply of information remain the most popular uses of the internet, e-commerce is taking off. In 1999, e-commerce in the Netherlands was valued at $1.2 billion, and by the year 2003, it is estimated that the Dutch will purchase more than $10 billion in goods and services via the internet. Sixty-two percent of Dutch companies have an internet connection, and just under 20 percent are active in e-commerce.
Driving the popularity of net usage are falling access prices and an increase in PC ownership, particularly in the consumer and small to medium-sized business sectors. In 1999, the total Netherlands market for internet technology hardware, software and services topped $12 billion. These levels of internet use are supported by one of the most advanced high-speed digital networks in the world. "The Netherlands has become one of the most important European hubs for ISPs to share traffic," explained James Eibisch, research manager at IDC. "Its main strengths are its geographical location and its technological infrastructure."
This domestic market potential, as well as the potential to conduct pan-European e-business from the Netherlands, has galvanized the support of both the Dutch government and business community. After years of concentrating on foreign companies, Dutch venture capitalists are turning their attention and resources to a new generation of "home-grown" high-tech start-ups.
For example, a public/private initiative, the Twinning Network, plans to kick-start 600 new Dutch internet companies in the next few years.
Robert Schipper is executive director of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, North America.