Thursday, 13 November 2008

The Netherlands the greatest nation in the world bar none

Gordon Cook asked on his excellent list about the reasons for The Netherlands success in the telecoms arena. Here is my answer.

Here are some items that make The Netherlands the greatest nation in the world bar none (specifically towards telecommunications).

First of all, the Dutch are pragmatists. Whatever they do, it should work. It's less important what the dogma is, as long as it works. This has it's effects everywhere:

  • Administrative processes and regulation should just work (making The Netherlands quite efficient, with for instance the best looking tax forms and money)
  • Technological choices are based on what works
  • No winner takes all mentality. Everyone can leave a negotiating table feeling that both parties have benefitted
    • Unions and employers get along quite well. The employers are not too stingy and the unions don't ask too much money.
    • Solutions to societal problems are generally thought through quite well as all sides get a say
    • The Netherlands (like Switzerland) can be a neutral solution between big nations.
  • Dutch Creativity/Design is an example of designs that generally are simple, witty and work. Think Koolhaas, Wanders, airport signage by Mijksenaar, TomTom
Second, the Dutch always have this fear of not being taken seriously by the rest of the world because of our small size as a nation. (As individuals we fare better size wise) The result is that we put alot of effort in being among the best.
  • The Dutch can't stand being in the bottom of an (OECD) list. Top 10 is the least.
  • The Dutch always wonder why they are not part of G7/G20 meetings
  • In international negotiations we want to be heard and so try to find the pragmatic middle between the various nations.
Third, the Dutch have been traders (transporters) since the middle ages.
  • Traders need flexibility. Tomorrows success is something different than todays
  • Traders see solutions everywhere in the world and adapt them for their own situation
  • Traders need communication to execute trades and to track shipment
So how does this work out for the position of the Netherlands in the Telecommunications world?

  • Dutch academics in the nuclear particle physics community in the 70's and 80's always ambitious to be among the best, so needing communication with the rest of the world
    • KPN wasn't as pro European/anti-American as other Euro incumbents
    • Dutch Networks easily allowed to connect to both European countries with European communications standards and the Americans with their own communications
    • Netherlands (Amsterdam) became the hub between the Europeans and the Americans
    • Meetings were easily set up in Amsterdam, good connections by plane.
  • Always active in whatever standardization organization was important. Be it ETSI, ITU, IETF, IEEE etc.
    • Whatever needed standardizing, the Dutch were there with a pragmatic, just get it working approach.
    • When you help standardize it, you want to trial it (and not wanting to be the dumbest kid in class, The Netherlands did quite early generally) 
    • Many technologies developed in The Netherlands or influenced heavily by developments in the Netherlands. Bluetooth and Wifi come to mind, but also the DNS community, IP (adresses by RIPE) 
  • Entrepreunerial people helped to develop good ideas into practical realities that just worked, or adapted to changing situations.
    • Think of the start of the commercial internet in Europe (EUnet and NLNet)
    • KPN dealing with the reality that they weren't the monopolist anymore and actually "allowing" competition. This was a different reaction than many of their competitors east and south of The Netherlands. 
    • Start of internet with companies like XS4ALL, who supported the greater good and not only their own bottom line.
  • Regulatory environment that supported the growth of telecommunications
    • Government tax credits for buying a PC via your employer, resulting in high PC penetration --> resulting in a high uptake of internet
    • Regulations that gave telecommunications companies the freedom to lay fiber backbones throughout the country without negotiations with every municipal government.
    • Regulations that allowed competition in the telecommunications market. 

1 comment:

  1. Another part of being pragmatic: Learning the language of the partner (i.e. country) you're dealing with and building a bridge. This is also reflected in your statement about telco interconnecting (european vs american standards) but it can be applied much more widely.

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