Nieuwe regering moet digitaal centraal stellen

Nieuwe regering moet digitaal centraal stellen

28 september 2020

Op de vooravond van de nieuwe regering herinnert FeWeb de formateurs en hun gesprekspartners graag aan de oproep van Digital Minds (waarin FeWeb zetelt). Met duidelijke aanbevelingen om de digitale transformatie te boosten bij burgers, economie en regering. Voor deze laatste: de Digitale Agenda moet een prioriteit zijn voor de nieuwe eerste minister en de benoeming van een Chief Digital Officer moet de vooruitgang van he Digital Belgium plan stuwen over alle departementen heen.

Digital Minds for Belgium

The digitisation of our economy and society offers great opportunities for Belgian citizens and companies. The open and knowledge-based nature of our economy means that Belgium is one of the countries that benefits the most from digitisation. In the next few years, digitisation can create 3.7 jobs for every job that disappears1. It can improve our lives, boost our economy’s productivity and is already changing our job market rapidly.

We’re at the beginning of the 4th industrial revolution, the Digital revolution. Guiding the country and every citizen through this societal change is key. We need to be a ‘Digital Frontrunner’ country, as we have been, during the prior industrial revolutions.

The governments of our country have encouraged digitisation in recent years with various plans such as “Digital Belgium”, ”Stratégie Numérique de la Wallonie” and “Vlaanderen radicaal digitaal”.

But the world around us is developing more quickly. Despite the good initiatives, Belgium has dropped in the European digital ranking (from 5th place to 8th in the last 3 years2) and the number of challenges will only increase.

All members of the Digital Minds for Belgium believe it is time for our country to put Digital on top of the agenda as the priority for everyone – it cannot be an ‘option’ anymore if we want to be the architects of our own future. It has to be a priority for the whole government, driven by the Prime Minister, because it’s impacting all sectors and all regions.

Hereby the recommendations, to be implemented immediately, of the Digital Minds to be capable to realise the EUR 95 Billion additional economical value in Belgium by 2030.

1. Awareness and sense of urgency through organized communication

The Digital transformation is not limited to the digital industry only. It concerns all professional sectors, all types and sizes of organisations, the entire academic world and all citizens.

However a lot of people still do not get the sense of urgency. Organisations have to re-invent themselves as the competition is coming from innovative, flexible organisations disrupting old business models. Maximizing the economic profit by decreasing the costs is reaching its limits. Digital Automation (automating the processes of yesterday) will create value on the short time (quarter, dividend) but is an ending, efficiency improvement model. On the other hand, we are confronted with a fundamental need to solve key challenges in the society like climate change, better mobility, affordable healthcare, etc. Digitisation offers solutions to these challenges.

In Belgium focus has been fragmented. We have a high number of digital starters, incubators and initiatives in different levels and on different regions but we do not clearly communicate a National Vision, supported and aligned with each and every region, province, city and government area.

We need to set a goal. Where do we want to be with Belgium in 2020, 2025, 2030? It is something we have to prepare for now!

Like in every change programme, communication is critical to get the buy in of all stakeholders, to stimulate the acceptance to change, to increase the active participation of all parties concerned.

As with any significant transformation, it is very important to clearly communicate:

  • the objective (the why)
  • the steps to get there
  • the consequences (the how)
  • the point of measurement of progress
  • the added value for all parties is not clear (the what)

This communication is essential to make citizens, companies and governments aware of the change that is required in every field.

The awareness campaign (communication channels) should be seen as a responsibility of the prime minister whereby all areas and stakeholders are reached. We recommend a central budget for communication is put aside to ensure that multiple communication steps can be taken over a longer period of time to repeat and repeat the goal, the reason why and the way to get there. This is an essential element of every change process.

As an example, Flanders succeeded to embrace the 3rd industrial revolution thanks to the ambitous “Flanders Technology International” plan (DIRV – “Derde industriele revolutie in Vlaanderen). It is urgent to have a similar plan – for the whole country – to succeed in the Digital Revolution.

Recommendations from the Digital Minds

  • Update the Digital BE agenda with clear national objectives for 2025 and 2030: context (what is happening), impact (how will it affect you) and action plan
  • Create a Digital Belgium communication structure (2019 – 2030) to work on a compelling communication plan
  • Foresee substantial yearly budget of 20 Mio euros
  • Balance all communication channels (media, active social media, print activity based, conferences, ...) focussed on positive call-to-action for citizens, industry, academics and politics
  • Invest in highly visible and socially positive use cases (e.g., AI in healthcare or education) to show people the concrete benefits of digitisation.

2. A new narrative and a focus on skills and jobs

Agoria and Roland Berger’s ‘Be The Change’ study clearly shows an answer to three important and recurring questions:

Will the robots take our jobs? – They can take over highly repetitive tasks, quickly - What about new jobs? – Many more jobs will be created than the ones destroyed -  What about me? – I need to continue to reskill myself.

The world is changing and we need to prepare our children for the future. Every year 0.3 million students will join the job market in Belgium. They need to understand this new world and be ready to capture the new job opportunities. This is even more critical as we know that we need 0.9 students joining, on a yearly basis, to fill the jobs required.

In Belgium in 2030 we will have 4.5 million employed people. Yet, McKinsey estimates that for 60% of jobs, at least one third of their tasks can be automated by 2030. Moreover, many job positions are already vacant in Belgium today.

Therefore we need to create a culture of lifelong learning in all the organisations and possibly also, incentivize companies (tax benefits e.g.) to develop their people for this digital age. It should be part of the top priorities - to be capable to continue employment - as we need all employed people as long as possible, active in the job market.

Moreover, the unemployed and inactive people should again get a chance to participate in the job market, to learn and to develop themselves. We need to have a full re-skilling programme available.

Even if we get these 3 elements under control, Agoria estimated that close to 600,000 additional jobs will not be filled. This means that we certainly may not postpone projects that can help with the automation of relevant processes to reduce this number as much as possible.

It needs to be pointed out that, besides the technical skilled professionals, we need to stimulate young people to choose for STEM education. But, at the same time also retrain currently employed people to other Digital Skills like Digital Rights, - Literacy, - Communication, - Emotional intelligence, - Security, - use. We need to develop all ‘human’ skills to complement the capabilities of the technology going forward, we need people with STEMpathy!

Recommendations from the Digital Minds

  • Execute STEM action plan 2020 – 2030
  • Execute the five topics identified as priorities by the OECD:
  • Developing a learning culture
  • Reducing skills imbalances
  • Strengthening skills use in workplaces
  • Strengthening the governance of adult learning; and
  • Improving the financing of adult learning and lifelong learning
  • Stimulate the industry to execute a lifelong learning action plan in the organisation to maximize the employment continuity. The plan is to be a part of the annual report of the organisation
  • Create a Governmental incentive plan to re-skill the active population
  • Create a new financial model for the universities to stimulate re-skilling adapted to the market needs.

3. A true commitment for better government through digitisation

Every government and department should commit to the digital opportunity in their domain (e.g. education, justice, economy, culture,...) Every entity needs to commit to a digital ambition that focusses on a safe, inclusive and well-being society on a long term.

Belgium has no time to loose. Speed of execution is a must, since a lot is at stake here. With the initiatives of the Digital Belgium, Plan Numérique, Radicaal Digitaal, we already have a few milestones to focus on. However, the digital investment plan suggested urgency in the execution but also better alignment in the initiatives. In a digital, connected world, the national vision of Belgium versus fragmented initiatives is critical. In a digital, connected world, the competition is not coming out of another region, province or department but outside of Belgium so we need to align on becoming ambitious in this area.

Recommendations from the Digital Minds

  • In each political programme, each political priority, .. digital should be present at the highest level.
  • Digital Agenda responsibility should be a political priority of the Prime Minister and Minister Presidents
  • Nomination of a CDO reporting to the Prime Minister, the progress on the National objectives of the Digital BE action plan
  • Public administration must act as role models in digital automation and the execution of a lifelong learning plan.


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