The cabinet comes to the aid of Dutch people who have difficulty with smartphones and tablets. For example, you can get the best laptops under 800 and there will be more computer courses and elderly care will be called in to get digitally disabled people to use the internet. About 2.5 million Dutch people find it difficult to work with digital devices, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet. “Everyone knows someone like that,” says Raymond Knops, State Secretary of the Interior. From 2019, his ministry will allocate more than five million euros a year to make people more digitally skilled. That is five times more than is now being spent on that goal.
The government wants no one to be left behind. For example, most schools in the Netherlands now use apps to provide parents with information about their children, for example about what time they can pick up their offspring. People who don’t have a smartphone miss that information. The National Ombudsman complained last year that the government assumes too easily that everyone has the skills to follow digital developments, such as the MijnOverheid message box. Not every Dutch person can cope with this digitization and there is hardly any help for these people, according to the Ombudsman.
According to Knops, it is his responsibility to get everyone involved. That means that we cannot just decide to abolish the blue envelope. The Netherlands has more than 1 million inhabitants who have never used the internet. Some of them will never do that again. We don’t want to force anyone.” However, a large proportion of the digitally disabled do need to be supported in the face of increasing digitization, says the State Secretary. This is done, among other things, through an internal government campaign to make government communication more accessible and readable. The cabinet is also expanding the existing ‘Tel mee met Taal’ program. This is currently only aimed at low-literate people, but it will soon also have to reach the digitized.
Knops applauds the Overijssel initiative ‘Dag en Doen’, which gives elderly people the opportunity to chat easily and to register for activities in the village via a tablet. Elderly people who have never used a computer are often amazed at the convenience of a tablet. At first, they use one or two apps, then more and more. So you see that such a tablet can enrich life.” Nursing homes and home care agencies will soon be called in to help the elderly. “Not everyone goes to the library for a course,” says Knops. “To reach different people, we have to work with different organizations. With elderly care. But also with companies, such as banks.”
Knops announces his plans in a letter to the House of Representatives that is written from A to Z in understandable ‘yip-and-janneke language’. Knops: We have deployed special language ambassadors for this. In fact, this kind of understandable letter to parliament should become the norm. But it is very difficult to write simply. We can learn something from that ourselves.”