Digital Society

Just as we were previously unable to see how the arrival of the internet would change our society, now we can only partially estimate the impact that technologies such as big data, blockchain, the Internet of Things, and high-speed data connections will have. What is certain is that these digital technologies offer many opportunities for a sustainable, healthy and social future. A downside is that the increasing dependence on digital systems also makes us vulnerable to hackers.

In the Northern Netherlands, there is a lot of substantive knowledge relating to blockchain, big data and cyber security, and parties within the IT sector work together closely. Research institutions, governments and companies – including many successful startups – are collectively searching for opportunities in the countless applications of digital technology, for example the high-speed wireless data connection 5G. The Northern Netherlands is at the forefront of digital developments, and not only does the region benefit from this but also the rest of the Netherlands and the world.

Searching together for applications of digital technology

In the search for new applications of digital technologies, there is much collaboration between northern knowledge institutions, governments and entrepreneurs from various sectors at home and abroad. After all, innovation and economic opportunities arise where new connections are made. In the Digital Society Hub for example, an Innovation Workshop at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences where students, teachers, companies and researchers come. Or the innovation cluster Drachten, an internationally-operative ecosystem of collaborating High Tech companies and knowledge institutions in the Northern Netherlands. Big data researchers from the University of Groningen are also working in various collaborations on a wide range of big data applications.

Can we develop robots that not only manufacture products, but also self-indicate when their components require maintenance? Or can we, with the help of big data, identify criminals on the basis of their voice, as if it were a fingerprint? With more than seven hundred participants from five continents, the annual Blockchangers Hackathon in Groningen has a huge concentration of innovative power. During the world’s biggest blockchain hackathon, over sixty international teams work on promising blockchain applications for themes such as health, safety and sustainability.

Digital security, a fast-growing sector in the region

The Northern Netherlands has a strong, fast-growing cyber security sector in which education, research, entrepreneurs and the government work closely together. The sector provides knowledge, services and professionals to secure crucial digital systems in health care, safety and energy; in the region, but also far beyond. Like HackerOne, founded by two students from the North. The company now offers a platform to more than one hundred thousand ethical hackers from all over the world. Companies like Google, Microsoft and Dropbox pay the hackers to look for holes in their security.

To enable entrepreneurs closer to home to become more resilient to cyber criminals, more than sixty parties in Groningen and Friesland have joined forces in the Cyber Resilience Northern Netherlands Cooperation (Samenwerkingsverband Cyberweerbaarheid Noord-Nederland). Among them northern knowledge institutions, governments, police and entrepreneurs. This cooperation is a step towards establishing the Cyber Security Expertise Center North (CSECN) in 2020, a national expertise centre for cyber security.

North Groningen as a testing ground for high-speed mobile internet

Quickly detecting crop diseases on the land using sensors, or a lifesaving video link between the ambulance and a doctor at the hospital. 5G, high-speed mobile internet, can improve care, energy, logistics and agriculture in various ways. In 5Groningen, researchers, entrepreneurs, non-profit organisations and governments work together to test promising applications in practice, with North Groningen as a testing ground. In the region, but also in the rest of the world, people benefit from the improved living environment resulting from 5G innovations.