Call for action CIO Platform Nederland: Corona peak conquered in 100 days. Which anchors do we install?

Call for action CIO Platform Nederland: Corona peak conquered in 100 days. Which anchors do we install?

Piek zekerenJune 30, 2020

Today CIO Platform Nederland calls on everyone in political, administrative and policy roles to secure the accomplishments from the impact of the covid-19 measures on digitalization in the Netherlands.

Recent months have been dominated by changes born of necessity. The members of CIO Platform Nederland have been working hard to help their organization switch to working from home, to realize fundamental changes in the business and supply chain processes and to achieve the necessary adjustments 'overnight'. We are now about three months further, time to look back at what has been done, what the effects were and what is needed for the future.

If we look at the impact of the Covid-19 measures on digitalization in the Netherlands, significant positive steps can be seen in many sectors. For example, in the pace of innovation, agility and creativity of employees and in a more general sense embracing working with digital technology, which could have a positive effect on efficiency, productivity, economic development and the environment.

Although it is of course desirable that we get more freedom back, more chance of economic growth, social interaction and the like, we do not want to lose all these accomplishments. With the letting go of the most stringent measures, we do not want to go all the way back to 'how it was in the past'. The tendency to do so is high in some cases, for example because of regulations, funding structures or out of habit. Therefore, steps must be taken now!

Our appeal is addressed to everyone in political, governance and policy roles, to change the beacons - now that the experiences with "how it could also be done" are still fresh in our minds.

Some of the positive developments since Covid-19 measures came into effect:

  • Flexibility, creativity and agility. In many sectors, change has been held back for years. In education, for example, the teacher is very autonomous in how the lessons are given. In general, change was very slow. Closing the schools made the need for change acute, and we have seen that the teaching staff is also flexible, willing to experiment with new teaching methods and, even if not everything is clear beforehand, to gain trial and error experience in teaching at a distance. This resistance to change and the shift to flexible and creative experimentation with possibilities was also visible in many other sectors. We must stimulate this creativity and flexibility! These are opportunities for the Dutch economy in the future! So do not fall back into endless discussions with many stakeholders, but be more agile in implementations and allow flexible adaptation of issues that could be improved.
  • Working remotely. Within a few days, for most people (dependent on the nature of the work), remote work was made possible. After a few days of getting used to it, working from home also turned out to have positive aspects. For example, the working days could be organized more efficiently, meetings are more focused, there is more opportunity to work concentrated (if children are not to be kept busy at the same time) and there is no loss of time for commuting, which also benefits the environment. Labor productivity increased for many office workers. But how will that be when the offices (partially) reopen, will employees still go to the office because the travel allowance beckons? Will managers once again demand that they can keep an eye on their employees on a daily basis? That shouldn't be issues. Moreover, the traffic congestion would increase again, as will the burden on the environment, while an alternative is available. For the employer, besides the productivity gains, there are additional positive sides to promoting working from home due to reduced costs for office facilities and possibly less required office space. This may also have a positive effect on the availability of office buildings for conversion into living space. In short, the incentives that maintain undesirable aspects of the old situation must be eliminated. Encourage remote working to become the new standard where possible. Replace travel allowance (in part) by a good allowance for working from home!
  • Remote doctor consultations. A lot of experience has been gained with this in recent months. Both doctors and patients are enthusiastic and in many cases it is a great alternative to a physical consultation. It saves the patient a lot of time and travel costs. Above all, the patient considers it important that the consultation can take place in the safer home environment, possibly with their loved ones (also virtually) present. It is important that virtual consultations are reimbursed in the same way as physical consultations. Still, there are caregivers who continue to promote a physical consultation or refuse to offer a virtual consultation option to patients*. Such old habits must be thrown overboard! Administrators of healthcare institutions should aim to prevent unnecessary physical consultations and travel and to offer remote consultations if possible, of course without necessarily having an adverse (financial) effect on the care provider.

  • Digital infrastructure. Working from home and remote consultations, etc., have been picked up very quickly in the Netherlands and in many places without significant problems. The Netherlands has a good basic infrastructure, sufficient bandwidth and many companies and organizations already have experience with employees who work from home part of the time. We are ahead of many other countries on these issues and were therefore able to switch relatively quickly**. Many categories of employees are more productive in this new situation than in the office. But developments in other countries have also gone fast. We must continue to focus on the development of our secure and modern digital infrastructure, through policy and investment, both private and public.

  • Speed and simplicity. The government has set to work very energetically in some areas. For example, the introduction of the NOW scheme giving financial support to businesses, including the digital portal, was completed in a few weeks and the UWV has had relatively few problems. Again, learn from the experiences in recent months. The government was very clear and determined in tackling the crisis. Continue in the same way on topics that have been on the table for years: exchange of patient data, digital identities, limiting unnecessary travel and transport movements, etc. And think when developing IT systems: which functionalities are really necessary and which deliver much additional complexity and risk without significant benefits.

We call on directors, employees and politicians to apply these and the other positional lessons, promote them and bring them forward in consultation with the government and other parties.

By analogy with the mountaineer who has made a big sprint towards the peak to be climbed; you must regularly install an anchor at the level to which you have climbed, in order to prevent yourself from falling back several meters, far below the point of your previous anchor.

Obviously, we are happy to think along with you in the above direction.

CIO Platform Nederland
Arthur Govaert, president.

*  See among others Volkskrant of 29 June 2020,‘Recht op digitale zorg moet in de wet geregeld’ and Volkskrant of 8 June 2020, ‘Kan nu eindelijk die onnodige zorg het ziekenhuis uit?

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