Netherlands Leads European Charge Into New Age of Blockchain

The Netherlands is rapidly becoming the European headquarters of blockchain technology, spurred on by a remarkably progressive government position and a group of entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Dutch Blockchain Coalition

A hitherto unknown organization called the Dutch Blockchain Coalition (DBC) is at the forefront of the blockchain charge in the Netherlands, playing a coordinating role with its roadmap. This roadmap is the template that Dutch authorities are using to revolutionize a number of public institutions and services.

DBC was founded in March 2017 as a public-private partnership between the Dutch government and business, to brainstorm, test and implement blockchain use cases in different aspects of Dutch public service. It currently has 35 members made up of five ministries, 15 private enterprises involved in insurance, finance, logistics and energy, and 15 research institutions.

Some of the participating members of the DBC are insurance giant ING, ANB AMRO bank, De Volksbank bank, energy company Alliander, Port of Rotterdam, Delft University of Technology and Tilburg University. These organizations are split into 20 working groups implementing 35 separate blockchain-based pilot projects with a total budget of one million Euros, 25% of which is funded by the government.

Speaking about the DBC’s operations, manager Frans van Ette said:

“We had 25 members last year. The size (of the coalition) will continue to expand to explore more diverse areas. Our economy is propelled by trade, logistics, finance and food businesses, in which mutual trust and cooperation of involved parties are crucial. We believe blockchain has the potential to make things better.”

Under the framework, public bodies such as the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, and the Ministry of Justice and Security have launched several pilot projects in partnership with research institutions and businesses to trial the blockchain’s effectiveness as a tool that builds transparency within public services and ultimately engenders trust between the government and citizens.

Some of these pilot projects include a hack-proof digital identity database, and a blockchain network for the reliable transaction of government subsidies, registration of real estate, and international movement of toxic waste. Effective 2019, a blockchain-based travel agreement between the Netherlands and Canada will see selected travelers from both countries travel seamlessly between Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, and people of each country will travel between Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and Toronto’s Pearson airport without passports.

Dutch Government’s Blockchain Push

The Netherlands has a long-standing reputation for being a hub of technological advancement, with a deeply liberal attitude toward innovation. Already, the city recognized at the world’s most bitcoin-friendly – Arnhem – is in the country, and was recently announced that Amsterdam is creating one of the world’s most extensive crypto ATM networks offering bitcoin and ethereum. Officials have identified one man as the catalyst behind the enhanced push toward blockchain technology adoption – Prince Constantijn van Oranje, the progressive younger brother of Dutch King Willem-Alexander.

Dutch government officials have named Prince Constantijn as a “vocal supporter” and a key proponent of blockchain implementations in public service delivery.

Speaking about the government’s plan for further blockchain development and implementation, Marloes Pomp, a program manager for blockchain projects within the Dutch government said:

“Blockchain is a brand new technology. We are carrying out various experiments to learn what it is and how to apply and to where. We started with small experiments. If they go well, we will apply it to bigger and more sensitive projects that can have a far-reaching impact here and around the world.”

Thus far, the Dutch government’s use of blockchain technology has emphasized projects that potentially improve trust, security, and transparency within public systems. Whether or not it will expand its purview in the future to include so-called “social crypto” projects which reward citizens financially or otherwise for socially beneficial behavior remains to be seen.

For now, as explained by Frans Rijkers, a strategic adviser at the Dutch Interior Ministry’s National Office for Identity Information, the focus remains squarely on trust-building solutions:

“If I can trust you, doing anything together is possible. Blockchain is a technology making it possible for people to trust those who otherwise are untrustworthy…There is still a long way to go for its use in the real economy. But it doesn’t mean it’s a mission impossible.”

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