This week, everyday life came to a standstill when acts of terrorism struck the political heart of Europe. Our thoughts are first of all with the victims and their relatives and friends. Within seconds of the attack shocking images of the blasts and of the people who were at the scenes reached everyone. Shortly after the attacks had taken place, the city was filled with the sounds of sirens and helicopters, with every road in the center being blocked.
After having lived and been active in Brussels for years myself, knowing so many wonderful people and beautiful places, you realize how in a short period of time our normal feeling of freedom and safety is being challenged dramatically. Not only in Brussels, but in Paris as well. It is like becoming aware of your own health; when something doesn’t work in the same way you are familiar with, you begin to realize how very special “normal” actually is. Only a few days later, Brussels showed its true character and resilience: courageous people not giving in to the aggression of individuals by immediately proceeding with daily life and taking back the space that belongs to them. Just like the tube driver of the Maalbeek attack who started to work the next day. He later declared he wasn’t injured, so that there was no reason for him to stay home. Or think of the observant taxi driver who notified the police of the suspicious behavior of the terrorist he had transported and in this way probably prevented worse things from happening. Or the inhabitants of Brussels from all backgrounds and religions who gathered at the square in front of the Brussels’ Exchange, to share grief, but also to join forces against terror. Maintaining freedom takes courage.
In the end we all want to build a better future, especially for our children. On Thursday Neelie had invited the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp and the State Secretary of Education Sander Dekker to a secondary school Veurs Lyceum Leidschendam to experience how coding was already a voluntary part of education. It was a great event which generated a lot of enthusiasm both from teachers and pupils as well as from the members of the Cabinet. We had invited Rick Broers and Thomas Smagge to make a vlog about this to capture the moment. Make sure to check out Rick’s vlog. It was just fascinating to see how digitization had entered the classroom, which in a way -let’s be honest- sounds quite old fashioned. The majority of kids is already fully digital. Their lives evolve around mobile phones, apps and games. It should be about time that computational skills, including coding, are a part of the curriculum.
On the same day, the BBC announced that they are going to help kids to learn to code by providing one million Micro bit computers to school children across the UK. Last year, the BBC gave away free Raspberry Pi devices to schools. Not a bad idea, especially from the media industry point of view. Media is undergoing a complete transformation with interactive television, interactive learning, Netflix and many other developments on our doorstep. You want to have a generation which is ready for this and can use, shape and give direction to their own digital future. This is the topic educational organizations should be discussing, when talking about the curriculum and provide teachers with everything they need to make this work. It shouldn’t become an extra burden for them on top of their heavy workload. It should make life easier, more inspiring and fun for them. Our Codepact is a first step in this direction, but if you are really looking at the potential of the public-private cooperation to boost computational skills, including coding, you could develop a much more ambitious program for the next five years. Just have a quick look at what is happening in the UK already.
With the StartupDelta team we visited the Rotterdam Venture cafe in the wonderful Groot Handels Gebouw near Central Station, a buzzing and vibrant meeting place for startups, VC’s, corporates and artists, which is Run by our former team member Katja Berkhout. The place to be on a Thursday evening to meet the unexpected like Crownstone and the people who can feel the pulse of the Dutch startup ecosystem like Jonathan Marks, our English-Dutch Troubadour for the best Startup stories.
This week positive steps were also made in the field of innovative procurement, where Parliament adopted the proposal by MP Ziengs to make governmental procurement accessible to young innovative enterprises, inspired by Neelie’s letter to the MP’s. Next week will be a busy and eventful week with meetings with one of our members of the Circle of Influencers, Ron Mobed CEO RELX and the CEO of IBM the Netherlands Harry van Dorenmalen, the main sponsor of the StartupDelta web portal. On Tuesday we will be visiting to one of the best kept secrets of the Dutch Startup ecosystem: the city of Groningen to experience what they have accomplished in one year StartupDelta. And of course the big TEDX event on Thursday in The Hague. Lots and lots is happening in the Netherlands.
Enjoy your Easter holidays!
Neelie Kroes, Special Envoy for Startups
Sigrid Johannisse, Director StartupDelta