Data Skills Landscape: a Dutch Case

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The interest in and the need for data skills training among non-data savvy folks have been gaining their momentum for the last couple of years. The Netherlands, being the fastest growing data hub in Europe, have made a tremendous leap in breeding credentialed data scientists at their universities, and are now striding to equip in-service specialists from both public and private sectors with relevant data skills.  Here is an overview of the Dutch institutions that are tirelessly working on creating and actively sharing knowledge in data science.

Contextual reality

The Netherlands was the second country in the world to connect to the Internet in 1989. Since then, the country has been maintaining top positions in digital infrastructure quite consistently. To uphold country’s frontrunner reputation in the digital world, the Dutch government highlights the importance of data science and data skills development in their policies.

In the recent Dutch National Research Agenda, one of the explored routes ‘Responsible use of big data’ connects data specialists with a wide group of stakeholders, making it clear that the use of big data have to become a commonplace practice. The Agenda also emphasizes the importance of big data for every sector of the Dutch economy. Complementing the National Research Agenda, Strategic Agenda for Higher Education and Research 2015-2025 recognizes the importance of developing ‘information, media and technological skills’ among university students including  the competences related to working with big data.

Moreover, in the Human Capital Agenda ICT of 2015, the Dutch government stresses the importance of data literacy by encouraging students’ awareness and interest in big data and cloud/cyber security, together with creating more regional centers of expertise that would deal with data-related issues.

Alongside with the Dutch government, the Coalition for Digital Skills and Jobs in the Netherlands is working on ensuring that all citizens have access to digital literacy initiatives. The coalition sees the inclusion of digital skills into education curricula as a base element of a digitally literate society. So far, there are a few initiatives, such as CodePact, Geef IT Door, and Dutch Digital Delta launched in partnership with the Dutch Coalition, that are aiming to upskill students and other citizens’ in data science and ICT.

The more, the stronger

The Dutch data skills landscape is manifold. It includes national funding bodies and policy makers (e.g. Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research), as well as organizations with the responsibility for providing IT services to academia (e.g. SURF). In response to the ever growing amount of data, the landscape is getting enriched with data science research centers that develop state-of-art data applications (e.g. Netherlands eScience Center). Undoubtedly, universities and their joint initiatives are the primary providers of certified data specialists (e.g. Jheronimus Academy of Data Science). Yet, since the demand in data savvy professionals is getting stronger, the niche in training is being filled with other agencies that provide tailor-made educational services in data-related skills acquisition (e.g. Xomnia).

The institutions, presented in the table below, are, by and large, united under the umbrella of the same purpose – development of data science and proper utilization of data tools in the Netherlands. They provide a wide range of services, incl. training, research, networking, corporate solutions, and more. The institutions are either based in the Netherlands as a national agency (e.g. Centrum Wiskunde en Informatica), or a part of a wider international network (e.g. Growth Tribe). Some of them collaborate on the shared projects.

Though being a frontrunner in digital infrastructure and having designed impressive policy instruments as well as initiated a good diversity of science centers, the Netherlands still have a way ahead to develop data literacy skills among their citizens. To shorten the journey, the deficit in training has to be wiped out. For this purpose, the Data SET project is set to improve the knowledge and skills of entrepreneurship education providers, e.g. VET colleges, enterprise agencies, local authorities and universities, in understanding and delivering relevant data analytics skills to early-career entrepreneurs.