As a child, I was fascinated by technology and all its potential uses. This was greatly influenced by my father, who had spent nearly his entire life working in international roles at Shell, although he himself did not have a technical education. Therefore, the University of Delft was a natural choice for me. My desire to understand exactly how things work led me to the field of Physics. I completed my engineering studies with a focus on CAD (Computer Aided Design), creating a design in Assembler Language, which hinted at my later interest in IT.
Unsurprisingly, Shell became my first employer. It was a pure engineering company with international branches. However, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. At that stage in my life, I began to develop a greater interest in the societal aspects of technology and energy issues. The Club of Rome was a daily news topic during that period. Consequently, I shifted my career path towards the government, hoping to get involved in the societal aspects of energy supply.
I started working at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, where I became a policy officer involved in various initiatives, including the Broad Societal Debate on Nuclear Energy led by the former Minister de Brauw. It was a fascinating project: discussing with the entire country whether or not to adopt a highly complex new technology.
In the meantime, IT had grown into an increasingly significant topic, both in business and society. The first computers, including those from Apple, were making their way into the consumer market. It was evident that IT was beginning to play a more crucial role in society. This aligned well with my initial education, prompting me to transition from the energy sector to the IT and technology industry.
I began my new career as a consultant at Bull Nederland, and after a few years, I moved into various management roles at RAET. This experience gave me valuable insights into both the hardware and software realms. At RAET, I was involved in developing solutions for municipalities, provinces, and later, the healthcare sector. After RAET underwent a turbulent period and was subsequently divided, I found myself at a crossroads.
Still captivated by the intersection of technology and society, I found it both an honor and a pleasure to serve as the Director of the Millennium Platform. Under the inspiring leadership of Jan Timmer, the former CEO of Philips, we assembled a formidable team to protect the country from the Millennium Bug. This project bore resemblances to my earlier involvement in the Social Discussion on Nuclear Energy. It was fascinating to observe how different countries addressed this challenge. Initially, only a handful of nations, including the Netherlands, the US, and the UK, heeded the warnings from experts about potential disruptions. At a few international meetings, we decided to initiate ‘awareness actions’ for other countries, and gradually, we began to see movements in Europe and at the European Commission. In the Netherlands, skeptics and believers clashed, circulating the most outlandish stories. This prompted the Millennium Platform to conduct its own research and present the actual situation. In the end, things turned out well, partly due to several crucial actions we undertook. And it’s worth pondering: what if we had done nothing? We chose not to take that risk, and I believe it was the right decision.
Following this unique project, I embraced the role of Chief Information Officer, which seemed tailor-made for me. With a broad background in IT, extensive experience in both business and government, and a knack for strategic operations, I first joined Hagemeijer and later Océ in Venlo as the CIO (Chief Information Officer) and Senior Vice President. I immensely enjoyed these roles, which perfectly matched my interests: leveraging technology intelligently to enhance an organization.
Since the role of CIO was relatively new at the time, there was no professional association for CIOs. However, we often encountered each other, especially at events organized by IT suppliers. It became apparent that it was both necessary and timely for CIOs to have their own association. Consequently, the CIO-Platform Nederland (www.cio-platform.nl) was founded, and I had the honor of serving as its first chairman for five years, up until my formal retirement
Through the CIO Platform, I was also a board member of the European association of CIOs. Initially, this was a rather informal organisation, primarily focused on discussing common IT issues and establishing a connection with the European Commission in the realm of IT legislation and policy. However, as IT gained greater societal significance, there was a push, both internally and from the European Commission, to evolve this informal association into a formal European organisation. Having just retired from Océ, I was the ideal candidate to become the first Secretary General of the now formalised European CIO Association (www.eurocio.org), a role I maintained until the end of 2015.
Throughout my many years in IT policy roles and collaborating with think tanks, we’ve delved into numerous aspects of the social impact of IT and increasing digitalisation, including its positive and potentially negative effects. We’ve examined its influence on organisational structures and individuals alike, as well as the necessary IT policies to guide digitalisation in a beneficial direction. Invited by various outlets, including CIO Magazine (www.ict-media.nl/media/cio-magazine), to write columns on these subjects, I eagerly accepted.
Now, with even more time to reflect on the profound impact of IT and digitalisation on society and individuals, I’ve decided to write books and columns about this significant influence. Surprisingly, there’s a dearth of literature on this specific topic. Indeed, there are numerous books on new technology and the disruptions caused by digitalisation in organisations. Science fiction is replete with speculations about IT’s future capabilities. However, there’s a noticeable gap in literature addressing the social and economic implications of digitalisation, its deep-seated effect on human thought and behaviour, and how humanity should adapt in an increasingly digital world. The digital society is markedly different from the traditional industrial society, and if these new digital worlds do not develop their own governance structures, I fear significant social risks. My books and columns are contributions to these discussions. In the future, I plan to regularly write blogs and books on the myriad ways digitalisation is affecting our society. I encourage everyone to join this dialogue and share their ideas on the matter