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Google: The Netherlands is in danger of falling behind in the artificial intelligence race

by News Room
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The research commissioned by Google contains ominous news for the Netherlands. A good AI starting position does not guarantee the future. The entire European Union is also at risk of not reaching its AI goals by 2030.

Google hired the Danish Implement Consulting Group for the study. In the analysis, the Netherlands is often compared to neighboring European countries, such as Belgium, Ireland and Scandinavian countries. This quickly shows that the Netherlands is in an excellent position to benefit from AI on many fronts. Martijn Bertisen, vice president of Google Netherlands, states that the Netherlands is in danger of missing the artificial intelligence boat. “There are too few artificial intelligence experts, we are starting to fall behind in research and we see limited support for artificial intelligence startups. The Netherlands must strive to create a labor market that can work with artificial intelligence as a matter of course. Google sees part of the solution in increasing cooperation between the public and private sectors to invest in skills and retraining.

In any case, the Netherlands is “ready” for AI, according to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). This measures both the scope and intensity of AI development. The quality of the existing digital infrastructure and the economic strength of the country in question are also taken into account. The Netherlands is after Finland and Denmark, and Belgium is sixteenth.

80-85 billion in sight

This adoption of AI is multifaceted, as the researchers point out. Generative AI, the technology behind everything from chatbots to image generators, is just one manifestation of AI. Deep learning, which allows computers to acquire information roughly like humans, will also be emphasized in the future. Additionally, machine learning is an AI force that has been making a big impact for quite some time. Algorithms that recognize patterns in data are already being used significantly in companies, for example by identifying cyber threats at an early stage and detecting fraud.

After all, artificial intelligence could generate 80-85 billion euros for the Netherlands. This means nine percent GDP growth over the next ten years. In Belgium, the profit target is 45-50 billion euros, but it also leads to a 9 percent GDP growth. If the Netherlands or Belgium wait five years before widespread adoption of GenAI, growth in both cases will drop to 2 percent over the next ten years.

This financial success would be achieved thanks to AI through increased productivity, time savings achieved through automation, and the ability to focus on other value-producing activities. We wonder if these three things can’t be simply summed up in one point: AI saves time that can be spent elsewhere. Either way, Implement expects productivity growth to have by far the biggest positive financial impact.

This is especially true for GenAI, which can produce content that would otherwise require a human to type and ingest data faster than humans. Implementation researcher Martin Thelle emphasizes that this is of great importance to the Netherlands. “Generative AI can increase productivity, which in the Netherlands has been significantly below the OECD average for the past ten years.”

The potential exceeds expectations

So AI has a lot of success in the Netherlands. Only a quarter of all current jobs are free from the effects of artificial intelligence. Two-thirds of all employees will eventually work in generative AI. In theory, the labor market should not experience landslides. Artificial intelligence may make “only” 7 percent of current jobs redundant. This applies to both the Netherlands and Belgium. The researchers add a positive note: artificial intelligence will also lead to completely new jobs. This will offset the job losses and should not cause any net economic problems.

Holland should have enough talent. Our country is ranked 8th globally, while R&D is also strong (10th and 13th globally). However, specialized AI solutions need more public-private partnerships to create a full-scale ecosystem of promising start-ups.

The fact that the Netherlands is in danger of missing out is not due to a lack of talent. Rather, there is a lack of understanding of how the introduction of AI could be positive. Only 35 percent of Dutch companies are expected to automate AI tasks in the next five years. In Belgium (46 percent), Denmark (58 percent) and Luxembourg (59 percent), people are much more enthusiastic about adopting the technology.

It resembles the previous results of the Salesforce study, which already contrasted the Netherlands sharply with other countries. Dutch IT managers are “still quite skeptical” about successful AI implementations, it became clear in January. How seriously we should take the sounding of alarm bells depends on interpretation. Is the rapid introduction of artificial intelligence now necessary or does the technology need to be further developed? After all, the complexity of digital systems is already a big problem. The widespread adoption of artificial intelligence can only make the situation worse.

More investments are needed, but there is no need to catch up yet

The Dutch business community should be a little less skeptical than it is now, the study suggests. Techleap, an interest group for home-grown start-ups and growth companies, also believes that the impact of artificial intelligence should not be underestimated. Special Envoy Constantijn van Oranje specifically mentions GenAI: “Generative AI is as transformative as the Internet was 20 years ago. We see its impact in all sectors of the economy and in all parts of society. We cannot afford not to fully invest in the development and application of this technology in order to benefit from it , but also to provide guidance and control over how artificial intelligence develops.

At the European level, an AI law should at least be a start to this, with clear rules for AI builders on their own continent and beyond. However, more than regulations are needed, and there is already coordinated action in the Netherlands. For example, GPT-NL is a project to build a fully Dutch language model, a “safe domestic alternative” to OpenAI or Google’s LLMs, for example.

Read also: Artificial intelligence law: Europe is blind to the law’s innovation problems

Challenges in different fields

When we look specifically at the role of artificial intelligence in our society, the results are multifaceted. For example, technology can play an important role in healthcare. In the Netherlands, researchers see implementation possibilities in this entire field. The strong aging of the population is highlighted: a third of general practitioners are expected to retire in the next 4–5 years. This requires greater productivity from the remaining doctors, in which AI must play a crucial role. This is currently being tried by sorting the patients who call according to the severity of their ailments, but this is still very much in the early stages.

Tip: General practitioners use artificial intelligence to reduce workload

Meanwhile, Belgium’s figures show different usage. Aging also plays a role, but this affects patients more than healthcare workers. The overwhelming majority in Belgium anticipates the growing role of artificial intelligence in healthcare. With only 41 percent of the Netherlands supporting AI tools for monitoring medical data (51 percent in Belgium), a larger cultural shift is needed to gain support for AI in this sector. It is a specific example of a broader AI problem: what do Dutch organizations need to be convinced about the technology? According to this study, if people procrastinate too much, our economy will lose tens of billions anyway.

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