Over the past two years, the tech sector has been booming in the Netherlands. As we switched to working from home and our need of (or desire for) online shopping, gaming, grocery delivery and streaming services grew – so did margins and profits for tech companies. Local tech heroes such as Booking.com, Adyen, Mollie, ASML and Just Eat Takeaway have been thriving and driving the reputation of tech locally. Hiring has been going through the roof, making it one of the drivers of Dutch economy. Amsterdam has secured its position as one of Europe’s fastest growing start-up hubs and Rotterdam and Utrecht have made their mark as vibrant startup centers that should not be overlooked.
But after years of seemingly unlimited growth, the tide is now turning. Our 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust in Technology demonstrates that although tech is still the most trusted sector in business - with 76% trust, technology scores highest of all sectors, having risen 4 points between January and October 2022 - cracks are starting to show as geopolitical turmoil, inflation and economic crisis are looming, and the sector’s executive leaders appear to be very much disconnected from the public.
Trust in tech is increasingly under pressure, and global headwinds have now also reached the Netherlands. Months after the storm first hit the US, we are also starting to feel the impact here – starting with layoffs at local Big Tech and homegrown tech players such as Sendcloud and MessageBird. Based on three global developments, let me explain what we can expect for the Netherlands in 2023, and how the sector can power through.
A wider concept of technology drives trust down
Our report clearly shows that a more expansive view of technology drives trust in the sector down. 91% of our respondents include social media and/or digital applications when asked how they would define tech companies. And as soon as that happens, they are roughly 4% less likely to trust the tech sector. In developed markets, such as the Netherlands, the gap is even bigger: respondents in those markets who have a wider concept of tech are nearly 10% less likely to trust the sector.
Concerns over foreign governments limit trust in foreign tech
This goes hand in hand with another important development: concerns over foreign governments limit trust in foreign tech. Geopolitics is a major consideration in whether people trust tech companies or not. When asked why our respondents distrust foreign-headquartered tech companies, people most commonly cited ‘distrust in the local governments’ and ‘data protection laws’. Earlier this month, Dutch tech entrepreneur and journalist Alexander Klöpping called out for a ban on TikTok on daily talkshow Jinek, sparking a broader news cycle on political influence and data privacy issues in tech. Most recently, political party ChristenUnie tapped into this discussion, not only pleading for a total ban on TikTok but also for a critical stance when it comes to social media platforms in general.
Neither government nor tech platforms are trusted as watchdogs
Among these fears, neither government nor tech platforms are trusted as watchdogs, which is our third takeaway relevant for the Dutch market. Fifty-six percent agree government regulators do not have adequate understanding of emerging technologies to effectively regulate them. Moreover, an average of 53% do not trust platforms to regulate their online content themselves. This is in line with a 2021 Dutch research which states that 79% of its respondents feels that the national government should take more active action to manage the impact of technology on the lives of the Dutch and 69% support a Ministry of Digital Affairs; a separate department that would coordinate and supervise digitization in Netherlands.
Power through in 2023
But it is not all doom and gloom on the horizon, as there is room for tech to improve its reputation. And a lot of it comes down to the role tech leaders play.
Because even though there is a fear that technology like AI will replace human jobs - recent research by UWV shows 1 out of 10 employees in the Netherlands believes jobs will be lost - the majority of employees across all sectors believe that technology will positively transform our workplace. They also believe that tech innovation can be the solution to societal challenges, such as access to healthcare, economic competitiveness and the availability of good-paying jobs. The trust issue the tech sector is currently facing has nothing to do with its business or product performance – 58% of our global respondents think that tech is delivering on that. It’s on societal issues, data privacy and equality that the trust goes down – less than half of our respondents think tech scores well in these specific areas.
And this is where tech leaders can step in and step up. Simply put: they must think beyond performance and show they play fair – by contributing locally, paying good wages and retraining the workforce that is impacted by tech’s transformation of the labor market. Who other than tech leaders to share an honest vision for the future that includes everyone? Our research shows that to increase trust in new technologies, tech leaders need to be open and clear about both the good and the bad of these developments. And what better place to learn about this than at the workplace, where vision and action merge, taking the headwinds going into 2023 head on.
If you would like to read the full report, click here.