Oldambt bridges the digital gap

Oldambt developed an integral digitalisation policy, using digitalisation to bridge existing gaps and address pressing social and economic challenges. Empowered by the COM³ support model Oldambt works closely with local and regional businesses and engages in a dialogue on their potential and how targeted support can help them.



Digitalisation is disruptive, which offers changes, but also poses challenges. This is all the more true for a region with low employment, a high dependency on social services, and even relatively low literacy levels. As the government closest to its citizens, the municipality plays a big role in addressing these challenges.

Digitalisation threatens the already fragile employment, it changes social services and access to these services, and finally: low literacy makes it even more difficult to develop the digital skills necessary to participate in society and in the workplace. Meanwhile, digitalisation can create new employment and offer new perspectives (and access) to social services.


Problem solving process

Based on the CORA model integrating digital services, digital skills, and digital infrastructure Oldambt worked on an integrated digitalisation policy. The goal is that the municipality’s different efforts in digitalisation support each other and strengthen the overall impact.

Based on the CORA model Oldambt interviewed internal and external stakeholders to develop the outline of its digital agenda. Meanwhile, based on the COM³ support model, Oldambt engaged neighbouring municipalities for a specific digitalisation policy for entrepreneurs.

In both the digital agenda and in the program for digitalisation of SMEs Oldambt builds on existing transnational, national, and regional networks. Oldambt adapts and improves its own (digital) services, uses digital instruments for citizen participation, and finally increasingly works with data-driven policies.


With the multiple challenges it faces, the municipality chooses where possible to learn from best practices from elsewhere and implement them in Oldambt.

For the program digitalisation of SMEs Oldambt established a collaboration with neighbouring municipalities, while also using implementing tools developed by COM³ partners such as the Province of Drenthe and the University of Groningen. Here the COM³ collaboration inspired the data collection, the (digital) outreach to entrepreneurs, and a full-scale digital support and training proposition.

For digital citizen participation Oldambt implemented the Consul platform developed by the city of Madrid. The platform is an open-source software; however, it needs to be implemented and adjusted to local needs. Oldambt sought and found collaboration with the city of Groningen and other regional municipalities, for this local and regional implementation. Now the Consul Software platform has been successfully used for different citizen participation projects, gathering input for decisions on the redevelopment of regional highways and the ambitions for the inner-city of Winschoten (the main town of Oldambt).

For data-driven policy, Oldambt works with seven municipalities on the other side of the country, around Dordrecht and Alblasserdam. Together with these municipalities, Oldambt works on a dashboard for social services and welfare. The dashboard will provide insights into the use of different social services and, the access of citizens to these services. The dashboard will support Oldambt to make these social services and welfare more effective and will hopefully help Oldambt in supporting citizens towards independence from these services.

Oldambt & Oost-Groningen full-scale digital support & training solution
The programme digitalisation of SMEs offers digital support and training based on the needs and challenges of these SMEs. For this, the program and SMEs start with a short intake to define the needs and challenges.
The existing support and training offers of the programme are:

  • 5G Proeftuin 5Groningen (5G pilot Groningen) offering advice on the implementation of the next generation mobile internet, including sensor technology, VR, AR www.5groningen.nl

  • Stichting Cyber Security Centrum Noord-Nederland (Cybersecurity Foundation Northern Netherlands) offers a scan ‘secure digital business’, specific training modules, research, and relevant networking possibilities www.mkbcybercampus.nl

  • Smart Industry Hub Noord Nederland (Smart Industry Hub Northern Netherlands) offers knowledge and networks in Smart Industrial solutions www.SIH-noord.nl .

  • Hanzehogeschool Digital Society Hub offers masterclasses, students, networks and workspaces for digital transformation. www.digitalsocietyhub.nl

  • Groningen Digital Business Centre offers support in digital entrepreneurship and (using) data science. rug.nl/gdbc/

  • Wireless Data Lab offers advice on the development and use of wireless systems including EMC aspects astron.nl/wireless-data-lab 

  • Werkplaats voor digitaal vakmanschap offers help by students IT and software development, including interns. kasteelgro.nl

  • Werkplaats Online Ondernemen (Studio Online Entrepreneurship) offers help with the development or improvement of websites, SEO, social media strategies, and overall marketing strategy development www.woogroningen.nl

Together with these organisations, the programme digitalisation of SMEs now collects examples of how this support helped SMEs to grow and transform their business.


Expected results and outcomes

With the program digitalisation of SMEs Oldambt hopes to support entrepreneurs with their digitalisation, thus enabling growth and increased employment.

With the digital participation tools Oldambt hopes to involve more citizens in the decision-making processes and thus in their community. The digital tools can help involve groups who hitherto did not join in participation projects. Finally, through the digital participation tools citizens can experience how digitalisation can also work for them.

With data-driven policy, Oldambt hopes to increase the impact and effect of municipal policies and services, while also supporting the continued development (and digital skills) of municipal employees.


Lessons Learned

Based on the current examples Oldambt aims to continue and expand its positive digitalisation. For the municipal organisation, this should support a learning climate. For the whole municipality, its citizens, and its businesses it should open up new perspectives for development and growth.