Digital Delta

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The Netherlands has immense experience in managing water yet the cost, including anticipating flooding, droughts, quality issues and shipping, add up to €7 billion a year. These costs are expected to increase by at least €1 billion by 2020 due to more frequent more extreme weather and increased use of the water systems because of urbanization and economic growth. Many other cities and countries in the world are facing similar challenges. All this happens at a time when many parts of the world including the Netherlands find itself in economically challenging conditions. While large amounts of data are generated and collected, relevant data can be difficult to find and access, data quality can be uncertain and spread cross many different organizations. Secondly a substantial amount of time can be spend on setting up the required information technology environment. This creates barriers for scientists and industry who stated in a comprehensive study they can spend up to 30-50% of the budgets they get from the government on these projects. As a result it can take them at least 2 years to develop new science and solutions before they becomes mature enough to be applied in more operational settings. Various small medium enterprises stated in a feasibility study that these obstacles can prevent them from engaging in innovation projects that might benefit the government. Also the water system with all its pumps, treatment stations and sluices has to deal with the typical Internet of Things issues like cyber security of the operational systems. Being able to enforce government IT security policies even when many projects are subcontracted to third parties is becoming more and more critical these days. Finally, good progress has been made in the domain of Open Data. Over 5000+ sources from the Dutch government are available today and can be found through a central registry but these sources are not easily accessible or machine readable placing them still out of reach for many. The solution to all these challenges can only come from increased and innovative collaboration between the public sector, industry and academia.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In 2010 the ministry for infrastructure & environment challenged the university of Delft and IBM to come up with an approach how open data and information technology and public private collaboration could provide an answer to the increasing water challenges the Netherlands and other deltas in the world are faced with while taking into account the economic situation in the world. That resulted in a jointly funded feasibility study in 2011 where more than 60 organizations were interviewed and workshops facilitated. Participants were asked if they had ideas (use cases) how to deal with the increased government water challenges, if they thought there was an international market for it and if so what was keeping them from developing these new solutions and science. As part of the study other international initiatives in different industries were explored to gain insights from. Organizations that participated in the study and workshops were small medium enterprises, multinationals, scientists and students from various universities, government agencies, local water authorities and water utilities, investors and a start-up incubator. An initial 23 potential use cases were identified improving an element from the Dutch water system with an innovative solution and the potential to have an economic impact as well. In 2011 and 2012 five Founding Fathers - Rijkswaterstaat (ministry), Regional Water Authority Delfland, Deltares Science Institute, the University of Delft and IBM - invested substantial amounts of resources to mature the initiative and design a collaborative program that would address the obstacles that that prevent third parties to be more effective in delivering their innovative water science and solutions to the government. The Digital Delta initiative will provide scientists, students, startups and industry with a common open, scalable and secure platform to get access to or share data, tools, models and applications freeing up time and resources to focus on solving the water challenges. The 5 Founding Fathers focus on opening up data and tools from various water management projects. How to easily integrate sensor networks, optimization of the decision support systems for the national and regional level regulated water system, make Next Generation Hydro Software and the impact of extreme weather modelling available on a global scale within hours and a High Tech Starter and Small Medium Business Innovation testground in the Delfland region that includes cities like Rotterdam and Den Haag enabling them to demonstrate their new solutions. Early results indicate the potential to reduce the costs of managing water by up to 15%. Benefits will range from lower energy costs by optimization of pumping, lower maintenance costs, more focused investments on the parts of the system that need it most, improved citizen service, more adequate and proactive response to extreme events like floods or droughts and finally but not least provide a breeding ground for innovation and job creation.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
With technology progressing faster and faster these days and the way it transforms processes it is difficult to keep up and understand what the technology can deliver and what not. Regulation often defines in detail how water processes need to be managed limiting freedom of applying new approaches. The public partners have provided the boundary conditions (more effective, efficient solutions and enable faster response at lower cost) without specifying the how and thereby stimulating the creativity of the private sector and academia. Secondly the initiative focuses on how to enable more entrepreneurs, businesses, students and scientists to deliver solutions to the government compared to selecting a single vendor with the best solution. The initiative is not so much focused on the specific end solutions but on the enabling mechanism that should lead to many more (not providing 'the fish' but focused on the design of the 'fishing rod'). Thirdly the multidisciplinary approach. The stakeholders understand that the real benefits might be in adjacent domains of water. E.g. still discharge water but while reducing the energy use, or enabling fire brigade and traffic management departments in cities for a pro-active response to potential flash flooding of tunnels and basements.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Disclaimer: not sure if a plan document needs to be uploaded as well. It's in Dutch and available but below is the summary of that document. 2010 Initial Brainstorming on government water challenges * Develop early thinking between the government, science institutes and industry on how the water challenges in deltas and cities is developing, the main external causes for that and global trends in information technology and how those were impacting governments. Programs used for this were the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the workshops organized by the Netherlands Water Partnership organization. 2011 Broad feasibility study within the sector and international exploration * Setup of a jointly funded feasibility study between the ministry, university of Delft and IBM to explore obstacles in the sector for innovating the way water is managed by the government and identifying potential innovative solutions to be realized in a proof of concept program. * Exploration of international best practices and lessons learned in other industries * Draft definition of a potential solution (the Digital Delta program) and onboarding of additional founding fathers for the joint concept * Submission of a draft business case for the program to the new Top Sector Water program from the Ministry of Economic Affairs which is focused on progressing innovative programs that benefit the government and competitive position of the Netherlands. 2012 Research/PoC program and business case definition & Letter of Intent (formal start of initiative) * Adoptation by the Rijkswaterstaat organization (the operational department of the ministry of infrastructure and environment) to lead and coordinate the program. * Identification of 5 Founding Father organizations willing to invest in the program and Declaration of Intent . * Detailed program definition with goals, intended deliverables, research questions, use cases to be realized, required resources, contribution of all founding fathers et cetera. * Validation of program at national and international events and workshops. * Research Partnership Agreement definition and external tender regulation check. * Kick off of 'quarter master phase' while awaiting cross departmental review process. 2013 Cross ministry review process and start of proof of concept * Review process from cross ministries team to validate program setup, governance and control * Start of program * Focus on realizing 6 use cases, 1 for each Founding Father and 2 for the ministry. Solving obstacles identified by feasibility study, enabling partners to get broader access to relevant government and each others data, make reuse of IT services and technology so they can focus on developing new science and solutions for managing water in innovative ways. * Setup of sounding board where more stakeholders can participate, get updated on the program, share progress and lessons learned and contribute their insights. * Presentation at key (inter)national events. * Setup of a series of international round tables to invite similar leading initiatives/peers to learn from each other and explore international collaboration between similar initiatives. 2014 Finalize start-up and design phase and decide how to progress and scale up * Continue program, round tables, sounding board sessions * June/July close of start-up phase * Deliver and broadly communicate lessons learned, (inter)national feedback, substantiated economic potential case * Present at (inter)national events * Define and initiate follow-on phase

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
This initiative started with the Director General of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Annemieke Nijhof in 2010 and was picked up by the DG of the operational department of Rijskwaterstaat Jan Hendrik Dronkers who asked his Corporate Innovation Director Ben Spiering to take the lead in exploring the business case. Ben Spiering worked closely with the person responsible for the management of water Roeland Allewijn. The program definition and management was eventually led by Raymond Feron, the program director. The 2 persons who were leading from the regional Water Authority point of view were the President Michiel van Haersma Buma and the Strategy Advisor Joost de Haan. The main persons who explored and designed this initiative from the University of Delft were professor Nick van de Giesen and the Director for Valorization Paul Althuis. From the science institute Deltares Director Inland Water Systems Ron Thiemann and department lead numerical software Arthur Baart contributed to the design of the program. From IBM the collaboration and design was led by Djeevan Schiferli responsible for the market development of water, Bram Havers the IT architect and Roeland Nagel, technology consultant for water all under the super vision of the Global Water executive Michael Sullivan and the IBM Europe chairman Harry van Dorenmalen.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The 5 founding fathers lined up their finances and investments totaling 5.5M euros for the 12 month proof of concept phase. The preparation for the proof of concept phase has cost a substantial but undefined number of headcount hours from the founding father organizations as well as from the other initial founding fathers who contributed to the initial exploration of the concept but who did not participate in the current realization (water utility Vitens, Wageningen University and the Waterschapshuis, the shared IT services organization of the local water authorities). The feasibility study costs of 2011 are estimated at over 100.000 euros spread evenly between the ministry and the university of Delft and IBM. On top of that over 60 organizations participated with their best qualified resources in multiple interviews and workshops. In 2012 the focus moved to the definition of the business case and selecting those partners willing to co-invest in the future. Over 250.000 euro of government funding was made available and added to that multiple resources from the founding fathers from water and IT subject matter experts, legal departments, communications and other supporting functions. In 2013 cross departmental government team was asked to review the program who engaged in over 20 interviews with the founding partner organizations. After the start of the proof of concept phase a substantial amount of effort and costs has gone into answering the many interview requests from the press, creation of video promotion material and web site.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
While the realization is ongoing the results are confirming the potential for the trans-formative nature of the approach. In the summer the university of Delft organized a design competition in Africa for developing low cost yet robust sensors that would make up a meteorological platform that could be rolled out in large quantities (20.000) to provide a low cost weather monitoring service to the Africa continent. The technology hurdle to be solved was how to onboard sensors quickly so water and weather scientists could focus on their core expertise and not having to spend time and resources to the IT. The Plug & Play sensors technology was developed on the Digital Delta IT platform reducing the time spend on similar research projects up to 60% according to the university. University scientists and students are now able to plug in their sensors within minutes and share their data with everybody facilitating new science and solution development in the Netherlands. Reference: and New sensor technologies are quickly overtaking the market, with traditional solutions being expensive and requiring fixed power lines and physical buildings. With over 2 million datasets per day the current monitoring network from the government might well be replaced in the future with these new promising technologies, easy onboarding will be a prerequisite which is now proven. In a 2nd use case the Digital Delta solved the obstacle of findability of data. 'Just' realizing yet another central data store for open data will not solve the fact that any interested person would first need to know where to look. Typical data sources are traditionally not indexed by Google or yahoo. In the Digital Delta this is solved, anybody can now use Google to find for instance coastal height data for the Netherlands, the very first hit in Google will point you to the Digital Delta who in turn will forward you to where the data is actually stored (the government). Through the solution used science institute Deltares could substantially reduce the time to connect new data sources in other countries enabling them to provide for instance flood warning services anywhere in the world. ref: Ongoing use cases show that development time for new science and solutions can be reduced by 75% and government cost savings for managing the water system by 15%.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
First of all the quest has been to engage with potential providers of new water science and solutions and make them focus on end user and business process impact compared to a more traditional technology exploration/validation and proof of concept. The selected use cases all address a specific element of the water management processes but all have in common that they do that by leveraging existing and new data within the participating organizations. A use case is successful if: 1. it proofs the potential for cost savings and/or lead to faster response times and/or better decision making 2. enables reuse for follow-on use cases of data, tools, algorithms, models, or IT functionality (develop once, reuse many) To ensure broader validation of the approach and solution beyond the 5 founding fathers a sounding board has been set up where representatives from academia, small and medium enterprises, multinationals, ministries and other other water managing authorities will hear about the lessons learned and review the progress and chosen direction. Their feedback will be used in the follow-on phase to ensure the best alternatives have been heard and selected for public use. An international sounding board and round tables are being set up for 2014 to ensure even broader validation and learn from similar initiatives in other industries and parts of the world. Another aspect of success is being derived from the input use cases have on the outcome of the study on viability and on the requirements/specifications for full scale implementation, the specs. The research questions that have been addressed in the proof of concept phase are actively communicated with the entire water sector in the Netherlands. Different architectures and incremental development paths that are being investigated are presented on delta/water conferences. Results of the proof of concept phase, including the Use Cases are being fed into the roadmap Digital Delta. This roadmap is primarily focused on vertical and horizontal collaboration Vertical collaboration between local, regional, national and international parties and horizontal collaboration between public, private and science partners, also connecting the water sector with other sectors like energy, integrated city operations, mobility, telecom, security etc. These presentations and workshops are used to enrich the solutions for implementation with user-driven feedback and ensure external monitoring of the activities the chosen directions in the implementation phase.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
In more traditional research projects the government subsidizes but does not participate or a very detailed tender is put on the market leaving no space for innovation. In the Digital delta the government leads the initiative and focuses on facilitation and setting the desired outcomes but without defining the detailed solution leaving space for innovative approaches but also providing the partners with transparency on what to accomplish. A second obstacle was ensuring a level playing field, crucial for public-private engagements. This was solved by awarding a research assignment combined with asking the partners to co-invest in the program which is different than the traditional model of subsidizing. This also addressed the obstacle that many want to participate if there is government money available but few are prepared to co-invest and if they are also required to make all knowledge gained in the program publicly available afterwards, a requirement to ensure the level playing field. Substantial benefits can be gained in adjacent domains to water. E.g. cost reduction in maintenance of equipments, prolonged life times of infrastructures, energy optimization of pumps, lower chemical use in treatment and so on. To capitalize on these benefits multidisciplinary skills are required, not only between knowledge domains but also the collaboration between various departments like innovation, water management and the CIO and CFO. This has proven a challenge that can only be solved by ensuring endorsement by the executives in all partner organizations.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The key benefits from this initiative can be summarized from different perspectives. NL-watersector perspective The Digital Delta solution will in the end provide unlimited access to existing and newly generated data, it will open-up unexplored exchange possibilities between databases, applications, models and knowledge based systems, it will softly “force” interoperability between organisations and commercial of the shelf software solutions, it will provide the water sector with a scalable middle ware platform that ensures vertical integration between local, regional, national and international parties. Finally, once the data and information circle starts to spin faster and faster, it will provide: • Public parties with better decisions and cost reduction though re-use of data and ICT-tools • Private parties with new unexplored business opportunities including a faster time to market • Science parties with a more effective science projects Technology perspective The Digital Delta platform will provide a “bridging” solution between government and newly developed businesses in the water sector. The traditional governmental tasks for providing water safety, risk assessment and public infrastructure are depending strongly on information driven processes. As a result, public services are providing relevant and reliable information about the water issues to the public (including private parties). Private parties like to incorporate all the available data, models and knowledge from governmental organisations in existing business solutions and their new business developments Worldwide, new solutions e.g. apps-to-apps, business-to-business, cloud based services are developing rapidly. Public parties like to incorporate these new possibilities in their more traditional ICT infrastructure and regular processes. The Digital Delta platform is providing an open and standardized “bridge” between government and business development in the private sector. User/Society perspective The new technology provides countless new possibilities for citizens. With the Digital Delta platform we provide the necessary interoperability between already available data sources (open data) and all the thinkable new data sources, including social media. Citizens expect an open and transparent government that provide relevant and reliable information on a 7/24 basis. On the other side, these new technology provides government with a strong communication and citizen participation instrument. These new solutions can be used to incorporate citizen initiatives with governmental policies and decisions. Is can also be used to influence citizen-behaviour in an open and transparent manner. Impact KPI The impact is being measured by the number of participating organisations. The past year has shown a consistent growth in participating organisations in all three fields (government, private, science). Another KPI is on measuring the time gained on science and development projects by partners and the potential for cost savings if deployed broader within the government and local water authorities.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The initiative is being sustained through a vertical and horizontal integration approach. Horizontal approach consists of a growing number of participating organisations. Developing a user and stakeholder network that becomes stronger and has a strong penetration level througout the entire water sector in the Netherlands The vertical approach consist of making use of existing projects and programs. The ability to act quickly and develop functionality that really meets user requirements is a crucial success factor in the Digital Delta program. The initiative is designed as a generic and fully scalable solution for the water sector. This makes the solution 100% transferable to other disciplines. The bridging function of the digital delta between new businesses and government is a generic solution that can solve similar problems in other disciplines, regions, countries etc. When viability is established, the project result will be used on full scale implementation. The research program will show in what way the initiative will be sustained. In order to sustain this, all involved parties are actively participating in a scenario study on possible organisation forms, Financial, social and economic as well as institutional and regulatory aspects are integrated in this study as well. Through the center for public innovation partners are exploring 4 potential scenarios for the fully operational phase.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Although the Digital Delta program is in the developing phase (and will keep on developing for the coming years) we can share the following lessons learned. Breakthrough initiatives in public private partnerships need strong vision, leadership and endurance. The vision binds all the partners together and gives strong defence to skeptic parties. Strong leadership is necessary because it takes risks to start a partnership without having defined the solution. Endurance is necessary to keep on track, monitor progress and constantly evaluate the program from a user/citizen perspective. Strong top down leadership is also required when the benefits of such a breakthrough program might fall in one part of the organization whereas the costs in another. Without top down endorsement this would never lead to success and end up in siloed optimization, which was exactly the main obstacles to address here. The whole organization might benefit but internal boundaries prevent easy adoptation bottom up. The Digital Delta is NOT an ICT driven program but a (business) USER driven program, although it works with top-ICT IBM-experts supplemented with state of the art ICT development technology. Constantly force the focus on ICT and end-solutions to the background. Another lesson learnt is to perform a proper pre-selection in Use Cases. Select cases from existing projects that are embedded in larger scale programs with provided funding. This ensures a quick decision and implementation once the Use Case has proven successful. Real innovation is dependent on common goals and the personal and political leadership of public and private officials, regardless of their position. Its takes time to Public Private Partnership, this can not be rushed since parties have to evolve a basic form of transparence and trust in their relationship. It takes time to overcome cultural and language barriers between all participating parties in order to gain an common sense of urgency and a state common goal, felt to be feasible.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Rijkswaterstaat
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Raymond Feron
Title:   Program Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +31651450634
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   PO Box 20901
Postal Code:   2500 EX
City:   The Hague
State/Province:   ZH

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