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NLnet and Dutch Government Launch e-Commons Fund

Portrait of State Secretary Van Huffelen
State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen

NLnet Foundation and the Dutch Ministry of the Interior have established a new fund to finance contributions to the digital commons. The e-Commons Fund promotes the development of technologies for a fair digital society and will become operational on September 1, 2023. NLnet will manage the fund and the Ministry acts as initial investor with a contribution of €100,000.

Digital Commons

The digital commons are digital resources that are accessible to anyone and benefit everyone. All things open - such as software, hardware, data and standards - are part of the digital commons because they can be used, copied, studied and modified by all. The e-Commons Fund finances initiatives that contribute to the creation, development, operation, maintenance and popularisation of technologies that belong to the digital commons.

Secretary of State: “Stimulate public alternatives”

Alexandra van Huffelen (D66), State Secretary for Digitalisation, announced the establishment of the Fund in a Letter to Parliament (Dutch). She explained why she supports the digital commons: “The goal of this policy is for the government to stimulate public alternatives in cases where private services can infringe on public values such as privacy, transparency and freedom of choice.” Citizens and public institutions too often have a one-sided dependence on private platforms for public activities such as education, research and health care, she added. Digital commons offer a remedy to the problematic status quo. The Letter contained multiple other measures to stimulate the digital commons on the national, European and international level.

Collective responsibility

The e-Commons Fund will be managed by NLnet. Michiel Leenaars, NLnet’s Director of Strategy said: “We have a collective responsibility to make sure the information society is shaped by our shared values. With the e-Commons Fund, NLnet aims to give a tangible impulse to the technical and operational basis of an open and value-based information society.” The Fund is based in the Netherlands but operates internationally. It is open to donations from public & private organisations and individuals. The Ministry acts as the Fund’s launching investor with an initial contribution of €100,000. After evaluations in 2024, the State Secretary will decide on possible follow-up investments.

Photo: Portrait of Alexandra van Huffelen (D66) by Martijn Beekman / D66, via Wikipedia.

About NLnet Foundation

NLnet Foundation (in Dutch: Stichting NLnet) is a philanthropic (private) not-for-profit organisation that invests its own trust funds as well as funds that it manages on behalf of other organisations such as the European Commission to bring the open information society closer. The foundation supports strategic initiatives that contribute to an open information society, especially where these are aimed at development and dissemination of open standards and (network related) open source technology. Additionally the foundation wants to contribute to the societal debate on these subjects.