Cubiss starts up at Brightlands Smart Services Campusjune 24, 2019
"Language is essential in the digital age”
An organization that focuses on the development of language, fights illiteracy and has even set up a book club might seem like an outsider at the Brightlands Smart Services Campus in Heerlen, surrounded by start-ups and pioneers in data processing and the digital revolution.
“This is the last thing it is,” replies Egid van Houtem, program manager of the Cubiss branch in Limburg. “Here at the campus, just about everyone is working on data processing and new apps, developments that everyone is or will ultimately have to deal with at some point. Examples include logging onto government service websites using DigiD, the Dutch digital identity, submitting a police report online, handling insurance and bank matters and so on. Cubiss’s goal is to help people by guiding them through all of these digital developments. Sometimes it's a good idea to be close to the fire.”
Not everyone is able to join in and keep up with today’s society. “A lot of people, around 120,000 of whom live in Limburg, have trouble reading and writing. Foreigners and natives, the elderly, people with little education; these people struggling with illiteracy have a very hard time keeping up as it is, let alone when it comes to digital. It’s our job and mission to reach this group of people and help them. And they’re not the only ones; literate people also often have problems with digital developments. According to statistics, there are around four million of them in the Netherlands. At the Smart Services Campus, we are in direct contact with small and large organizations that target consumers with their digital services. This includes the police, the tax and customs authority, pension funds, retail chains and other companies. We have the opportunity here to brainstorm and advise, participate in networks, meet one another during events and workshops, plus we can reach even more people through these organizations. This campus is the ideal ecosystem for us.”
Thanks in part to subsidies, Cubiss provides logistics and innovation support to public libraries in the provinces of Brabant and Limburg. Given the gradual disappearance of paper books and the rise of screens, you would think they are struggling to survive. Egid van Houtem, once an entrepreneur himself, laughs. “You would think so, but nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, libraries have been transformed into information centers, platforms where knowledge is offered in a bundled and structured form. There’s a reason it’s very popular with students who like to study there in peace and quiet. It’s also become a place where people of all ages and financial situations can go for support. Libraries organize computer classes, teach people how to use their cell phones and apps, help them complete their tax returns and navigate the jungle of government services.”
Cubiss develops course materials for the libraries and also handles the logistics of the physical books and the traffic between the libraries in the cities and villages. “The reason for this,” Egid van Houtem continues, “is that paper books are far from being written off. People are actually reading more these days, including on paper. Studies show that children who have been raised on physical books and have been read to have a much larger vocabulary. They also have more of a feeling for languages and studying is easier for them later on. This is why at Cubiss, together with national partners such as Stichting Lezen (Reading Foundation), we have put together a reading package for young parents, which they can pick up free of charge at the library. These packages are also being promoted at the clinics for babies and young children.
The public libraries are popular with a broad audience. “Yes, also because they are good and freely accessible. A lot of people in the Netherlands are at a disadvantage because they often have a low level of skills, have a low income and are lonely. This puts them even farther behind the rest. We can reach part of this group at the libraries. This could also be a good place for government agencies to come in contact with them, a starting point for fighting illiteracy, for example. At Cubiss, we want to play a role in creating connections in the social domain. We are making the digital connections here at the Brightlands Smart Services Campus.”
The Limburg branch of Cubiss is also making direct contact from its base at the Campus with large organizations and municipalities. They are currently working on a project with the housing cooperative, Wonen Limburg. “A relatively high number of tenants have difficulty reading and writing. We are trying to reach them through the organization itself and provide support in the form of classes and meetings and are referring them to ROCs (Regional Training Centers) such as Gilde and Vista.”
Cubiss is an organization with 60 employees working in locations in Brabant and Limburg. A team of four permanent and two to four alternating employees currently works in Heerlen. The company’s arrival hasn’t gone unnoticed either, thanks to the creation of a true book club, among other things. “It’s very traditional", Egid van Houtem says. “A few people have already signed up. We all read the same book and then we discuss it for an evening, with or without a speaker. Reading is important; it's the foundation for communication, and the basis for digitalization. This is why we fit in so well at this campus.”More information about Cubiss (in Dutch)