Serial entrepreneur and founder of successful fiber connectivity cooperative to promote the advancement of the Intelligent Community movement in Europe
May 17, 2017 - New York City – The Intelligent Community Form today named Kees Rovers, founder and CEO of Close the Gap BV in Eindhoven, Netherlands, as a Senior Fellow. Senior Fellows are individuals appointed to represent the Forum in a specific area – whether geographic, demographic, social or political – based on their experience, expertise and personal interest. Kees will focus on issues concerning broadband connectivity in European rural regions and on introducing European cities and regions to the Intelligent Community movement.
Kees Rovers spent the first 20 years of his professional life in senior management positions with the Dutch cooperative bank, Rabobank. In 1985, he left the bank to found Telematica International, which operates call centers and provides enterprise telephony services to major Dutch banks, the Dutch travel industry and retail sectors. The company also introduced the French Minitel system into the Netherlands.
In the early 2000s, he partnered with the director of the local housing corporation in his home village of Nuenen in the Eindhoven region to change the way in which citizens own and access communications services. Kees realised that, in particular, elderly and disabled people could use advanced digital services (through a high-speed fiber network) to enable them to have more control of their lives, maintain their independence in their own homes and enhance their quality of life. In 2002, he set up a ‘user feedback committee’ to explore the needs and benefits for the different organizations and interest groups in the town, from churches to schools and other stakeholders. In 2004, this work led to the founding of Ons Net (“Our Net” in English), a cooperative that within five months succeeded in connecting 8,000 households (a 97% take-up rate) to a community-owned fiber network.
He founded Close the Gap to bring the technology and community development roadmap pioneered in Nuenen to villages, cities and regions throughout Europe. Close the Gap advises on and assists communities in the Netherlands and internationally on the creation of their own fiber cooperative and connected community. More information can be found at www.closethegap.nl
“It’s about people, not the technology,” Kees said. “Everything should be pitched at the level of a 75-year-old woman who neither has nor wants a computer, but does want services that will allow her to enjoy a high quality of life in her own home for as long as possible. These are basic services that should not be controlled by only a small group of private investors. It’s time to reinvent co-operatives.”
Kees is a frequent speaker around the world on the Close the Gap cooperative model and was recently awarded a knighthood by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix for, in particular, his founding of Ons Net Nuenen.
About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum (www.intelligentcommunity.org), headquartered in New York, is a global movement of 134 cities, towns and regions. As an international think tank and Foundation, ICF studies and promotes the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities as they adapt to the new demands and seize the opportunities presented by information and communications technology (ICT). To help cities and towns build prosperous economies, solve social problems and enrich local cultures, the Intelligent Community Forum conducts research, hosts global events, publishes books, and produces its high-profile annual international awards program. The Forum has two Institutes in North America dedicated to the study of the movement, with more institutes planned. Global leaders, thinkers, and media observers follow and participate in the ongoing global dialogue initiated by the Intelligent Community Forum. In 2012 ICF was invited to participate at the Nobel Peace Prize conference in Oslo and in 2014, its model and work was recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which, according to the American government, was "aimed at creating a more flexible and responsive system of workforce development to meet the needs of employers looking to fill 21st century jobs.” The Forum’s Foundation has an association made up of 134 designated Intelligent Communities worldwide, which is represented by mayors and key civic leaders. For more information, go to www.icf-foundation.org. For more details on the Intelligent Community Forum’s recent publications and programs, www.intelligentcommunity.org.
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