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Barkan: Caring for every Israeli

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(Amos Ben Gershon/GPO photo)

Known for at least the past two decades as the Startup Nation, Israel has been making the transition toward a new socioeconomic identity: Impact Nation. Simply put, there is a growing recognition in the world of innovation that technological advancement needs to be harnessed for the wider good. As such, inclusivity has become one of the emerging features of Israeli socioeconomics, and the broader high-tech ecosystem.

Throughout Israel’s evolution, the country has remained firmly grounded in the principles of social equality embodied in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. This basic value is driven home forcefully in the country’s very first Voluntary National Review (VNR) recently submitted to the United Nations with a view to the latter’s upcoming high-level political forum on sustainable development goals (SDGs). The VNR is an internal study of Israeli
government projects and services to ensure that they align with the UN’s SDGs. Some of the projects that were studied include: disaster relief efforts, setting up field hospitals, introduction of water technologies and increasing the availability of food and off-grid solar energy solutions to developing countries.

Israel, like Canada, is working to ensure that the benefits of economic growth reach all of its citizens. This is the case most notably when it comes to absorbing millions of immigrants, and providing services to non-Jewish citizens.

The country’s official bodies are working to meet Israelis’ expectations of social equality. Israeli agencies and ministries are bolstered by public-private partnerships, social impact investors and non-profit organizations, making them well-equipped to deal with societal challenges.

Nowhere is this understanding more apparent than in the Economy Ministry’s Israel Innovation Authority, which collaborates with other government entities to create tailor-made research and development support tracks. Examples include the Diverse Startups Program for minority entrepreneurs; the Assistive Technology for the Disabled Program to improve the quality of life for the disabled; and the GCI Grand Challenges Program focused on humanitarian health, agri-tech and water challenges in developing nations.

READ: ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TALKS GEOPOLITICS IN THE NEW MIDDLE EAST

The Social Equality Ministry’s Digital Israel Initiative strives to harness the potential of the digital revolution to reduce socioeconomic gaps, promote economic prosperity and create a smarter and more accessible government. Israel is a member of the Digital 9 group of nations, alongside Canada, as world leaders in providing digital services to citizens, and hosted the Digital 9 Summit last November.

Moreover, in late 2015, the government parted ways with years of policy that lacked clarity and adopted a five-year, 15-billion shekel ($5.5 billion) Economic Development Plan for the Arab Community. Since its adoption, proportional budgeting by government ministries is being channeled not only to education, but also to employment, transportation, housing, child care, policing and more.

In his oft-quoted 2015 address, “Israeli Hope: Towards a New Israeli Order” (a.k.a. the Four Tribes speech), Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stated: “To create a strong basis for the partnership between us, we will have to ensure an accessible ‘Israeli dream’ that can be realized by each and every young person, judged only on the basis of their talents and not according to their ethnic or social origins.”

Nothing could better reflect Israel’s commitment to the UN’s SDGs and eagerness to share our experience with the international community. We are confident that, together, we can turn this dream into reality. 

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