Director General, Ministry of Science and Technology (since June 2020)
How Coronavirus Fight Impacted Our SDG Changemaker Shai-Lee Spigelman
I’ve always viewed Digital Israel as a social initiative using digital means to reduce socio-economic gaps, boost economic growth and make government faster and smarter. The harsh reality of the COVID-19 crisis particularly strengthened my belief that digital can mitigate some of the hardships that have hit our country.
With so many Israelis adversely affected, the past two months have been both a challenge and an opportunity for government to further digital learning and service delivery for citizens. I believe we seized the opportunity in a big way.
One example is Campus, our National Platform for Digital Learning with hundreds of online courses, which has seen a massive jump in users; many citizens – including the elderly, those in isolation, the unemployed seeking training – are now choosing this more accessible way of learning. In addition, we have focused on enabling municipal government employees to work remotely; on providing routine municipal services remotely; and on providing welfare services remotely. Furthermore, we are hard at work making sure there is only one point of contact with the government for important life events – from births to closing businesses – particularly those with a connected web of benefits and services that citizens could be eligible to receive.
The crisis has reinforced just how vital digital is to reducing socio-economic gaps, an understanding that will continue to be paramount in our minds as we go forward.
SII: Please briefly describe your work
SLS: I am the CEO of Digital Israel, a national initiative approved by the government in 2017 that operates as part of the Ministry for Social Equality, and am responsible for leading Israel’s national digital strategy. The Initiative is a cornerstone of the Ministry’s efforts to narrow gaps in Israeli society and to create equal opportunities for all our citizens.
We have a relatively small staff and a private-sector mentality. Digital Israel partners with government ministries’ operational units in their most significant processes, assisting them in attaining digital transformation. We also lead our own projects, for example in advancing digital literacy.
SII: Name three principle values that you associate with your work?
SLS: 1. Harnessing the unique and meaningful opportunity provided by the digital revolution and the progress of ICT in order to reduce socio-economic gaps, promote economic prosperity, and create a smarter, friendlier government.
2. Transforming Israeli society into an innovative society, which is also a technology leader; in which every citizen, business, municipality, and government organization can take advantage of the inherent opportunities of ICT in the most optimal way possible.
3. Promoting innovation in the fields of digital education, digital health, digital welfare, realization of government benefits and a variety of other core issues.
SII: What positive impact do you see emerging through your activity?
SLS: Digital Israel is drastically changing the public sector, acting to reduce gaps and encourage economic growth. All our projects are measured by their impact in these areas.
The State of Israel is known as the “Start-up Nation”, yet a much too small percentage of its population is a partner to our technological achievements. Owing to Digital Israel and the changes it will foster – remember, we are a relatively new player on the scene – Israeli children will acquire the knowledge they need to realize their full potential.
We intend to ensure that the advantages of technology permeate throughout society, contribute to narrowing social gaps and provide equal opportunity to all members of society.
SII: Please tell us about your favorite project
SLS: My most favorite project is ‘Campus – the National Initiative for Digital Learning’. It is one of the first I worked on when I joined Digital Israel and one of our most advanced, very successful with impressive results. ‘Campus’ is an online learning platform aiming to reduce social gaps, increase the equality of opportunities for different segments of the population, and to provide flexible training solutions for an ever-evolving labor market. We have over 150 open and free courses, including academic courses from leading Israeli universities, language courses, professional training and more.
SII: What else would you like to share?
SLS: The world as we know it will be substantially different in 10 years. Governments will have to adapt and transform, or they will stop being relevant. I believe that this is precisely the role of Digital Israel – to help the government successfully navigate this transformation.
More about Shai-Lee Spigelman:
Ms. Spigelman current Position is a Director General of the Ministry of Science and Technology. She also served as Director of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft Israel R&D Center and as CEO of Digital Israel in the Ministry of Social Equality (2017-2020). Also served as Director Regulatory and Corporate Affairs at Microsoft Israel, managing CSR and government affairs.
In the past Ms. Spigelman was a Business Consultant at Shaldor a leading management consulting firm.
Ms. Spigelman holds an MA in Public Policy from Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a BA in Law from Tel-Aviv University.
In 2013 Shai-Lee was elected as Council Member of the Savyon Municipality.