Industries, Innovation and Infrastructure
Tech for Social Impact – Despite Corona
Social Impact Under Corona – Part Five
Read: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Six
Israel’s efforts to advance toward equal opportunity and a sense of belonging among all its citizens through a broad spectrum of activities, has been on the upswing in the past few years.
Regrettably, albeit understandably, the corona virus pandemic has created unique challenges to these efforts: prioritizing resources to save lives, the overwhelming number of unemployed, social distancing. Still, the country is harnessing technology to pursue social impact goals despite the crisis.
When Israel closed schools in mid-March, some 2.2 million elementary, middle and secondary school students suddenly found themselves homebound. In an effort to provide them with learning continuity, the Education Ministry joined forces with education technology and web service companies.
A partnership created among the ministry, the Israel Center for Educational Technology (CET), Amazon Web Services (AWS), Lnet and Kaltura has guaranteed fluid access to live-streamed classes in both Hebrew and Arabic. This effort included cooperation between CET and AWS to implement technologies enhancing the operation of CET’s live-production studio for online instruction broadcasts.
The systems created through this joint partnership operate in various modes for student use. They also provide data required by the Education Ministry to evaluate content effectiveness and learner progress, as well as regarding the number of viewers.
CET is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing Israel’s learning environment by combining technology with quality content and up-to-date pedagogy.
With a view to improving job seekers’ employment chances as the country emerges from a weeks-long shutdown, Israel’s Labor Ministry’s Diversity in Employment Administration has placed special emphasis during the corona crisis period on remote activities to strengthen Hebrew-language training for the minority community.
This area is considered a critical obstacle in the way of minority integration into the Israeli work force. In recognition of this fact, 16 relevant courses have already moved online (via Zoom and WhatsApp) and additional courses are set to follow suit in the near future.
The Labor Ministry has budgeted NIS 330 million over a four-year period for employment issues in the minority community, including training and referrals to potential employers. In the past two years, approximately NIS 12 million has been allocated for Hebrew study, a sum which is expected to grow with the completion of digital course development.
Connecting the Elderly
The plight of the country’s senior citizens during the corona crisis has been among the most prominent issues in the public discourse since the very beginning. Against this backdrop, ongoing inter-sectoral efforts have been made to adapt technologies to ease their hardship.
As part of the expansion of food distribution to the elderly, the firm WIX voluntarily developed a special computer system that gauges potential recipients’ level of socio-economic need (and allows local authorities to add individuals to lists). The company also developed an app that enables soldiers and volunteers to undergo self-training before carrying out food distribution (the Social Services Ministry is responsible for the food preparation).
In another partnership, the firms Intel, Cellcom and Meshi-Tech voluntarily joined forces to create a new, user-friendly tablet-based device – fittingly called “Connected.” The device enables the elderly to hook into video chats merely by pressing a button (no need for apps, which the elderly can find challenging); about 500 adapted tablets have been distributed in coordination with the Social Services Ministry, proving especially invaluable for the recently-celebrated Jewish holiday of Passover.
Despite the unique challenges posed by the corona crisis, Israel continues to pursue fulfillment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for the benefit of its citizens. Harnessing technologies for this purpose continues to be a vital catalyst in its move from Startup Nation to Impact Nation.
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