Primary Goal 1 – Narrowing Gaps
Expanding economic inequality levels and social disparities have become fixtures of the modern world. The OECD found that the gap between rich and poor is at its highest 30-year level in most member countries.
In Israel, social disparities and inequality levels are relatively high, particularly in relation to other developed countries. The inequality level in Israel has increased over the years, and Israel currently ranks 5th in the OECD.
The social gaps in Israel are found in both the geographic and social periphery. In the geographic periphery there are less quality employment opportunities and little access to quality public goods and government services. The social periphery in Israel includes weakened populations and excluded sectors, among them groups with low socio-economic status, the elderly, immigrants, the minority sector, the Jewish ultra-orthodox sector and people with disabilities.
The “digital revolution” can help bring the periphery closer to the center. It can assist in providing access to social and public goods from a distance, and thus, to the delivery of equitable and available services to the population in the periphery: through remote learning, for example, new opportunities can be created for pupils throughout the country to study a variety of courses from leading teachers residing in other geographic areas; it also enables harnessing innovation to lower the cost of living, which harms mainly weakened populations. For example, focused digital efforts in the housing market can shorten and streamline the housing production chain in Israel, and also improve access to information needed to formulate an effective policy to reduce housing prices. Combining digitization with the financial system can help lower the cost of financial services and fees, while improving their quality and accessibility. Furthermore, digital tools can be used to bridge information gaps and reduce the bureaucracy entailed in the rights realization process.
State of Digitization in Israel – the Digital Divide
There is a significant digital divide in Israel between population groups that use and take advantage of the potential of technology and the digital age, and weakened population groups that do not take part in the process and do not enjoy the fruits of technology and digitization. The “digital divide” refers to differences between individuals, groups, households, organizations and geographic areas - in the level of accessibility to the digital environment (computers, software programs and the Internet) and in their digital literacy level (learning and work competencies and skills in a computerized environment). The digital divide exacerbates socio-economic inequality, since weakened populations have less access to the information and tools needed to advance and develop in the digital age.
As shown in the following diagram, the digital divide, as reflected in basic uses of technological tools, corresponds to economic gaps in the country, in effect reinforcing high inequality levels.
Narrowing Socio-economic Gaps by Digital Means
To harness the digital revolution to narrow socio-economic gaps in Israel, the National Initiative set three strategic objectives that it will aim to achieve in implementing the National Program:
1. Bring the Geographic and Social Periphery Closer to the Center
Take advantage of the digital revolution to overcome distance, culture and language barriers in the aim of connecting excluded population sectors in Israel to advancement processes in the economy and society. Thus, it will be possible to achieve equal opportunity for the population at large, while providing quality products and services anywhere in the country and to anyone that needs them.
2. Reduce the Cost of Living and Housing Prices
By using digital tools to enable access to information and services, which streamlines processes and fosters competition, it is possible to address the cost of living and lower the cost of a wide range of services. Lowering the cost of living holds the potential to narrow socio-economic gaps in Israel.
3. Rights Realization
Harnessing the information revolution and the advantages of digitization to increase rights realization in Israel will help the segments of society entitled to allowances and benefits, mainly the weakest population groups in society. Through efficient rights realization, the National Initiative will help narrow socio-economic gaps in Israel.