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The National Digital Program of the Government of Israel

Advance Digitization Processes in the Housing and Real Estate Area

The housing crisis in Israel is at the center of the public agenda, with a significant rise in apartment and rent prices in recent years. One of the main causes is lack of apartments built due to the limited volume of building starts in relation to household growth in Israel. 

Another factor is the “production chain” housing process in Israel that currently spans 13-15 years, compared to 4-8 years in the western world. This has increased the burden of housing expenses, which make up more than a quarter of average consumption expenditure per household. The rising cost of living impacts primarily weakened population groups and the middle-class, widening disparities in Israel[31].

The digital revolution has the potential to help ease the housing crisis and to increase the effectiveness of implementing government policy in the housing market. Therefore, as part of the National Initiative, and in cooperation with government offices relevant to the housing and real estate area: the Planning Administration in the Ministry of Finance, the Israel Land Authority, the Justice Ministry, Bank of Israel, local government and others – are examining a series of significant digital initiatives expected to advance the housing and real estate field to the digital age and to ease the cost of living in Israel.

To increase the availability of information about the housing market and to provide a trans-national representation for the benefit of decision-makers in the national housing cabinet, a “National Center for Housing Information “(“Meimad” in Hebrew) was established, led by the Israel Land Authority. This is a decision support system that can present an up-to-date picture from a range of entities about the inventory of plots available for marketing, as well as the status of planning and development barriers and the multi-year marketing map in Israel. The system is based on a unique data model for presenting and analyzing varied databases of plans and plots that combines Business Intelligence (BI) technologies with geographic mapping (GIS) technologies. The system in turn helps in formulating government policy and in data based decision-making. There is currently a need to expand the system and its scope, since concentrating all reliable information in one place can help track the implementation of government policy and increase cooperation between the different entities in the housing production chain.

Combining focused digital efforts in streamlining the housing production chain can help simplify and shorten planning, licensing and construction processes, which will increase the supply of available apartments in Israel. For example, technological tools can be harnessed to establish umbrella agreements that allow for the planning of entire neighborhoods (in Hebrew known as “roof” agreements, which harness in advance all relevant government offices for available, focused and effective marketing in areas in which there is demand, in collaboration with local governments). The information systems will enable the management of all barriers and development information in a consolidated digital diagram and file shared by all entities. Thus, it is possible to efficiently plan neighborhoods, including residential housing, institutions, infrastructures, public areas and roads, while shortening planning time and reducing bureaucracy.

Furthermore, expanding existing projects such as “E-Licensing” and “E-Planning”, that are headed by the Planning Administration and the Government ICT Authority (E-Government Unit); advancing cross-governmental processes, including increased digitization, integrating the use of digital signature and 3D planning, data transfer and increased cooperation between different entities that require approvals, will enable significant shortening of the preliminary processes for construction and will help increasing the housing supply while decreasing the load ofplanning committees.

Regarding construction, the Ministry of Construction and Housing is heading the “Control Center” system to track construction projects. The system is used for cloud-based project management and enables project managers dispersed throughout the country to view and update information, track schedules and deviations, and identify barriers in promoting projects, all in order to streamline the construction process in Israel. The system also enables BI-based display and oversight for visual presentation by various cross-sections, and is available for decision-makers from a range of entities.

In addition to streamlining processes, efforts can be invested to increase transparency and access to public information about the housing and real estate market, which may help foster informed consumption, make it easier for the public to make information-based decisions and reduce bureaucracy. For example, government databases of the Planning Authority can be opened through Application Programming Interfaces (API) so that private entities can develop applications, and housing and real estate information will be accessible for the benefit of the public.

(headed by the Planning Administration and the Government ICT Authority – the E-Government Unit)

The E-Licensing system, launched by the Planning Authority in the Finance Ministry and the Government ICT Authority (the E-Government unit) is a country-wide online system for  submitting building permit requests, aimed at facilitating management of licensing and construction processes in a unified manner throughout the country in order to streamline, improve and shorten licensing and construction procedures in Israel.

The system operates throughout the country, and an interface is being developed with the information systems of the Israel Land Authority, the Israel Mapping Center, government offices and all local governments, in the aim of unifying and systematizing all licensing procedures so they are transparent, efficient and have specified time limits.

Develop the Financial Area in the Digital Age

Financial institutions – banks, credit card companies and insurance companies – have an impact across the Israeli economy, as every business and every person engages with them on an ongoing and daily basis. 

The costs of financial products and services have a significant effect on the financial behavior of households and businesses, and on the cost of living in Israel.​
Therefore, developing the financial area in the digital age can contribute significantly to the ease of doing business in Israel and to increased convenience for citizens who will enjoy quality financial services at lower costs.

Increasing Competition and Advancing the Establishment of Digital Banks and New Clearing Houses

A major endeavor in this field will be undertaken by the Banking Supervision Department in the Bank of Israel, and at a later stage will focus on increasing competition in the financial system in Israel by encouraging the entry of digital banks or new clearing houses into the market, evaluating applications that will be submitted to Banking Supervision Department. Thus, it will be possible to establish digital banks, without physical branches and a low-cost structure relative to existing banks, which will offer all of their services remotely. This will also facilitate the receipt of quality banking services in the periphery and will expand the service range in places where the dispersion of competitors is lacking. Establishing digital banks or new clearing houses that can compete with existing banks and clearing houses will enable them in the future to offer online banking services that will be less expensive and competitive, lowering fees charged for financial services in Israel.  

Expand the Use of ICT Tools in the Banking System

Expanding the use of ICT tools, for both internal activities of financial entities and their interfaces with customers and government offices, will enable financial institutions to streamline their activity, ease the life of all individuals and businesses in Israel and lower the price of financial services. A Bank of Israel study shows that the prices for online services such as a bank transfer, cash deposit, cash withdrawal and check deposit, are cheaper, with fees lower by about 75% on average. Using online channels also provides availability and convenience in receiving most of the services, and these advantages in turn provide customers easier control of their finances[32]. Therefore, the Bank of Israel Supervision Department, along with the Capital Market, Insurance, and Savings Division in the Finance Ministry, will continue to act to remove barriers to the development of various digital tools that will increase transparency, will advance the integration of digital tools in the activities of financial institutions in the capital market, and will encourage the opening of online channels for providing services and the use of online services by the public. These efforts will include establishing and upgrading online platforms that enable consumers to compare products and services between financial entities (insurance, credit, fees, interest, etc.). This will increase the consumer’s ability to negotiate, will increase competition among financial institutions, lower the cost of living and improve service quality, in line with the goals of the National Initiative.

Designing Tools for Digital Financial Education

The Bank of Israel and the Capital Market, Insurance, and Savings Division will continue to encourage the financial system to develop and improve the financial and digital literacy of the citizens of Israel, Among other things, this activity will include increasing citizen awareness to becoming informed financial consumers and to their rights in engaging with the financial institutions, so that they will be able to consume quality financial services from any place at any time by digital means. Furthermore, raising the public’s financial awareness as well as the use of advanced digital means will heighten the demand for quality, efficient and less expensive services, contributing to increased competition in the financial system. Thus for example, the Bank of Israel launched the "Taking Responsibility for our Money "website which provides adolescents basic financial education, and the Finance Ministry launched the “My Finance” (in Hebrew “My Treasure“) website that includes extensive financial information, guides, tools and interactive calculators.

Government entities have taken initial steps to bring the digital age to the financial sector. Thus, for example, the Banking Supervision Department in the Bank of Israel formulated policy in the digital and the information technology fields and has taken action to remove regulatory barriers to enable full digital banking activity. The Capital Market, Insurance, and Savings Division in the Ministry of Finance has also formulated a digital vision that outlines the steps it will take in the coming years to expand the use of digital by institutional entities. These measures are expected to expand in the coming years, as the design of a comprehensive strategic plan is advanced within the framework of the National Initiative which will combine the activities of the relevant entities in Israel in the area of “finance in the digital age”.