“E-content in Israel permeates all walks of life”
How would you define e-Content in Israel?
E-content in Israel permeates all walks of life. With the unusually high penetration of broadband, and mobile technology, Israelis tend to stay tuned in to the news (often on an hourly basis), to their preferred music (now available through mobile phones), to their favorite television program (over 100 channels to choose from), and, of course, to each other (via the high penetration of land lines and mobile telephony; over VoIP services on cable infrastructure through the HOT channel; and over SMS, ICQ, and MSM). Although we are consuming our news, entertainment and information more and more over a range of different platforms, at the same time we are consuming identical content, remixed, and adapted, for example. News items, advertising, and music clips move from broadcast quality video, to Internet as Flash, and are downscaled even further for mobile-phone as MP4 for distribution over 3G networks. Emerging scenarios are often about
inter-textuality and cross-media production rather developing content for a single, dedicated platform.
|“E-Content is becoming intrinsically inter-textual, globally accessibly, and essentially ubiquitous”/td>|
At the same time, e-Content has become global – as everyone scrambles to watch the latest movie, as it is released on the same day on the silver screen, or to anticipate the upcoming episode of Friends on the myriad online discussions; so e-Content is becoming intrinsically inter-textual, globally accessibly, and essentially ubiquitous. Israelis therefore can simultaneously remain connected to many different global networks – consuming, and producing content in Hebrew English, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and French. This means that content developers tend to keep an eye on markets, not only in Israel, but also in the global community, but for the Hebrew and Arabic speaking communities in Israel, the e-Content developers have specific concerns. As well as switching languages as we surf, read, communicate or produce our content, all platforms are required to render right-to-left support for Hebrew and Arabic. Operating systems – in computing environments, portable music players, PDA’s, and mobile phones – all need to take this into consideration, and content developers need to develop their products accordingly.
What’s the status of e-content in Israel?
The terms ‘hi-tech’ and ‘Israel’ are almost synonymous. Many initiatives developed in Israel became international success stories. The first peer-to-peer communication application on the Internet was the popular program ICQ, which was developed in 1996 by the Israel-based company, Mirabilis. ICQ was acquired by America Online, Inc. in June 1998, for $287 Million, and continues to lead the field in instant messaging.
Many other Israel companies have produced world class applications, and their names are household words. Scitex Corporation Ltd. is a world leader and develops, and manufactures visual information communications products for the graphic arts. Orca delivers interactive service applications including video on-demand, broadcast and IPG, multi-channel (TV, PC and wireless). Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. is the worldwide leader in securing the Internet, and the market leader in the worldwide enterprise firewall, personal firewall and VPN markets. In addition, companies, such as RAD Data Communications, Comverse Technology, Inc., Amdocs and Elbit, with headquarters located in Israel, have considerable reach across global markets. For a comprehensive directory of Israeli companies see www.science.co.il/Companies.asp>.
Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in Israel?
If I were to try to prioritize the sectors that are taking the lead in developing e-Content in Israel, I would be unable to truly separate the intertextual nature of both the content and the platform. When gathering the proposals for the 8 WSA national contents, we found that many of the producers, in fact, sent in their products in more than one category. During the judging process, we often found that delegating a specific product, to a single category turned out to be arbitrary, and although we realized that a working framework was clearly needed in order to manage the overall process, we found that the categories overlapped more often than not. Therefore, I find it difficult to recommend one sector over another, in that we received excellent proposals from all categories, and that no single category emerged as more engaging, or more creative than any other.
How would you describe the gradual progress of development of e-content in Israel?
Both in my own practice in the field, and through the experience of coordinating the 8 national contests, I would argue that the synergetic connections across the different sectors, is precisely what makes Israel’s hi-tech track record is so impressive. While the incubation stages of many projects may have been inspired, and in part developed by the army and government initiatives, the cross-over into the public sector; into academia and commerce – is exactly what have made the Israeli experience so successful.
What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Israel?
When media researchers seek historical routes to Israel’s hi-tech success story, they inevitably point to the source of this success – the army. The Israeli Defense Force’s commitment to innovation, and its continuous maximization of the resources at its disposal, is indicative of the high quality of technological innovation in Israel today. Compulsory service means that everyone is inducted into the army. Those with a propensity for technology are drafted into the elite computer unit, and as these highly-skilled engineers moved into the different industries afterwards – to optics, telecommunications, and medical sectors, for example – these skills are transferred to the civilian sector. Drawn by this steady stream of human resources, world-class companies like Intel, Motorola, IBM and Microsoft set up facilities in Israel in the 1990s, which, with this vital input amongst several factors, soon developed as the world’s largest concentration of start ups outside of Silicon Valley.
The success story of army-trained engineers is evident in some of the world’s leading products and technologies: voice mail, billing systems, internet security, instant messaging, ingestible video cameras, and generic pharmaceuticals. This inevitably leads to quality e-Content and as the WSA winner, ‘Migrating Birds’ demonstrates (see below), satellites, for example, can also be mobilized to track, other kinds of air-born phenomena – in this case flocks of geese, cranes, lesser kestrels and houbara bustards.
|“The Chinese government is already making impressive progress in establishing a nationwide truck network of high speed connections”|
The Jerusalem Declaration on Digitization of Science and Cultural Heritage was adopted at the conclusion of the Jerusalem EVA/MINERVA Conference held in October 2004, under the auspices of the scientific and cultural statutory institutions in Israel www.minervaisrael.org.il//s183.html>.
The Conference called on the Israeli government to develop a national policy for the digitization of scientific and cultural heritage, a recommendation that builds upon the sophisticated communication and technological infrastructures already in place, and to integrate the combined efforts of its statutory institutions, cultural heritage sector, ICT educational programs, broadcasting industry, e-government sector, and the ICT industry.
In December 2004, the Jerusalem Declaration was presented to M.K. Michael Eitan coordinator of the Internet and Information Technologies Committee in the Knesset (Israel Parliament). The six-point declaration called for the development of a concerted policy for the digitization of Israel’s cultural assets, their long term preservation, and their re-incorporation into the contemporary life of worldwide Jewry, as living evidence of its multi-cultural, and pluralistic facets. The declaration was approved by the committee, and represents a critical step towards the development of a comprehensive policy on the digitization of scientific and cultural content.
How would you describe the ICT scenario in Israel in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?
The telecom market in Israel has exhibited impressive growth over recent years, with digital, multi-channel, cable television reaching 75 per cent of Israeli households, and an impressive 95 per cent of the population using mobile telephone technology. Mobile computing is incrementally becoming more and more ubiquitous. WiFi access, for example, is now available in hospitals, cafes, hotels, and in many other public places in most of the main cities, including umbrella coverage of the whole of downtown Jerusalem. This WiFi-friendly atmosphere welcomes citizens and tourists alike, to linger in a café on a shady sidewalk, and pull out a laptop, to set up office, or to simply hook up to friends while enjoying an espresso.
The number of Internet users has also doubled over the previous two years to reach 2.7 million in May 2004, representing 55 per cent of the households now connected to the Internet and 75% of businesses. Young people (12 to 17 years old) doubled the mean amount of time they spend surfing the Internet per week since 2002, while the share of time applied to other media went down (TGI, February 2005). Even the number of domain names in Israel had risen in 2004, with the Israel Internet Society reporting a growth of 14 per cent in comparison to 2003, with some 56,899 new domains registered in Israel (Winer, 2004). Basically, Israelis love innovation, and surround themselves with the technology that allows them stay connected. With this dynamic infrastructure in place, scientific research and dissemination, popular entertainment and culture now flourish; e-learning extends its traditional educational mandate across electronic networks; and commerce is enabled to develop and extend into new markets – both locally and internationally.
What’s the future of e-content in Israel?
As a media researcher, I would refrain from taking a futuristic perspective; a position I feel would be more speculative than useful. Out of respect for the research tradition, we can only look behind us; analyse the developments and demonstrate the trends. From this perspective, however, Israel’s future e-Content development does look promising. It is based on a thriving ICT framework; it draws on consecutive generations of army trained engineers and specialists; its culture is rich and varied; and the hybridism of the multi-ethnicity of its community portents a vital cultural potential.
How do you recognize the best e-content practices in your country?
Technology on its own, however, is never enough. Without substantial content, electronic networks can be empty places, and the search for quality e-content, started out with building the right team. Within a short time, our group of professionals, from each of the eight sectors, came together and set out on the journey to identify best practices across the different industries.
The eight WSA Israel contests were held in collaboration with the Israel Internet Society and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our team of esteemed judges came from academics, the private sector and industry and included several ministerial representatives. The E-business contest was coordinated by Sigal Horesh, Executive – Software Industry, The Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute , and the e-Science category by Dr. Husam Masalha, Environment Desk, Ministry of Science and Technology. As we had many applications form the e-Learning sector we were delighted to have two eminent judges for the contest, Rimon Levy and Benjamin Feinstein – e-Learning, MOACH (Israel association for Computers and education) .
Nadav Schriebman coordinated the e-Government contest, and Revital Hermon, Internet Manager, Ministry of Health focused on her sector, e-Health. While we did find some overlap across the two sectors, Muchon Zer Aviv took over responsibility for – e-Entertainment and Dov Winer, Coordinator of MINERVA in
|“Basically, Israelis love innovation, and surround themselves with the technology that allows them stay connected”|
Israel took over the e-Culture contest, which singularly received the largest number of applicants across the eight categories. With our jury’s special emphasis on e-Inclusion we turned to two authorities in the area; Nava Gilad and Gila Gertel Hasson from ISOC-IL., The Israel Internet Association Task Groups e-Inclusion, with Gila also representing Nagish , Israel, a NGO that focuses on universal inclusion over the Internet.
Shaula Haitner, ISOC-IL and was an especially supportive member of our jury. Shaula’s eye for creativity and excellence of presentation, made her an invaluable member of our jury, and we are appreciative of her vitality and support at all stages; including the production, and management of the WSA Israel website. Last but not least, we welcomed the contributions from Roi Rosenblit and Morav Raphael, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose insights often kept us all on track during the many weeks of organisational, and operative stages of the contests.
After months of organisation, two intense face to face meeting, and endless e-mail correspondence, we were delighted to announce or winners on the ISOC-Israel website , and wished all our eight winners success in the upcoming global contest.