Want to kvetch? Is­rael just made it eas­ier

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - By MAX SCHINDLER

The gov­ern­ment just made it eas­ier to com­plain about an in­com­pe­tent clerk at a pub­lic agency, get a new pass­port, re­new a driver’s li­cense or ap­ply for a con­struc­tion per­mit.

As part of a spe­cial ini­tia­tive launched by the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, gov.il – an on­line gov­ern­ment por­tal that has been avail­able in beta ver­sion for some time – was of­fi­cially launched on Wed­nes­day to make it eas­ier to ap­ply for per­mits and sub­mit com­plaints at some of the 29 gov­ern­ment min­istries. It is avail­able in English, He­brew and Ara­bic.

With the in­creased ac­ces­si­bil­ity of ad­vanced bio­met­ric ver­i­fi­ca­tion tools, such as fa­cial recog­ni­tion and fin­ger­print read­ers, it is pos­si­ble to def­i­nitely es­tab­lish your iden­tity on­line without hav­ing to go some­where in per­son. This al­lows more gov­ern­ment of­fices to put reg­is­tra­tion forms and ap­pli­ca­tions on the Web, al­low­ing you to pay fees on­line, book an ap­point­ment, and whisk in and out of gov­ern­ment and other pub­lic of­fices without the fre­quently long wait.

“You’ll get cell­phone alerts that you have two weeks to re­new your driver li­cense,” di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, Eli Groner, told The Jerusalem Post. “This is about pro­vid­ing bet­ter dig­i­tal ser­vices to Is­raeli cit­i­zens. Be­cause if I know with 100% cer­tainty that you’re who you say you are, there’s no rea­son you need to spend four hours in line wait­ing at the [doc­tor’s of­fice].”

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice is also in the process of tak­ing all gov­ern­ment data­bases and putting them on­line at data.gov.il, a project the cabi­net ap­proved a year and a half ago, which will cost tens of mil­lions of shekels. The suc­cess of Moovit – an Is­raeli pub­lic tran­sit app which dis­played ar­rival and de­par­ture times sev­eral years ahead of Google Maps – con­vinced Groner that mak­ing big data avail­able for bud­ding en­trepreneurs to crunch num­bers could spawn count­less in­no­va­tions.

“Very of­ten, you can take gov­ern­ment data­bases [and up­load them], and gov­ern­ments, like ev­ery­one, are re­sis­tant to string their data. But it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the data be­longs to the pub­lic,” Groner said. “Imag­ine that we make pub­licly avail­able all the crime in­for­ma­tion that the Is­raeli po­lice has. You could look up in each neigh­bor­hood when each crime hap­pened and how of­ten. The po­lice have th­ese data­bases and no mat­ter how tal­ented our po­lice are, they won’t have the col­lec­tive in­tel­lec­tual horse­power that so­ci­ety has.”

Some 1,100 data­bases are slated to be put into pub­lic hands – for en­ter­pris­ing Is­raelis to take the in­for­ma­tion and cre­ate more apps like Moovit – by 2022. Al­ready, at least 500 data­bases have al­ready gone on­line.

Aside from crime data, other data sets that could be put on­line in­clude a regis­trar of ev­ery patented in­ven­tion, high-res­o­lu­tion pho­to­graphs, live pol­lu­tion data and traf­fic ac­ci­dents. Groner said he also wanted to up­load the lo­ca­tion of ev­ery con­struc­tion site, each school’s an­nual bud­get and the site of each gas sta­tion.

“Think of what peo­ple can do when they see how much the coun­try is in­vest­ing... You’ll have much bet­ter pub­lic mon­i­tor­ing of gov­ern­ment ser­vices,” Groner said.

In terms of the quan­tity of pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble data that will soon be avail­able, “we’re not just catch­ing up to the United States, we’re leap-frog­ging them. It’s some­thing that’s not par­al­leled by any coun­try in the world,” Groner said. “That doesn’t mean that Is­raelis won’t con­tinue to com­plain. Of course they’ll con­tinue to com­plain.”

Groner added that the on­line ser­vices to stream­line bu­reau­cracy would per­tain mostly to Is­raeli cit­i­zens, as op­posed to Arab res­i­dents of east Jerusalem or Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank. Yet a quick search on the site did list forms for Pales­tini­ans to ap­ply for work per­mits in Is­raeli in­dus­trial zones.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice cited the on­line data­bases as a way of mak­ing Is­rael even more com­pet­i­tive, as the coun­try is al­ready ranked 16th in the world as far as ease of do­ing busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum. But ac­cord­ing to the World Bank, the Jewish state has slipped in busi­ness rank­ings, fall­ing to 54th place for 2017, a far cry from its perch at 29th place in 2009.

(Gideon Sharon/GPO)

ELI GRONER, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, un­veils the gov­ern­ment’s on­line por­tal at the Cit­i­zen 360 con­fer­ence in Jerusalem on Wed­nes­day.

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