New NIS 225m. program launched to integrate Arab workers into hi-tech

“The more we succeed in integrating more Arab workers into the Israeli high-tech industry, the more we will succeed in bringing Israel's economic growth to additional segments of the population."

 Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

The Israel Innovation Authority and the Department for Economic Development of Minority Sectors at the Social Equality Ministry have launched a five-year program to promote hi-tech in Arab society.

The program, which cost NIS 225 million ($70m.), is part of the government's “Impact for Arab Society” program led by Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. It is also a part of the Takadum (“progress”) five-year plan for the economic development of the Arab sector led by the Social Equality Ministry.

Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen offered an explanation of the importance of the program.

“The successful integration of the Arab population among others, in the world of Israeli hi-tech is in the best interest of the industry itself,” she said.

“Over the last few months, we have been working in partnership with hi-tech industry leaders, who have indicated the need to encourage technological enterprises and initiatives in the field. The more that we succeed in integrating more Arab workers into the Israeli hi-tech industry, the more we will succeed in bringing Israel’s economic growth to additional segments of the population” she noted.

 Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority  (credit: Hannah Teib) Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority (credit: Hannah Teib)

The Israel Innovation Authority will operate the program, which will utilize entrepreneurship centers and incubators, technological accelerators and angel’s clubs – facilities that recruit investors and promote investment in enterprises in the pre-seed/seed stage and beyond, with an emphasis on under-represented populations and the periphery.

Israel Innovation Authority CEO Dror Bin explained, “Encouraging entrepreneurship is the most difficult task because the number of start-ups being created by Arab entrepreneurs is extremely low in comparison with the rest of the population. The reasons for this are varied and stem mainly from the lack of relevant networking system, geographical distance from hi-tech centers, fear of taking risks, and a preference for secure jobs over entrepreneurship – as well as a lack of access to investors.

“We developed this new ideation program as part of a government plan to promote entrepreneurship in the Arab sector,” Bin said, “to provide the best possible solutions to these challenges, and to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Arab society as part of the general strengthening of Israeli hi-tech.”

Farkash-Hacohen explained that there is a huge gap in Arab participation in the hi-tech sector.

“Despite increases in the number of Arab students in academia, only 2% of hi-tech employees are from the Arab sector,” she said. “In this respect, during last November’s budget approval, we assigned five years of additional budget for this purpose to the Israel Innovation Authority. This additional five-year plan will also operate in the areas of science and research within my ministry with an additional budget that was obtained for the purpose. I congratulate the Innovation Authority for joining this significant challenge and for being a substantial engine for real change.”