Government agrees to formulate national AI plan

The plan could be based on the work of an Israeli cyber industry icon.

Artificial intelligence (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Artificial intelligence
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Israel’s involvement in the advancement of artificial-intelligence technology cannot be understated. A crucial aspect of that advancement is the implementation of a national AI plan, which will further enable the rapid innovation for which Israel has become known.

The formulation of such a plan has just been agreed upon by Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman in advance of the formulation of the budget for the next two years.

The plan is to be led by the Science and Technology Ministry together with the Innovation Authority and the Budgets Department and will take place alongside Farkash-Hacohen’s work in writing AI regulations. It was agreed that a plan would be presented to ministers within about a month for adoption in the upcoming budget.

“Artificial intelligence is the infrastructure for the future of Israeli science and hi-tech,” Farkash-Hacohen said. “The artificial-intelligence market is growing by about 20% every year and in the coming years will even reach half a trillion dollars. Many countries around the world are investing huge sums in the field, and we must make sure that Israeli hi-tech continues to lead for years to come.

“Therefore, together with the finance minister, we agreed on the promotion of a program in the field of artificial intelligence for the upcoming budget. My ministry, together with other partners in the government, will formulate a plan that will address the gaps that exist today to promote artificial intelligence in academia, R&D and industry. This is also a strategically important decision that will generate a lot of income for the Israeli economy,” Farkash-Hacohen said.

 A robot equipped with artificial intelligence is seen at the AI Xperience Center at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) in Brussels, Belgium February 19, 2020.  (credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN) A robot equipped with artificial intelligence is seen at the AI Xperience Center at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) in Brussels, Belgium February 19, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)

The promotion of the field of artificial intelligence is a condition for the continued prosperity of research and hi-tech, as well as accelerating growth and raising productivity.

“The State of Israel is constantly moving forward,” Liberman said. “Taking part in this global development is expected to reward the citizens of the State of Israel in the long run. This investment is expected to be a significant force multiplier in the future development of the Israeli economy.”

It is expected that the relevant bodies will utilize an already written plan commissioned by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and presented for implementation in 2019. That plan, the National Initiative for Secured Intelligent Systems, was co-authored by Prof. Eviatar Matania and Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, the latter of whom also penned the National Cyber Initiative that was implemented in 2011 and laid the foundation for Israel’s cyber revolution during the past decade.

The Secured Intelligent Systems initiative has been on hold for three years, as governmental reformations and budgetary constraints have prevented its proper implementation. According to Ben-Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is interested in advancing the plan, and the initiative from the Finance and Innovation ministries could be the next step toward its realization.

"AI is the next, most probable leap to keeping Israel's position as a leader in technology innovation," said Moshe Karako, CTO at NTT Innovation Laboratory Israel. "Israel's government should take active measures to create and promote artificial intelligence research and implementation by creating dedicated funds, innovation hubs, and international collaborations, the same as it's done for cyber security."

Once a plan is in place and the development of the technology advances further, there is a possibility that the importance of AI strategy could necessitate a dedicated position in the Israeli government. Karako believes that the appointment of a so-called "Artificial Intelligence Minister" is an inevitability. According to him, "The question is not if, but when."