Israel launched the first stage of its NIS 500 million National Artificial Intelligence program, calling on directors-general from various governmental ministries to submit their strategies for integrating AI into their operational frameworks.
“The field of artificial intelligence has been experiencing remarkable and unprecedented growth in recent years,” said Ofir Akunis, innovation, science, and technology minister.
His ministry will oversee the national program, and he emphasized to The Jerusalem Post, “The potential influence of artificial intelligence on the economy and society is enormous.”
He said AI has the potential to revolutionize operational systems in diverse areas, spanning employment and education to advanced agriculture and intricate financial designs.
“This program can help the internal workings of the government – its daily work – but, in the end, it means we will be able to provide better services to our citizens,” Akunis said. “We want to reduce internal and external bureaucracy.”
How will Israel's new national AI program work?
The program was approved as part of the Arrangements Law and passed in the Knesset alongside the budget. On Monday, the ministry announced it was putting the decision into action by calling for directors-general and heads of government projects to submit proposals for funding and professional guidance.
Akunis sent a personal letter to all ministers asking them to encourage their professional teams to take advantage of the program. The deadline for submission is November 15. NIS 120m. is earmarked for this specific initiative.The program is divided into three tracks: Small projects will cost no more than NIS 3m. and can be developed within a year. Medium projects are those whose budget will be at most NIS 9m. and can be developed and implemented within three years.
There will also be smaller NIS 500,000 grants for projects with high potential but that are not yet ready for implementation. These projects will be granted funds to support a six-month planning process.
Akunis said the initiatives are meant to address unanswered challenges within the internal workings of the government, promote efficiency in the public sector, and, most importantly, improve citizen services.
An expert team from the Innovation, Science, and Technology Ministry will manage the projects. Ministries selected will receive financial assistance and professional guidance from a variety of Israeli AI experts and be given access to research and researchers from both Israel and abroad. They will also undergo training and receive ethical and regulatory guidance.
The projects will be selected in collaboration with the National Digital Agency, the Israel Innovation Authority, the Finance Ministry, and the Justice Ministry. They will be chosen shortly after the November submission deadline, although implementation will be done in stages based on each ministry’s specific challenges and opportunities. Akunis told the Post he expects to see the first results during 2024.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fully behind the project and is providing his full support,” Akunis said.
At the same time, Netanyahu is looking into establishing a National AI Directorate, similar to the National Cyber Directorate, the Post learned. If such an office is established, responsibilities may shift from Akunis’s ministry.