Peri: Must minimize gaps in society through use of technology

Science Minister emphasizes importance of the Lehava project, a program working to promote science and technology amongst needy populations in the periphery.

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri addressing Lehava project center heads at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv on Monday (photo credit: MARK NAYMAN)
Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri addressing Lehava project center heads at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv on Monday
(photo credit: MARK NAYMAN)
There are acknowledged gaps in Israeli society, but the Lehava project is in a unique position to address them from a digital perspective, said Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) on Monday.
Speaking to an audience of Lehava project center heads at a conference at the Eretz Yisrael Museum in Tel Aviv aimed at addressing the technological disparity in Israeli society Peri said, “The ministry intends to make the program an anchor for encouraging excellence and innovation in the periphery, to promote science and technology.”
“Through the program we can recognize the needy populations who still cannot reach the world of technology and help them to gain skills and qualifications in the field,” he said.
The Lehava project (a Hebrew acronym) was initiated in 2001 with the aim of minimizing the technological gaps among Israeli society with an emphasis on populations in the periphery and those from poorer backgrounds.
The project was transferred some two weeks ago from the Finance Ministry, which had initially run the program, with the aim of expanding and managing the project in line with the Science, Technology and Space Ministry’s vision and strategy.
“The centers will become a magnet for curious young people and a center for advance technological experience in the framework of additional exciting activities for online learning – from experience in programming and robotics to computerized classes with astronauts from the International Space Station,” said Ido Sharir, director- general of the ministry.
Since its establishment, over 30 information and communications technology centers have been established in peripheral and poor municipalities, to provide underprivileged populations with access to computers and the Internet.
Each center is comprised of two training classes holding some 40 computer terminals connected to the web, and offers basic computer training courses for all ages.
According to the ministry, 70 percent of Israeli households have an Internet connection, though it is a privilege shared mainly by the middle and upper classes. With regard to socioeconomic standing, only 38% of households in the bottom tenth percentile have an Internet connection compared to 94% of households in the top tenth percentile. While in the Arab sector only 42% of the public surfs the Internet from home.
“The main goal of the project is to prepare people at any age, especially from poorer backgrounds for a world in which technology is prevalent.
We teach them how to live in a digital world,” Rachel Baruch, director of content and pedagogy for the Lehava project told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
According to Baruch, the centers aim to implement basic computer skills in populations who may not have access to computers at home or at school.
“For the older populations we try to teach them skills to integrate into the workforce while for children we try to teach them basic computer concepts, while stimulating research skills as well as developing thought and creativity,” she said.
Baruch emphasized that the centers are not a replacement for education, in that they do not teach languages or school-related subjects, but rather provide an alternative venue for all underprivileged populations to develop technological skills.
The project maintains numerous open and closed content activities both online and offline, ranging from learning to use the Office program to creating basic websites or even comic strips for students.
“In the coming year we want to significantly expand the content available while adapting the open content to best fit the needs of each sector,” said Baruch.
“In addition, this requires the development of new training courses for counselors at the centers – the content is very dynamic and so training goes hand in hand with bringing in new content,” she explained.
With regards to the transfer to the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, Baruch said she believed the ministry would introduce programs while enhancing the existing programs available in the centers.
“The heart [of the project] is social and it must remain a social project,” she said.