‘Web czar’ appointed to cut online bureaucracy

‘Web czar’ appointed to cut online bureaucracy

The new Chief Information Officer has a clear mission: to reduce Israelis’ dependence on technocrats

Carmela Avner (Courtesy)
Carmela Avner (Courtesy)

In a move he hopes will make it significantly easier for Israelis to access the online services provided by their government, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced Tuesday that he had appointed  Carmela Avner as Israel’s new Chief Information Officer.

Avner got the job over 17 other candidates, Steinitz said, because she was “the best choice for the job of running the government’s information systems.”

Avner has been working in information systems technologies for over two decades, and is a veteran of companies like ECI, Ness, and Teva. She was most recently head of Israel’s government portal, the gov.il domain (known as the e-gov project) which encompasses all government websites that provide services to the public.

Avner’s new job was created in 2011, when the government decided to accept a proposal by Steinitz and Michael Eitan, minister in charge of improving government relations with the public, for a “web czar” who would streamline the operation of government websites and improve their accessibility to the public.

The decision places Avner in charge of information systems in all government ministries — the first time that one person would be responsible for that level of government data. According to the government decision, the CIO will consult with officials of all government ministries on the ease of use, convenience, and accessibility of their sites. Avner’s job, said Steinitz, is to make government more responsive to the needs of the public via ministry web sites, using the latest technology to reduce the bureaucracy associated with doing business with the government — for individuals, businesses, organizations – and even between government offices themselves.

Reducing bureaucracy has long been a goal of both Steinitz and Eitan. In a position paper he authored in 2009, Eitan said that “the concept of improving service must be based on the idea that we are here to serve the public, not the bureaucracy. We must reduce the dependence of the public on government workers and make it easier for them to access services directly.” That improvement needs to be implemented in all situations where the public encounters government, the paper said — face-to-face, via the mail and phone, and of course, on the web, and via other technologies.

It’s a tall order in a bureaucracy-happy country like Israel, but Steinitz said he believed Avner was up to the job. “Avner has had a great deal of experience in Israeli hi-tech, and as a result of her work as head of e-gov, has become well acquainted with the issues facing the ministries” he said. “I am sure that under her leadership, the department will be able to raise the service quality for the public, resulting in an improvement to service and a reduction in bureaucracy for all citizens,” Steinitz added.

As an added bonus, Steinitz added, he was proud to say that he now presided over an office in which three of the top appointees were women. Besides Avner, two other women – Michal Abadi-Boiangiu, Accountant-General, and State Revenue Commissioner, Freida Yisraely – are appointees at the ministry. “I am proud that for the first time three women will be among the directors of the Finance Ministry,” Steinitz said.

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