Israel becomes charter member of elite ‘digital government’ club

Experts from five countries join forces at inaugural meeting in London to improve digital services for the public

UK Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude with young participants in a computer coding contest at the D5 Forum in London, December 9, 2014 (Photo credit: Courtesy)
UK Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude with young participants in a computer coding contest at the D5 Forum in London, December 9, 2014 (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel is one of five founding countries in a new UK-sponsored project to encourage the adoption of digital tools and systems to improve public services.

Along with Britain, South Korea, Estonia and New Zealand, Israel kicked off the D5 (for Digital Five) forum this week in London, with countries sharing their experience and expertise in digital governing.

The group plans to eventually expand its membership, but for now, the five were chosen because they are, according to the UK and international experts behind the effort, the “most digitally advanced countries in the world.”

At the summit, representatives from government, industry and technology firms from all five countries discussed what a digital government should achieve and what the future could hold. Discussions also centered on ways to improve digital services, collaborate on common projects and spread the word of digital government as a better way to serve the public.

The event was hosted by the UK’s Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, who on a recent visit to Israel extolled the good cooperation between the two countries on cyber issues. Both Israel and the UK, he said, “face enormous challenges in securing our cyber spaces and supplying the best digital services to our citizens, so cooperation between UK and Israel is of great mutual benefit.”

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said that Israel was included in the exclusive list because it is changing the way it provides essential services to its citizens through the Digital Israel initiative.

“This initiative promotes the use of digital services in the public sector, in important areas such as education, healthcare and welfare, and the use of digital technology in business, particularly by small and medium-sized businesses,” he said

The spokesperson added: “Digital Israel is also about using IT for better interaction between government and people, growing the economy and improving social welfare. The Israeli fiber optic communication project will give the country one of the world’s most advanced broadband networks, giving Israeli households and businesses access to superfast Internet.”

Speaking at the event, Maude encouraged representatives to take the message of digital government back to their home countries, and raise awareness about its benefits.

“We’re all searching for answers to the same basic question of how to harness digital technology to bring about better government,” he added. “We all face similar challenges – aging populations, less money, rising consumer expectations. That’s why it’s so important that we get together to support each other, to discuss our experience and to spark ideas.”

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