RS 2: Israel

OK Computers: Bridging Israel’s Gaping Digital Divide

Amati Ziv explored the deceptive digital divide that he claims is still widening in Israel. He writes that the divide is not just noticeable between income gaps but with other minority groups such as the Arab community in Israel and the ultra-orthodox. The most important point that Ziv attempts to explain is that the issue does not lay in having access to internet necessarily, but whether or not they can use it. Families will pay for internet but not own a computer, which looks great with certain statistics but once the lid is lifted the truth of the digital divide is made clear. Ziv writes “[f]irst of all, the fact that families pay for the internet doesn’t necessarily mean that they use it.” (6) He then continues to explain that “’They have Hot’s three part service.’ – a reference to a package that includes cable television, Internet, and landline telephone service – ‘because that’s what they were sold, but they don’t have a computer.’” (6) The digital divide, according to Ziv, in Israel is measured by access to technology, not necessarily the internet. He says “if we look at the number of computers per household in Shlomi, Sderot and Baka al-Garbiyeh, compared to Herzliya [just north of Tel Aviv], it’s as if they’re not on the same planet.” (4) Ziv goes on to cite figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). He says that “The CBS found there were 168,000 households without Internet connection, fully 132,000 of which were in the bottom 20% of income earners.” (7)

There are many organizations in Israel that dedicate themselves to bridging the gap in Israel. Aryeh Skop, the chairman of A Computer for Every Child profoundly defended large computer corporations in their efforts to bridge the divide instead of pointing focus towards other issues such as homelessness or hunger, connecting with their thought process. He says “the narrowing of the digital Divide gives people fishing rods instead of fish.” (19) This is why he and so many others, including Ziv, find it important to continue to fill the gap in Israel. There is an ironic component to this digital divide given Israel’s reputation as a technological hub. Professor Sheizaf Rafaeli of University of Haifa notes that sometimes “the receipts (to prove Israel is a tech nation) are fake, and with respect to everything else, we were never a power.” (3)

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