Israel to invest NIS 20 million in high-tech opportunities for Arabs
The Knesset committee for Arab affairs earmarked a sum of NIS 20 million ($5.6 million) to invest into Arab towns across Israel as part of a two-year plan to build technology parks and boost employment opportunities.
An additional NIS 5 million will be used to create roads and transportation to and from the tech parks. The project, overseen by the Ministry of Economy and Industry, is set to begin within the next 90 days.
“The plan is expected to create conditions for the creation of thousands of new jobs in the fields of development, software and services, and to contribute to narrowing the gap between supply and demand” for the employment of Arabs in the high-tech sector, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Arab Israelis constitute around 20 percent of the population yet they often complain of discrimination in various fields, including building permits, infrastructure and education.
Only 2.5% of Arab-Israeli population are said to be employed in the high-tech sector according to government data cited by the Times of Israel. Women and ultra-Orthodox sects of society also tend to be under-represented in the field leading to an income gap between groups.
Since 2012, the government has initiated a number of projects to assist Arab-Israelis in integrating into the high-tech sector. A dearth of high-tech workers has led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to explore ways to boost the sector that Israel prides itself on. In particular, the industry is lacking skilled engineers and programmers.
In 2015, a NIS 15 billion program was launched to boost the Arab high-tech sector, the decision to launch the tech park announced on Thursday is an extension of this project.
“Within just two years we have already witnessed a significant increase of many growth indicators in Arab society,” said Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel in the statement announcing the committee’s decision, the Times of Israel reported. “The fact that the plan is so successful attests to the government’s commitment,” she added.
As part of this, a project coined ‘Plan 922’ was created. Since its implementation there has been a 6.3% increase in the rate of matriculation eligibility in Arab society, a 2% rise in the number of Arab students and around 88,000 youths participating in informal education programs.
Nazareth, a city located in the northern district of Israel, has seen promising improvement in the sector and is gaining a reputation for itself as the Arab capital of the Startup Nation. It currently is home to some 20 high-tech companies such as Amdocs, Broadcom and Microsoft.
Also in the town of Kafr Kasim, located about 20 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, the high-tech sector appears to be growing since Tsofen opened a startup accelerator program. Tsofen was founded in 2008 by Jewish and Arab high-tech experts and its mission is to close income gaps between the two communities in the sector.
Speaking to the Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Mayor of the town Adel Badir said, “the location gives it tremendous advantage. I expect that Kafr Kasim will transform in 10 years to a big center of high-tech similar to Ra’anana.”
Badir explained that he would like to see the city’s current and emerging industry absorb another 1,200 Arab and Jewish workers from the region. He added that this would “open a new horizon” for local Arab-Israeli women who find it difficult to find jobs in the field.
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pity they aren't only 2% of the population. or better yet 0