Following the Eastern-Galilee Action Plan of PoliRural, on Wednesday, 11/5/2022, PoliRural pilot Galilee representatives met with PM Yoaz Hendel, the Minister of Communications, at the Minister’s Office in Jerusalem (and with the Minister’s Adviser – Yoram Halperin) to discuss the upgrading of the Galilee’s digitalization infrastructure. The delegation included Prof Uri Marchaim (MIGAL), Mr Aharon Valensi (consultant for the PoliRural European project and former head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council), Mr Shai Kronenblum (Upper Galilee Regional Council) and Mr Moshe Karko (Eastern-Galilee Cluster of the municipalities).

The meeting revolved around the activities as part of the PoliRural project which deals with the issue of peripheral development. We came with the aim of asking the Minister of Communications to lead a move at the government to turn the Eastern Galilee into a pilot project to upgrade the digitalization infrastructure in order to upgrade the economy in the Galilee, establish start-up companies and bring young families to the Galilee.

We gave a presentation, and presented to the Minister the main points (we sent in advance a list of topics for discussion and the ppt presentation) and the Minister clarified that things are known and clear to him and the purpose is important. Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel: “We are entering a new digital age. In the last year and a half, we have cleared up the regulatory traffic jams in the deployment of advanced infrastructure, and established in the Knesset Parliament regulatory moves. We are moving the Israeli economy forward, and in a short time Israel will lead the Western countries in terms of communications infrastructure”.

The Israeli government approved the outline plan for deployment of fibre-optic cable networks in Israel, which is critical for the communications market, particularly at a time of crisis. The outline plan deals with setting up of an investment fund financed by the telecommunications carriers to finance deployment in the periphery. The network will substantially improve Internet speeds in Israel and enable many new applications to be introduced, chiefly to accelerate the provision of digital services to both the domestic and enterprise markets.

We submitted to the Minister the work done by the Deloitte company to analyse the needs and solutions that exist today and are required in the future to upgrade the infrastructure. The Minister clarified that there is currently a rapid development of laying of fibre infrastructure in Israel, and we are currently leading the world in the pace of installing digital infrastructure. There are currently about 40 small companies, in addition to the communication’s main companies, competing for tenders for the installation of fibre infrastructure and there is almost no area where the appropriate infrastructure cannot be obtained. Both the Minister and the Adviser (with whom we continued the discussion) stressed that there is currently no limit in installing fibre with “infinite” bandwidth that can allow all activities of companies, or research institutions, and if there are delays with companies, we can contact the Minister and Advisor directly to speed up processes. On the issue of the use of “precision agriculture,” the minister said that it is possible to install a fibre that will reach every plant in the field.

On the issue of 5G, the Minister emphasized that it is an issue that the uses around the world are still unclear, and the ministry gives incentives to all companies that are interested in developing the issue of 5G uses. Development can be important in the field of “remote medicine”. This may be an issue that needs to be promoted with Margalit’s centre in Kiryat Shmona.

The discussion that took place builds an infrastructure for thinking about the next steps required in the Upper Galilee for the implementation of infrastructure development to lead the economic development of the Eastern Galilee. We invited the Minister to visit MIGAL to show him our activities.

Mr. Yoaz Hendel said that Israel is now entering a new digital age. The time has come for us to close the gap and deploy advanced communications infrastructures throughout the country – in the centre, in the periphery, and along the borders. Communications infrastructures are a mighty growth engine for the labour market and for GDP. They facilitate remote work and study and improved living conditions in the periphery of the country.

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