Israel is a undoubtedly a hi-tech hub, even the often biased BBC would agree. However, as with the divide between rich and poor there is a similar divide between the those in the hi-tech industries and those that believe a successful marketing campaign involves a fax machine and a nice letter.
The summary on my LinkedIn profile states my recent work as the delivery of operational efficiencies through technology. This was before my aliyah.
In my last job before “coming home” I was working towards a paperless office including electronic filing, online work-flows which increased visibility and accountability and the introduction of electronic signatures (not to be confused with digital signatures).
I made aliyah with high hopes of a finding a project management role introducing and developing the aforementioned concepts. No such luck, I moved North to the Upper Galilee where hi-tech industry is in the minority.
I currently work in the role of International Marketing Manager (this also encompasses Business Development, Sales and Customer Service) for a manufacturing company in Karmiel. I use Excel to keep track of my leads and opportunities, a major backward step. In order to sell our products outside of Israel we are required to apply for export licenses from a government agency. This is a two-stage process.
Stage 1: Marketing License. This license is required before we can give a customer any information. To apply for the license we are required us to send a paper request with further copies of the request on two floppy disks by regular post (registered is not accepted). In reality the requirement is for CD’s, however we may as well use floppy disks as the file size rarely exceeds 1.44 MB. We wait for approximately 4 weeks (add a few more during the major chagim) for a decision by post. By which point any potential customer has found an alternative product outside of Israel.
Stage 2: Export License. This request should be printed five-times and again sent by regular post and usually takes 2 weeks.
Surely a secure web portal with a digital signature requirement would drastically improve this system. Even government agencies in India have started to move in this direction, albeit in a bureaucratic way. Yes, I am British and yes I blame the bureaucracy on the British, who perfected the art and then spread the bureaucracy plague across the great empire. The British have since discovered a cure and but seem to be keeping it a closely guarded secret.
I recently completed and filed my Israeli tax return online. This is progress you might say, but no! After submission online I was prompted to print two-copies of the tax return and go to a local tax office to file them in person. I waited for an hour for an official to stamp the forms, place them in a pending tray on his desk and send me on my way.
Even when I moved house I was required to present myself at the iriya along with the new occupant in order to spend 2 minutes signing forms to transfer the arnona and water. Unfortunately the waiting time to sign these forms can be an hour plus. Have I nothing better to do with my day?
I came to Israel with a filing cabinet and boy, I am glad I did. I have never seen a metal filing cabinet in Israel. It seems the method of filing here involves shelving units with rows and rows of lever arch files. Often these files are filled with printed emails and most common sight is the green sentence which reads, Please consider the environment before printing this email.
Now don’t get me started on the environment. I currently have a diesel burner in my rented accommodation, which I am told uses 10-liters a day. At today’s prices this equates to approximately 80 shekel a day if I were to use the burner all day (in the winter of course). I suggested a wood burner may have been a better choice. Apparently not, wood is a scarce natural resource and therefore is also not a good option. If wood is such a scarce resource why are we wasting vast amounts of paper?
Did I mention, I hate fax machines? In the UK I had avoided fax machines for several years, after all we now have email (even fax-to-email which generates a nice PDF and can be stored electronically). It appears however that Israelis are in love with the fax machine, possibly as much as they love their iPhone. Surely these two objects are mutually exclusive. During my first few weeks in Israel every response to a question was a request for a fax. “I don’t have a fax machine”, I would say to the utter surprise of the Israeli on the other end of the phone who abruptly breaks off our conversation to answer a 21st century iPhone.
It is obvious to see that by reducing the bureaucracy and implementing effective systems would greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our great nation. I really believe there are enough homegrown products in the hi-tech sector as well as the talented workforce required to achieve this goal. So what are we waiting for?
This blog first appeared on the Times of Israel website.