WHAT was supposed to be a round table discussion on bilateral relations between the Philippines and Israel at The Manila Times office on December 15, took an interesting turn and uncovered the latter’s technological innovations recognized the world over.
As Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Effie Ben Matityau talked about the Philippines and Israel’s historical relations that date back to World War II, he highlighted agriculture as a common source of livelihood for both nations’ people, but also pointed out that unlike the former, his country maximized harvest and revenue through the use of technological advancements.
1. Despite geographical limitations, Israel’s agriculture is a highly developed industry.
“The secret is in the value chain,” Ambassador Matityau declared.
Identifying that agriculture remains to be an economic challenge in a developing country such as the Philippines, the ambassador imparted unique aspects of their own agricultural practices that led to their success in this sector.
In Israel, scientists, consultants, farmers and agriculture-related research industries have always worked together to maximize the use of technology in the application of farming methods to yield agricultural products such as fruits and vegetables.
The ambassador guaranteed that the simple process of matching technology and correct farming methods with farmers’ education and efficient infrastructure [farm-to-market roads] is an effective solution to the underdeveloped agricultural industry.
(Related story published in The Manila Times December 16, 2014 issue)
“There should be knowledgeable farmers who possess a good context of past know-how. Their learning curve should gear towards the market, and production should cope with the market’s demand for quality and quality. What really decides [agricultural success]is the market,” Matityau said.
Besides local and high-end market, Matityau encouraged the Philippines to capitalize on its export market, much like Israel, which has long been supplying agricultural products to European markets, especially during the winter season.
Citing one example, the ambassador boasted of their dairy farming wherein the cows produce 12,000 liters of milk, as compared to the normal range of 2,000 to 3,000 liters. Farmers are also wealthier in their country compared to Filipino farmers who are struggling to survive.
“You can’t become optimistic [in agricultural profitability]if you haven’t done anything,” he stated.
2. Mashav, a Hebrew acronym for Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, sponsors an 11-month undergraduate internship program for Agriculture students in developing countries.
The goal is for the scholars to pass on knowledge and production practices to revolutionize their respective country’s agricultural sector.
“There are specific training programs tailored for these students, so they can return to their country and bring back what they have learned and serve as leaders for change,” Matityau said.
In the Philippines, there are 540 students who are currently in training, mostly coming from state universities and colleges. In the past 10 years, 2,000 Filipino students have benefited from the program, which aims to adapt Israeli technology in the local farming industry.
“We want to build that cycle of knowledge. There are centers of demonstrations where students can observe, and when they return they replicate the same methods while adjusting to local conditions,” the ambassador explained.
“If you give students the right tools, the know-how and knowledge on the market, they will be able to increase productivity and contribute to GDP growth. In order to have better progress in the market, you need better production,” Matityau shared.
Believing in the value of agriculture he added, “farming is not a business it’s a way of life.”
3. Israel is the second largest ICT industry in the world following the United States.
“Major research and development centers are found in Israel,” the ambassador proudly shared.
Microsoft, HP, Intel and Motorola are just some of the biggest tech companies that have operations in Israel. With about 4,000 ICT startup companies, they have established their own “Silicon Wadi,” which is a counterpart to the California-based Silicon Valley.
“This sector has a huge impact in the society at large,” Matityau said. As technology is used in Energy, Finance, Transportation and Telecommunication systems, they place a great value on cyber security as well.
4. Dov Moran, an Israeli national and head of tech company M-Systems, invented the first flash drive in 1998.
Also known as the Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash drive, this convenient data storage device is widely used for its removable and re-writable features, replacing the floppy disk or CD to store computer files.
5. They invented popular applications Viber and Waze, as well as the first-ever texting system.
Interestingly, two widely used mobile applications Waze and Viber even in the Philippines were developed by Israeli companies.
Waze is a GPS-based navigation application program for smartphones with GPS support. It was developed by Waze Mobile, which is an Israeli start-up founded in 2008. The application program was acquired by Google in June 2013 for a reported amount of $1.3 billion. In the Philippines, drivers find the Waze app useful to find alternative routes when stuck in traffic.
Meanwhile, Viber was launched in 2010 as a direct competitor of Skype, founded by four Israeli partners: Talmon Marco, Igor Megzinik, Sani Maroli and Ofer Smocha. It is an instant messaging and voice over IP (internet protocol) app that conveniently integrates with your smartphone’s contacts list. Viber users from all over the world can make free voice calls via the Viber app, without worrying about registration.