Photo Credit: ITU Pictures via Flickr
Fax machine circa 1968

Israel is among the top countries in the world when it comes to technological innovation, but Israelis who require the services of government offices, HMOs, and many other official entities are still required to give and receive information via the fax machine, which is based on 19th century naval technology.

On Monday, the Knesset plenum approved in a preliminary reading a bill facilitating contact with public entities by means of digital media. The bill was sponsored by Likud MKs David Bitan and Sharren Haskel, combined with a similar proposal by MK Stav Shafir (Zionist Camp).

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52 supported the bill and no one opposed. It will now be submitted for hearings and amendments to the Knesset Science and Technology Committee.

A victorious Shafir tweeted Monday night: “Once I called a government office to ask for a certain service. They answered: ‘Send a fax.’ I asked what was their email. They answered: ‘We used to have an email but a lot of people used it so we went back to the fax.’ A law I submitted three years ago to connect the government to e-mail became a government decision, but this was not carried out, so I re-filed as a bill. It was passed tonight! Bye Fax. Government, welcome to the start-up nation.”

The bill proposes to require public entities that provide public service to publish on their website the main types of services they provide, their geographic distribution, and ways of communicating with them (the means of digital communication through which they can be contacted), and ways of communicating with the employee or the unit that provides service to the public.

The explanatory notes read: “The websites of many public bodies do not include contact details for the various employees, which makes it difficult for the public to approach them in order to receive a response to its requests. There is a need for accessibility, the ability to contact public employees regarding their area of ​​responsibility and activity.”

“Therefore, it is proposed that public entities listed in the Appendix to the bill must publish in each of their official publications, including on their websites, the up-to-date e-mail addresses of the Ministry’s employees, or a telephone number of the employee or anyone acting on his behalf. This will enable the public service to be made available to the citizens and to increase the public’s trust in the public entities listed in this law,” the bill’s notes explain.

MK Haskel said in a statement: “The reality is sad, the government and the public sector in Israel are perceived as cumbersome and outdated, and some still do not allow citizens to communicate with them via e-mail. In Israel, the start-up nation, they still make use of the fax machine mandatory. The biggest absurdity is that government offices use software which converts fax messages into e-mail which the clerk receives.”

“In what household can we find a fax machine nowadays?” Haskel asked, adding, “This bureaucracy is unnecessary and burdensome, and pollutes the environment with the production of unnecessary paper.”

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