Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
In Israel and other OECD countries, a large portion of the money allocated to social welfare and legal services is Not actually claimed by citizens. Lack of knowledge about these eligible benefits is the main reason for this failure of social aid funding and services to deliver to those most in need. Research from the Taub center in Jerusalem indicates that Israel's average entitlement take-up of benefits is lower than 50%, which is similar to the average for other OECD countries. The information gap is markedly pronounced among groups typically marginalized within Israeli society, including Arabs, the Ultra-Orthodox, immigrants, and the elderly.
In addition to the actual uptake of funds and the citizen know-how of their entitled rights, there are scores of CSOs addressing similar target populations and social problems, yet lack a platform to aggregate information concerning the legal and social rights and services they offer. Previous attempts at CSO-run sites are limited to one or a few fields of law, and to the resources of their founders, and require constant and exhaustive maintenance. Many are unable to handle content that is not within their core competency. A CSO that provides services for autistic children, for example, is usually unable to provide information regarding the intricacies of the Social Security qualifications. Amitay sees opportunity in increasing transparency of rights-based information that spans across multiple sectors, so that CSOs, government agencies, and citizens have incentive to work with one another and alleviate social problems.
For the majority of citizens, information about their rights is limited in scope, accessibility and relevance. If citizens reach out directly to government agencies, information is usually delivered in dense and legalistic language that is not user-friendly. In addition, only partial information is available, and even then, different ministries divide up tasks separately. Google searches, a common option to learn more about citizens’ rights, often result in information overload, or deliver information about commercial organizations that mask themselves as CSOs.
In order to increase the proportion of welfare funds that reach the legally entitled recipients there is a need to narrow the information gap regarding benefits and the means to implement them. The Internet and mobile technology alone as a solution are not sufficient as they result in information overflow and raise questions about accuracy and manipulative data. The major challenge resides in synthesizing information into one easily accessible medium, and then initiating a ‘push-to-market’ strategy that will successfully inform those who need the information most.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Amitay is the founder of Kol Zchut, which is the first online, wiki-based, and user-friendly database of Israeli citizens’ rights and eligibility for entitlements. After 40 years spent in the computer and hi-tech industry, Amitay had an observation about the transparency of legal and social rights for citizens that struck a nerve: a large sum of the money that governments allocate to welfare and social service benefits is not claimed by citizens. Citizens are often not equipped with the full know-how of their rights and thus do not claim their rights fully when in need. In fact, billions of dollars of social welfare funds are left untapped each year and do not reach those most in need. Amitay realized that the smallest changes to peoples’ know-how and knowledge of their rights can bring about significant social impact. Leveraging wiki and crowdsourcing technology, Amitay created a vehicle for citizen access and knowledge of rights and benefits across a wide range of fields. These key areas addressed by Amitay’s idea range from disability rights, single-parent rights, workers’ rights and even citizen rights relating to the use of noisy garden equipment.
Amitay’s idea is systems changing in the way it creates transparency between communities, ministries, public agencies, citizen sector organizations, and governments. Kol Zchut enables ministries, public agencies, civil sector organizations, and citizens to build a body of knowledge on rights and work together to address citizen needs without duplicating efforts. Because of its wiki technology, citizens, government agencies, and the citizen sector can constantly supplement information with up-to-date services and benefits, tips, and advice. Kol Zchut incentivizes organizations and agencies to make information transparent through this system for aggregating and disseminating information. In addition, individuals see the value in this idea because it allows them to claim their rights and connect to citizen organizations, welfare agencies, and governmental bodies that can assist them in fulfilling their specific needs.
To date, Kol Zchut is the world’s only wiki-based web platform for rights. Websites without the benefits of the wiki strategy are usually limited to one field, or to the resources of their founders. They are also limited in size, beneficiary groups, and by their ability to communicate updated information. The wiki system circumvents these barriers altogether: any contributor, after a due diligence test, can add information, and organizations can easily update information, allowing the platform to expand and scale impact with only marginal costs to the developers. Kol Zchut is evolving into an information bridge spanning government bodies and ministries, the civil sector, and the public, with next steps to scale in Europe and India. As a result of Amitay and Kol Zchut, more Israelis feel empowered to take advantage of their legal and social rights, while citizen sector organizations and the government are more equipped to offer their beneficiaries direct support and information.