Social Technologist Speaks Out
Yossi Vardi is one of Israel’s most influential tech investors, a role he earned after selling global instant messaging platform ICQ to AOL. Vardi is well known on the elite global conference circuit for his wiry hair, wit and wisdom. He has become a strong proponent of using technology — and the financial dividends it can create — to help solve other social problems, as highlighted in this piece in the Economist (registration required, and well worth it).
Rather than focusing on high-tech, “the time has come to change proportions and invest the government’s R&D budgets into traditional industry to create more jobs,” he says.
Israeli tech business people live in even more rarefied air than those in Silicon Valley, and most remain solely focused on developing more tech, intentionally ignorant of politics and social issues, according to Vardi’s interpretation.
Things are unlikely to change quickly in any case, not least because the high-tech elite is wary of getting involved in social reform other than through philanthropy. Israeli entrepreneurs dislike and avoid politics even more than their Silicon Valley counterparts do. Yet, Mr Vardi believes, they could be missing a chance to set an example for the world. For it is not just Israel’s high-tech industry around Tel Aviv that floats like an island of wealth in a sea of poverty. In places such as Bangalore in India the situation is even worse.
So, who is there to answer Vardi’s call? If he’s capable of hosting shabbat at WEF-Davos and lunch with Jordan’s Queen Rania, it would seem some would consider his advice.
Will funds like the one George Soros, Google and Pierre Omidyar just announced start to address this space? Can Vardi attract the interest of groups like Endeavor, who are doing such great work in other parts of the world?