Very few of us are aware that a decisive part of the Israeli economy is entrusted to a small number of data centers, which store and compute the data of thousands of organizations like banks, insurance companies, retail chains, industrial plants, health institutions, defense companies and more. To the naked eye a bank or a retail chain is comprised of workers, offices, and branches, but the real essence is hidden, an economic organization in effect ‘’lives’’ where its data is located. The data is located at a small number of underground data centers, which are located in the center of the country and in effect serve as the engines for the Israeli economy.
The flourishing of data centers established in Israel through private initiative and financing is an achievement on a national scale. The data centers underscore the massive conversion of the economy to the digital age and they have become an engine of digital transformation, which is vital to the future of companies and their competitive abilities. The faster pace of the growth of data strengthens the unmatched importance of data centers as part of the economic infrastructure.
The importance of data centers in the economy requires a policy on a national level similar to that of any other critical infrastructure. This is required even though the data centers are privately owned facilities that serve private companies, as well as public and government organizations. Data centers, like electricity, water, gas, and other infrastructures face a range of serious threats, most notably sophisticated cyber-attacks, part of them conducted by terror organizations and states. Israel already is involved in a 'de facto' war against Iran that could develop into a full-scale war with the involvement of Hezbollah and Hamas.
Covid-19 has proved just how fragile the international reality is and the ease and speed with which countries can arrive at economic paralysis. In times of crisis a country’s infrastructures serve as an anchor of security and a dramatic as well as critical base for recovery. Without a doubt, Covid-19 will not be the last global crisis. For example, the climate crisis will intensify in a dramatic way in the coming years, and will have a direct influence on the shift to alternative energies, including at data centers.
Israel's data centers were built according to the strictest and highest international standards from a technological and a security perspective. However, the government never took them into account as part of the national infrastructure which requires long-term planning, regulation, reference to economic potential and national security related issues. Unlike Israel, other advanced countries have conceived and implemented a national plan for data centers. Even a small country like Ireland, which has become a global center for innovation, has conceived a national plan for data centers that considers them part of the national infrastructure and deals with the complex issues of investment, attracting multinational companies, economic growth, employment, energy and more. This plan is fully incorporated into the Project Ireland 2040, a plan for the development of the high-tech sector, and has become a key element of it. The strategy clearly identifies the contribution of data centers to employment, GDP, attracting investments from multinational companies and their entry into Ireland and drives to expand their weight within the overall economy as part of a planned approach.
Israel should adopt this new approach in relation to data centers and consider them as part of the national infrastructure for all intents and purposes. Israel can learn from the policies that have been devised by other countries in this field and implement them with the necessary changes. The government should establish an inter-ministerial team comprised of senior representatives from the government’s National Digital Ministry, Science and Technology, Finance, Energy, other ministries as well as from companies that currently operate in the sector, in order to determine regulation, and a national strategy. This would include: understanding the economic contribution and the potential of the sector; recommendations for future development; exact definition of those authorized to establish data centers; the optimal geographic distribution with reference to security and employment issues; the integration of renewable energy; studying cyber related issues; the integration into the national cyber administration and more. This is not about state investments in data centers which are privately owned but a smarter integration that would accelerate economic growth and guarantee better security for an infrastructure that is nowadays one of the most critical for the state.
Moshe Lasman is the CEO and founder of Global Data Center
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 23, 2020 © Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020