Citizen Development A World Away

Israeli innovators code, or barely code, to solve everyday problems.

In the center of a region normally known for its political strife, Israeli companies are addressing core business and humanitarian issues through low code rapid application development. During my visit to Israel earlier this summer with Vibe Israel, I learned that the country contributes significantly to the multi-billion application industry and created an estimated 500 new apps last year.

GetYou: Combating the Wrong First Impression

In Israel, the process begins with a problem that needs to be solved. A blonde bombshell with a Ph.D., scientist Orit Monsinson was tired of being judged inaccurately on social media. She felt that social networks like Facebook portray users in a one-dimensional manner, relying too much on photos. While she didn’t consider herself a “techie,” she had taken some programming courses in college and understood how to build an application’s platform structure.

Monsinson built an app that scrapes data from Facebook to create a profile for each user. When users play another, they gather more in depth information to guess what the other person is really like. The app, called “GetYou,” is available on Google Play and the Apple Store and has accelerated adoption with 1.8 million profiles from 200 countries. It’s breaking down stereotypes by allowing Israelis to play Palestinians, English to play Scottish, and so on and so forth.

MitzPush: Breathing Life Into a Neglected Area

A few hundred miles south of Monsinson, the McCann Valley Group (a medium-sized, local division of advertising giant McCann Erickson) was struggling to save a community in crisis. Mitzpe Ramon, a remote desert town that had long been ignored by the government, was suffering an unemployment rate that was twice the national average and a lack of career opportunities due to a sluggish economy and comparably low salaries.

The McCann Valley Group created an application as both an advertising business and social initiative. Called “Mitzpush,” the app helps Israeli tourists find places to sleep, eat, and visit in an area filled with natural beauty and majestic views. It portrays over 100 of these places on a 3D interactive map of Mitzpe Ramon, allowing users to virtually explore the town before they arrive. Currently offered in Hebrew for iOS and Android devices, “Mitzpush” has had thousands of downloads and will reach many more when offered in English later this year.

From what I observed, application development is so vibrant in Israel because when citizen developers see an issue that technology can address, they don’t ask permission to build an app and they don’t wait for a big company to get behind it. They don’t spend a lot of time on strategy. Rather, they execute quickly, roll out and solicit feedback on the app, and improve it over time. It’s a cycle of innovation that leads to ongoing breakthroughs.

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