TechNation / Tech Growth Flagged Last Year in Israel, but Pay Rose

3G may be coming to West Bank; WhiteSmoke signs with Korean company; Gov’t cell tender open to more bidders; WebPick to fire 100 of its 140 workers.

High-tech workers in Israel.
Tomer Appelbaum

Tech growth flagged last year

High-tech is no longer the economic growth engine it once was for Israel. The Central Bureau of Statistics reported last week that the information, communications and technology sector accounted for just 11% of total gross domestic product in 2014, about the same level as in recent years. High-tech grew faster than other business sectors by a rate of 4% versus 3%, but much of the sector’s growth was generated by the research and development centers owned and operated by multinational corporations, while high-tech manufacturing registered tepid growth of just 2%, the bureau said. The number of people employed in technology dropped 1% to 183,000 in 2014, marking the fourth year of decline. Pay, however, rose 5%, with companies in the telecommunications equipment manufacturing sector enjoying annual average salaries of 323,000 shekels ($84,425). That was more than double what people who work for telcos make, an average of 159,000 shekels, the lowest in high-tech. (Inbal Orpaz) 

3G may be coming to West Bank

Israel has given a proposal to the Palestinian Authority that could finally give Palestinians 3G mobile services in the West Bank. Meetings last Thursday led to an agreement in principle that now hinges on the Palestinians meeting Israeli conditions, said a spokesman for the Israeli Communications Ministry. Palestinian mobile operators Paltel and Wataniya, still using 2G technology and losing money, are seeking to offer 3G to meet surging demand for data bandwidth through social media applications. But under interim peace accords, Israel effectively has final say in allocating radio frequencies in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule. In the past, Israel has told the Palestinians there were not enough frequencies for 3G and that they should lease access to them from Israeli providers. Allam Mousa, the Palestinian Minister of Telecommunication, called the new outline a “breakthrough.” (Reuters)

WhiteSmoke signs with Korean company

WhiteSmoke, the Israeli company that has developed software to help people correct their grammatical mistakes in English, on Sunday signed its first strategic agreement. Wisroad, a Korean company which offers courses over the Internet, agreed to pay a minimum of $520,000 for a license to use WhiteSmoke’s software in Korea for the next three years. Moreover, Wisroad agreed to market the WhiteSmoke product in Korea to other corporate users and government agencies, marking WhiteSmoke’s first foray in the Far East market. (Shelly Appelberg) 

Gov’t cell tender open to more bidders

A fat, 150 million-shekel ($39.2 million) contract to supply civil servants with some 95,000 cellphones for two years is being thrown open to more competition. Until now, only cellphone operators could contend for the contract, even though it is only to buy and service the phones, not for phone service. This time the tender is open to cellphone importers and distributors, including both factory-authorized companies and those without. The Pelephone unit of Bezeq won the last tender, with an offer to supply a package of calls, data and two giga of Internet for 70 shekels a month – about 20 shekels a month more than prevailing prices in the market. (Amitai Ziv and Amir Teig) 

WebPick to fire 100 of its 140 workers

WebPick Internet Holdings, which controls a group of companies in the software-download business, is letting go of 100 staff, leaving it with just 40. Like other so-called “download valley” companies, WebPick has been hurt by a crackdown by the big Internet companies --  in WebPick’s case, Microsoft -- in response to customers complaints about unwanted freeware. CEO Nadav Branstater told announced the layoffs at a meeting of staff and said the company would now focus on its mobile and ad server businesses, TheMarker has learned. At its peak, WebPick had more than 200 employees. (Inbal Orpaz)