Neli ODISHVILI: "There is a bit of cyberspace in all of us... Discover it with Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture!"

16.02.2022 (
Caucasian Journal) What is a School of Digital Culture? And, by the way, what is digital culture? Why does anybody need a diploma to certify one’s digital “cultural level”? 
Our today's guest Neli ODISHVILI from Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture is going to answer.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Neli, welcome to Caucasian Journal. When we heard about the launch of Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture, we instantly thought we must cover this project, and I wish to thank our friend, the Israeli Ambassador Ran Gidor, for his kind help and an exclusive comment, which can be found below. Let me start with this: Have you ever dreamed about starting your own school, and how do you feel about it now? 

Neli ODISHVILI: First and foremost, I would like to thank you for your interest and willingness to provide the reader with comprehensive information about Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture. Initially, it should be mentioned that implementing a project of such importance and comprehensive influence is an immense responsibility. I have always been passionately inspired by the idea to establish digital culture in Georgia and raise young generations awareness regarding a concept that describes the set of infinite capacities given from the digital world. For the last few years, inspired by this idea, I have been dreaming to make small mental shifts in Georgia, but launching  Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture will definitely be not only a small shift but a whole mental revolution with the beginning of a fundamental transformation of approaches regarding how young generation should be educated.

AK:  Can you tell more about yourself, and how did you get involved? 

NO: Currently, I am CEO of Internet Development Initiative (IDI) created by marvelous people with the main idea to shape a better future of internet with ensuring its security and stability. We work to pursue cyber security and elaboration of information and communication technology as our core competency. In the scope of IDI, number of influential projects are being implemented, and among them I would like to mention the International Cybersecurity Festival, Online Radio Transmission “CyberTalk” and Online Newspaper “CyberStellar”. My interest in information technologies, internet governance and digital policies was provoked during my study in Poland, and this passion has been driven by number of international projects since then. 

AK:  Now I think we can move to your School concept. But we promised to the readers to explain first, what is digital culture, and why one needs a school of it. Can you tell us, please? 

NO: Digital culture is the concept which describes how technology and the cyber space are shaping the way that we interact as individuals. Digital culture is the product of the endless persuasive technology around us and the result of disruptive technological innovation. In the era of rapidly progressing technologies, it is becoming vital to extend young generation’s consciousness regarding this concept and deepen their understanding about the processes taking place in digital world. With its sophisticated dimensions and contextual idea, Israel-Georgia School of Digital culture will have precedential character because its ideological analogue does not exist not only in Georgia, but even on a regional scale. After accomplishing the project, participants will prepare workpapers  related to one of the topics discussed during the School. Their pieces of paper will be uploaded on the website of the project and finally they will receive official certificates.  

AK:  What are the subjects that you will teach? What about the length of the courses? Is there a tuition fee?

NO: The school is applicable to multiple subjects but it comes down to one overarching theme, the relationship between individuals and technology. All the modules presented within Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture create a unified architecture of the digital world. These modules are: Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, E-governance, Digital Transformation, Hybrid Challenges, Digital Literacy, Personal Data Protection, Legal Aspects of Cyberspace and Cybercrime. Due to intensive nature of the project, on February 22-25, the above-mentioned eight modules will be distributed over four days. I am proud that participation in such a wonderful project is completely free for young thought leaders. For this merit I would like to express my special gratitude to general partner and sponsor of the project, the Embassy of Israel to Georgia and the Israeli Ambassador Ran Gidor. 

We have asked Ambassador Ran GIDOR for an exclusive comment: 
Ambassador Ran GIDOR: 
"Digital School will become a regular feature of the Embassy’s annual workplan"

In recent years Georgia (as well as many other nations, including US & Israel) has had to face up to numerous cyber-related challenges both in terms of national security and the right to individual privacy. Israel, as an acknowledged high-tech nation, is well placed to support Georgia in its efforts to upgrade its cyber infrastructure. Israel has consistently been marked as the world’s #2 in terms of GDP percentage devoted to R&D, and #1 in proportion of startup companies per capita. 

The Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture provides us with an opportunity to identify, coach and link with Georgia’s future coders, developers and cyber experts – the next generation, if you will, of Georgia’s emerging high-tech ecosystem. This is not purely altruistic on our part but also makes perfect diplomatic and commercial sense. In fact, as a follow-up to the seminar (22-25th February) we’re also planning a B2B session, matching up relevant commercial entities and entrepreneurs in both countries.

This year, 2022, is the 30th anniversary of Israeli-Georgian bilateral relations and we’ve been trying to ‘think outside of the box’ in order to identify some project ideas with exception added value. 

The Digital School project was conceived after we’d invited Neli Odishvili to represent Georgia at the 2021 Tel Aviv Cyber Week. Everyone who met her was initially struck by her youth, but 5 minutes into the conversation was already fully conscious of the full range of her knowledge, ambition and professionalism. Upon her return from Israel she produced detailed articles and reports for her online magazine (of which she’s also the editor). We then realized that she’s exactly the kind of young partner we’re looking for – someone who’s capable of triggering a change and inspiring her peers. We’re confident that the Digital School will not be a ‘one-off’ event, but rather become a regular feature of the embassy’s annual workplan.

AK:  And, by the way, it’s not a “physical” classroom with walls and blackboard, right?

NO: Definitely. We shouldn’t comprehend the word "school" literally. The application of this word in the name of the project serves the sole purpose, to define the concept of the project, which in turn, implies fullest possible mindset development of each learner for creatively and productively in a digital world. However, I should note that the Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture will physically take place on 22-25 February on the platform of Business and Technology University of Georgia. I am sure that with its sophisticated dimensions contextual idea and innovative standards this project will create its authentic identity.  

In the era of rapidly progressing technologies, it is becoming vital to extend young generation’s consciousness regarding digital culture and deepen their understanding about processes taking place in digital world.

AK:  As the name of the School implies, your school must be international. What is the teaching language?

NO: As the name implies, Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture is a collaborative project between two counties, Israel and Georgia. On 22-25 February, on the platform of Business and Technology University, the leading specialists of the fields, invited from Israel and Georgia will intensively cover all the above-mentioned significant areas which create a unified architecture of the digital world. We have carefully selected the invited lecturers according to their competence and quality of professionalism. Accordingly, during the project participants will listen lectures both in Georgian and English. 

AK:  So, who are your typical students? I am sure you are already getting many applications.

NO: The number of applications submitted during the registration process exceeded expectations. We are especially pleased with such interest in the Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture, and hope that the project will fully justify the expectations of the participants. The Students of the School will be highly motivated individuals with a noble sense of integrity. They  will have a desire to lead an alter processes in the society and commitment to learn and share their knowledge with others. 

AK:  What is the main motivation of your students, in your view?

NO: From my point of view, students sending applications to participate in Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture are open-minded individuals with a sharply defined identity. Their motivation is to lead an alter processes in the society, to have a voice for better future and the most importantly, as Digital Culture Ambassadors, to be able to contribute in the establishment of Georgian digital culture. 

AK:  Who are the teachers? Where is your staff coming from?

NO: In the scope of Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture we have invited leading professionals of the fields both from Israel and Georgia. All the invited lecturers are the preeminent experts and cooperation with them in the scope of the project is a great honor for us. Before starting the School, we will periodically share the information and introduce them to the general public. 

AK:  Why, in your view, is this School important for Georgia? And why will Georgia benefit from the Israeli experience in this field?

NO: In order to evolve innovative ecosystem and promote young Georgian though leaders, it is our interest to nurture the process of digitalization with implementing the Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture. In my humble opinion, for Georgia, as a developing country, it should be unequivocal ideological priority to extend young generation’s consciousness regarding a concept that describes how technology and cyberspace are shaping the way we interact as individuals. For young generations it is influential to pursuit current processes taking place in the digital space, because the measure of youth consciousness in this direction will be directly proportional to the progress of their professional qualities. Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture will empower Georgian talents to be at their best, to collaborate, create and grow in their cutting-edge roles. Israeli experience sharing in this process is especially important. Israel has incredible entrepreneurial spirit and a deep bench of technology talent. As a global technological and entrepreneurial powerhouse, it is one of the leading innovative countries, accordingly, the leading specialists of the fields, invited from Israel and Georgia will collaboratively make this project spectacularly inspiring. 
 
AK:  Your School has a number of cooperation partners. Who was the initiator of the School project, and what are the roles of partners in it?

NO: The idea of establishment the project was born on the platform of non-governmental organisation "Internet Development Initiative" (IDI) in the scope of collaboration with Dr. Vladimer Svanadze, one of the Georgia's preeminent cybersecurity experts. IDI is the organizer of the project. In order to implement the project within reasonable scopes and carry out it physically, IDI made a consortium with Business and Technology University. It should be emphasized that the Israeli Ambassador to Georgia, Ran Gidor has a special contribution and merit in the implementation process of the School of Digital Culture. I am proud that the general partner and sponsor of Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture is the Embassy of Israel to Georgia. Israeli support in inculcating digital culture in Georgia is immeasurable.

AK:  Let’s imagine you are sending a message to people who are interested in the School, but still hesitant. What are the most decisive arguments to stimulate them? For instance, how is your School’s diploma going to help in the people’s lives?

NO: I would encourage and tell them to allow obstacles to become opportunities, because challenges are presents that make us find a new centre of gravity. I am sure participating in Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture will promote student’s development in the best possible way and not only the certificate received in the scope of the project, but also knowledge embedded in their minds will be irreversible path to their future success. 

AK:  If there is anything else you want to add, the floor is yours.

NO: I consider that there is a bit of cyberspace in all of us and the only thing we need to do is to discover it… with Israel-Georgia School of Digital Culture.

AK: Thank you very much!


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