Israeli AI strategy architect Dr Orna Berry on the pandemic response


James Riley
Editorial Director

Dr Orna Berry is a former Israel government chief scientist and head of Industrial Research and Development. She served as an officer in the air force, earned a PhD in computer science, and is a serial entrepreneur, having founded Ornet Data Communications during the early ethernet era.

More recently Dr Berry has advised on national strategy for Israel’s quantum computing and artificial intelligence research efforts, and just this month joined the Google Cloud global management team, serving as director of the technology inside Google’s CTO office.

It is a stellar career that has allowed a unique vantage point from which to view the state response to the global pandemic. And she has quite a story to tell.

Orna Berry
Dr Orna Berry: Researcher, computer scientist and entrepreneur

Israel has been front-running on a great many COVID-19 strategies on everything from containment to vaccinations and has leveraged all parts of its famed and interconnected research and development ecosystem.

While at pains to say she is not an epidemiologist, Dr Berry has had a pretty good view of the response and the way the different component parts of that interconnected system – of health, military, academic and commercial researchers were able to come together and build tools.

Dr Berry will participate in a panel session at the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce Innovation Summit 2021 on Wednesday 20 October on ‘Our next transformative decade – AI & the impact on Industry’.

There are lessons here. First of all, from an artificial intelligence and data science, the early realisation of the pandemic was that the Health ministry expertise was as a regulator and needed assistance in terms of data and analysis, including from the military.

From the collecting of data, the use of remote sensors and local sensors in hospitals, the creation of dashboard tools and the collecting of data from medical tests to the organisations doing the analysing and bringing together the HMOs and hospitals and laboratories and universities and and the Ministry of Health.

It was a full-court press effort and included a heavy involvement of the Israeli defence forces on AI, data, sensors and the building of tools and dashboards.

“All the universities contributed to the analysis, and from a national perspective, what I was impressed with is how fast everybody a contributed to try to understand what was happening,” Dr Berry told InnovationAus in the lead up to the AICC Innovation Summit.

It’s of course not all plain sailing, and a stress test like a pandemic exposes areas that can be improved. Dr Berry said she was “dismayed” that some of the technology and tools that “had been applied so successfully were later put aside” – largely because the military experts had to go back to their own work and the systems that they had built for the Ministry of Health were not being used in the way they had been at the peak of the crisis.

“So in my mind the government has to do far more in order to modernise the digital infrastructure in the public sector, it this really requires making headway in artificial intelligence and data sciences (within the public sector),” Dr Berry said.

Orna Berry is a long-time friend of Australia. She has chaired the Israel, New Zealand, Oceania Chamber of Commerce (IACC), a sister organisation to the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce.

The Innovation Summit panel session on ‘Our next transformative decade – AI and the impact on industry’ includes:

  • Dr Oliver Salvado, Head of Imaging & Computer Vision. Lead AI Missions, CSIRO Data61
  • Dr Sue Keay, Chief Executive Officer Queensland AI Hub, and Chair of Robotics Australia
  • Dr Orna Berry, Head of National Program for Quantum Science and Technology and Committee for AI, Israel, and former Chief Scientist of Israel
  • Sagi Davidovich, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, SparkBeyond

The session is being moderated by Microsoft Australia chief technology officer Lee Hickin.

InnovationAus is an official media partner for the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce Innovation Summit 2021. This article was produced as a part of that partnership. You can secure your tickets to the Innovation Summit 2021 here.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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