Linda Štucbartová is a Czech entrepreneur who studied the Hebrew language at the University of Oxford and was the head of the Diplomatic Academy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, before entering the business sphere. Her passion is Israeli culture, not just the business one, which she is trying to introduce to Czech female and male entrepreneurs in an original way, through her work in Czech-Israeli Mutual Chamber of Commerce, where she is the head of a section of digital economics and trade, among others. We bring her notes about her productivity during the time of Coronavirus quarantine.
Considering that the pandemic took away most of my lecturing and consulting business, I used the time on my hands to support the group, the Single Mothers Club. I also assisted a variety of experts from Israel and The Czech Republic and last but not least, I helped to popularize the activities of the Czech-Israeli Mutual Chamber of Commerce (ČISOK) regarding the topic of Israel as a Start-Up Nation.
Many people have been sewing facemasks; however, sewing is not really my cup of tea. Hence, I decided to join the cause for single mothers. Journalist Nora Fridrichová who has worked in this field for a long time highlights the fact that there are a considerable number of single parents in our area. We are talking about 200 000 families whose main provider usually works under a contract of service or agreement to perform work. It took more than a month for the government to issue a compensation bonus for this group.
Half of the families has a budget of 20 000 Czech crowns for a month, one third only 10 000. Suddenly, these vulnerable families ended up without any income. Moreover, they had to learn how to deal with online lectures. Many children have therefore remained without any contact with their school and their peers. As a mother of two kids myself, I realized how demanding the online lectures are, even though I am lucky to have a husband who works in ICT. Each of my children needed a computer, the wifi was too slow and the printer broke down after a few days of the workload. Now imagine this situation from the point of view of a family with a lower budget in a remote area. At first, I concentrated on selling used notebooks, computers and tablets and after that, there were the cell phones. As the crisis went on, many mothers started to think about where, and if, they can buy a phone that is functioning while balancing the finances for food and rent. To this day, there still are families that have not received money from their caregiver benefit. By the way, did you try to apply for it yourself? Were you successful? Without a scanner? Without the data box? Where did you get the verification that the school is closed during the time when all the schools were closed?
Right after the electronics, sending clothes and toys followed. There was even a case of need for eyeglass frames. There were cuts in budgets everywhere, however, we were also facing the problem of shops and postal offices being closed. Often it was not really the material value of the gift itself but more about managing to send it directly to the person in need. Helping others this way has taught me a lot about the reality this neglected social group faces. The digitalization should start on the state level in the form of day to day practice, not in the form of another conceptual document. Individual strategies should be able to take into account the computer skills of different groups too and they should be trying to improve them. Lastly, online education is not just about sending homework to students and their parents via email, although this was the approach of most of the schools during these weeks.
Considering the pandemic ran a similar course in both the Czech Republic and Israel, the Czech-Israeli Mutual Chamber of Commerce (ČISOK), where I am the head of the section of digital economics and trade, has actively tried to connect experts, consultants or politicians potentially interested in the exchange of best-practice and sharing effective ways within the fight against the pandemic. Namely the processes within area testing, e-Health or any specific bilateral cooperation in science and research. Many thanks to Tomáš Jelínek, ČISOK‘s e-Health representative, and Delana Mikolášová from the embassy in Tel Aviv for their cooperation. I am very pleased that the Czech-Israeli innovation days in Liberec and Olomouc in the autumn will move specific projects further and will support improvement in the area of e-Health and telemedicine. The remaining question is whether we are willing to accept established practices or whether we, once again, want to waste time, energy and finances to try to reinvent the wheel in the good old Czech way.
All of the activities connected with lecturing have moved to the online world and thus I was able to try Zoom, Click, MS Teams, Skype for business, Slack and many other apps. Since most of the information in the media was negative, I have decided to concentrate on future prospects, close or distant. Based on the marketing methods of Dr Sharon Tal Itzkovich from Technion, I have prepared a seminar „Plan B or how to think about alternatives“ for the EU educational platform EPALE. Unfortunately, the pandemic did not even allow us to celebrate the 30th anniversary of re-establishing Czechoslovak-Israeli relations, nor the 72nd anniversary of the existence of The State of Israel. Thanks to the management of ČISOK, we managed to organize a webinar with the topic of Israel as a Start-Up Nation, where I had the opportunity to talk about the unique Israeli start-up ecosystem, among other topics such as ČISOK‘s activities. We would gladly share our know-how and it would be a great asset if this form of education will be used more to inform the public about the activities of the Chamber or to meet inspirational people.
I also worked on mentoring support for different innovative projects, such as the student hackathon or a new project Hack the Crisis CZ, that falls under CzechInvest.
As a member of the Board of Commercialization of Charles University, I evaluated three projects which will be supported by a special call for proposals finding solutions related to Covid-19.
And of course, me and my colleague Jiří Schlager have started to prepare another meeting of the Science, research and innovation section, for this June. The crisis has shown that the future belongs to applied research and that the cooperation between science and business is inevitable.
As part of the international collaboration with Israel, I have worked on the support of the international EdTech summit focused on new forms of education which will stream virtually at the beginning of July. Furthermore, I am helping to organize a conference of El Ha Lev which deals with Empowered Self Defence for girls and boys, taking place in Prague in March 2021. Its unique concept is based on a combination of assertive communication skills and physical defence. Additionally, based upon an offer from Prof. Dafna Kariv, I am looking for a suitable institution to partner with to start a virtual accelerator connecting women in start-ups from The Czech Republic and Israel.
Help for entrepreneurs and SMEs in the Czech Republic?
I have been doing most of my activities for free because I am confident about their social profit. To me being an entrepreneur means creating value, no matter the conditions. Having said that, I was sad to watch how the government approached the financial aid and the use of products and services of the Czech businesses and businessmen. The fact is, the mere proclamations that it is the entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of our economy, are not going to feed the families in which both of the parents are working for them.