Business & Economy

Japan launches state agency to accelerate digitization

Tokyo, Sep 1 (EFE).- Japan on Wednesday launched a state agency to reform its digital systems, especially in order to speed up government services, as the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed technological delays in the administration.

Among its functions, the digital agency will supervise the overhaul of central and local government computer systems, which are highly decentralized and in most cases unintegrated, and to introduce regulations at national level to protect personal data amid foreseen increased information exchanges.

Around 600 staff members, of which about a third arecivil servants, will be headed by Digitalization Minister Takuya Hirai, while Hitotsubashi University Professor Emeritus Ishikura Yoko will be in charge of day-to-day operations.

In addition to digital reform within the government, the agency also seeks to promote digitization in the private sector.

Japan has robust telecommunication systems compared to other countries, but the scarce digitization of administrative “online” services, the decentralization of systems, and customs such as asking residents to go to the town hall to request services and government benefits have resulted in it lagging behind.

Less than 10 percent of Japanese administrative procedures can be completed entirely online, according to data from the Japan Research Institute.

Added to this is the dependence in many public offices on fax machines for communications and the use of stamps required in many document signing procedures, a peculiarity that the agency seeks to eradicate.

Stamps and paper documents have long been considered an important part of the country’s labor and management culture, despite the fact that Japan undertook a digital transformation almost two decades ago, with its “e-Japan Strategy” of January 2001.

The launch of the government agency comes a year after its initial announcement by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who since coming to power last September has held digitization as one of the pillars of his policies. EFE


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