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Head of Japan’s digital agency blames regulation for stalling progress

The minister in charge of Japan’s new digital agency has blamed decades of conservative regulations for holding back the country and claimed that the nation’s tech ambitions have been stifled by “the law”. , systems and customs”.

Karen Makishima told the Financial Times in an interview that the country has gone too slowly in loosening rules on emerging technologies, stifling companies and industries in areas where they otherwise would not. can be global leaders.

Officials at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have also told the FT of growing concerns in the government and business sector that Japan is reaching a point of “last chance” to fundamental change if you want to avoid falling behind forever behind your competitors.

The constraints on new technology make even less sense, said Makishima, because as Japan’s population ages, the available workforce will decrease, and technology can lead to significant labor savings. .

“Although Japan has technical capacity, its rules are not based on that,” said Makishima, adding that the country has been slow to develop a national strategy on digital despite its reputation for advanced electronics, robotics, and other key technologies.

“In terms of technology, I feel that Japan is very capable at the basic level. The problem is that we haven’t been able to use digital thinking to amplify this capacity,” she said.

Makishima outlined the rules and conventions that govern the use of drones and sensors, technologies that can significantly save human labor. Both technologies can be used to complete low-risk standard checks on buildings, tunnels, bridges and other projects, but current rules mean all checks which is invalid unless confirmed by a human.

“Of course there is a difference between the accident risk at the site of a large-scale project worth hundreds of millions of yen and a project worth only tens of thousands of yen. However, the same rules apply today for secure validation regardless of the size of the project,” she said.

NS ideas for digital agency was introduced last year by Yoshihide Suga, then prime minister, to accelerate the use of technology to deliver government services. The agency started operating in September this year just before Fumio Kishida took office as prime minister. The agency is racing to put together a series of “digital principles” to transform Japan into a more digital society before the end of the year.

Makishima admits that many believe the agency was established too late and that the country is still fighting to fix outdated social and economic systems.

She said these shortcomings were revealed in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. An emergency cash distribution program took months to organize because of the required procedures manual management. The lack of IT infrastructure in schools leaves students across the country unprepared for distance learning.

Other members of the Kishida administration also expressed concern about the pace of digital change. Takayuki Kobayashi, Minister of Economic Security, it was recently reported that Japan needs to speed up the potential issuance of a digital currency.

Makishima said the problem is not one that is within the reach of the digital agency.

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