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Editorial: Make progress in spread of online local govt administrative procedures

  • August 19, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 07:29 p.m.
  • English Press

It is important to utilize information technology to improve the convenience of people’s lives and increase the efficiency of administrative offices.

 

The digital procedures law — legislation aimed at making it possible, as a general rule, to carry out administrative procedures online — was established in the last ordinary Diet session. In the past, people needed to visit public offices to carry out administrative procedures. The new law is aimed at enabling various procedures to be completed using PCs and smartphones.

 

For example, people moving will be able to register with portal sites operated by private-sector firms. Entering details such as one’s old and new addresses and other information on such sites will enable users to carry out procedures for changing addresses registered with banks and arranging for utilities such as electricity, water and gas.

 

The system will be beneficial for users because it will free them from having to carry out complicated procedures. Administrative authorities and corporations will also be able to reduce the burden of their duties. The system will likely be launched by some local governments as early as within the current fiscal year.

 

My Number identification cards will be used for identity verification, utilizing the electronic certification function available through the card’s IC chip.

 

However, the penetration rate of My Number cards remains as low as somewhere in the 10 percent range. The government expects nearly all residents will have My Number cards by the end of fiscal 2022, but it is unclear whether uptake will progress as planned.

 

Standardize procedures

 

The government has said it will promote the spread of My Number cards through such means as the introduction of a system in which it will be possible to use them as health insurance cards. After guaranteeing personal information can be managed securely, the government should gain the understanding of the public by carefully explaining the advantages of having the card.

 

Another task to be tackled in facilitating the spread of online administrative procedures is to upgrade systems used by local governments in the provision of key civic services.

 

In many cases, local governments have developed their own systems to manage information about such matters as taxes and social welfare services. Some local governments have modified their systems to suit their own specifications. Therefore, there are discrepancies in their mechanisms for data management.

 

This could hinder efforts to promote the spread of online administrative procedures. The government should consider extending technical cooperation and financial support with respect to such matters as the standardization of systems and formats.

 

Many local governments are facing population declines. There are concerns that the quality of administrative services for residents will decline as staff numbers decrease. According to an estimate by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, there will be a reduction of about 10 percent to 20 percent in the number of employees at city, ward, town and village governments nationwide in 2040 compared to 2013.

 

Local governments must also make active efforts to utilize cutting-edge technology to maintain the functions of local administrative authorities in the future.

 

More than a few elderly people, among others, are not accustomed to using IT equipment. To prevent such people from being left behind in this respect, implementing such measures as offering face-to-face consultation services and securing volunteers who could offer advice at their side will be indispensable.

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