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Editorial: Quickly present blueprint for digitization of public administration

  • September 19, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 5:25 p.m.
  • English Press

It is important to digitize public administration and make it more user-friendly for the people. The government should clearly present its outlook for the future and a road map.


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced his administration’s intention to establish a digital agency as one of its key policies. The government plans to submit a related bill to the ordinary Diet session next year.


Within the government, an idea has surfaced to merge the Cabinet Secretariat’s IT General Strategy Office and related sections of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.


Unifying digital policies that have straddled multiple ministries and agencies to establish a structure to promote digitization is highly significant. It must be tackled in a speedy manner.


What should be taken up first is digitizing the administrative services of central government ministries and agencies and local governments.


In measures to respond to novel coronavirus infections, confusion arose over the online application for the cash benefit of ¥100,000 per person. The sharing of information on the infectious disease between the central and local governments stalled, and schools were notoriously unprepared, such that they were unable to offer remote classes. Teleconferences between ministries and agencies did not go as smoothly as had been intended.


Such incidents occurred because each ministry and agency has its own computer system and there is no government-wide strategy.


The digital agency is envisioned as serving as a control tower to improve such situations. The challenge will be to create an effective structure that enables a unified response that transcends the vertical divisions of ministries and agencies.


In addition to the internal government systems, the government must also promote digitization in various areas of society, including the economy, medical care and welfare, and education.


The government needs to examine why the various initiatives it has taken in the past have been inadequate and rebuild a realistic strategy. It is important for the government to explain the specific path of digitization to the public in a way that is easy to understand.


It must not be forgotten that the essential purpose of digitization is to increase convenience for people.


Some administrative procedures have already been digitized. But some have pointed out that users are required to enter the same information many times and check attached documents, which in fact increases the amount of time and effort.


It is an urgent task to undertake further reform by simplifying the procedures and making them a one-stop affair. It is important to come up with a system that is user-friendly for all people, regardless of age or financial circumstances.


Spread of the use of My Number cards, which are needed for online applications for government services, has been slow. The public’s concerns about the protection of personal information should be dispelled.


Competition to acquire talented personnel in the field of information technology is fierce. The public and private sectors need to work together to focus on human resources development.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 19, 2020.

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