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Japan govt adopts digital transformation bills

  • February 9, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 3:11 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Feb. 9 (Jiji Press)–The government Tuesday adopted six bills for digital transformation, including one to establish a digital agency that will lead the digitalization of Japan’s administrative services.


The bills, approved at a cabinet meeting, also feature expanding the use of the My Number social security and taxation identification number system, as well as unifying and standardizing core information systems used by local governments.


Together, the bills are aimed at accelerating the digitalization of administrative services, in which Japan lags behind many other developed countries as illustrated by the long time it took to distribute universal coronavirus cash relief to residents.


The government will submit the bills to the ongoing ordinary session of the Diet, the country’s parliament, for enactment by the end of the session, set for June 16.


“Digitalization is a key driving force for growth toward the next generation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference.


“We will aim to achieve a digitalized society that meets global standards,” he said.


The bill for establishing a government agency for digital transformation states that the organization will be launched Sept. 1.


With a staff of around 500, it will be positioned directly under the cabinet. Headed by the prime minister, the agency will have a digital minister, a cabinet post, and an administrative head.


The agency will be given strong overall coordinating functions, including the authority to advise other ministries and agencies, in order to break down bureaucratic sectionalism.


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga described the agency as a “symbol of reform” in his policy speech before the Diet last month.


The six bills also include a proposed basic law on the formation of a digital society, which will replace the current basic information technology law enacted in 2000.


The bill lays out the basic principles of a digital society, stating that the government will clarify the responsibilities of the national and local governments and businesses in forming a digital society and draw up plans for priority measures including policy goals and timelines.


A separate bill on preparations for creating a digital society calls for a review of the use of paper documents and “hanko” seals to simplify administrative procedures, linking various national qualifications, such as doctor’s licenses, to the My Number system, and unifying three existing laws on personal information protection.


Bills on the registration and management of bank accounts envision linking individual bank accounts to the My Number system. Although not mandatory, the move would make it easier for the government to distribute cash benefits swiftly and smoothly at times of emergency.


Last year, the government was criticized for its inefficient handling of its 100,000-yen cash handout program devised in response to the novel coronavirus epidemic.


Also among the six was a bill for standardizing local government information systems. It seeks to unify the specifications of local governments’ information systems for 17 key operations, such as residence records, taxation and social security, over five years.


The unification is expected to enable smooth data sharing among national and local governments and help lower costs.

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