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Japan digital agency to be launched; info leak concerns linger

  • August 16, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 1:41 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Aug. 16 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government will launch on Sept. 1 an agency that will lead the digitalization of administrative services, but there are lingering concerns about possible information leaks by private-sector staff.

 

Digital reforms are a key policy of the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

 

With the novel coronavirus crisis shedding light on the government’s lagging digitalization efforts, the Suga administration hopes to make up for the delay by promoting reform measures under the new agency, aiming to enhance the convenience of administrative services.

 

The government will have the agency serve as a “control tower” in promoting digitalization efforts in the public and private sectors. The agency will aim to create a system that will allow people to complete all types of administrative procedures via smartphones in 60 seconds each.

 

The new body will have the authority to issue recommendations to government ministries and agencies and book information systems-related costs on behalf of them in the government’s budget in a lump sum.

 

Soon after its launch, the new agency will compile a priority policy plan to lay out the direction for its digitalization initiative.

 

It will also rush to build a system to allow people to check their records of COVID-19 vaccinations through the government’s Mynaportal website for holders of My Number social security and taxation identification cards.

 

“The envisaged system can become a flagship” of digitalization policy measures to be implemented by the new agency, digital transformation minister Takuya Hirai said.

 

About 100 of the agency’s initial 500 staff members, including some in key managerial positions, will be recruited from the private sector and they will be allowed to work part-time at the agency while staying on at their jobs in the private sector.

 

Sources familiar with the situation said such staff members could leak information they obtain through their work at the agency to their companies. There is also a possibility of private-sector workers giving preferential treatment to specific companies in biddings to select winners of orders placed by the agency.

 

During a debate at the ordinary session of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, that ended in June, opposition lawmakers claimed that the agency may create rules and implement budgets in ways advantageous to specific firms.

 

To dispel such concerns, the government will register affiliations of private-sector workers when they are hired and ask them to report information on their stockholdings.

 

But it remains uncertain whether such measures will be effective enough in preventing information leaks that could jeopardize fair bidding processes for orders to be placed by the agency, pundits said.

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