SMACS (social, mobile, analytics, cloud, security/sensors) is continuously transforming communications, industry, and education, and even brings major changes to the structure of society. Regarding the adoption of IT in the public sector, Japan has lagged behind other countries for many years, but these last few years have brought dramatic changes. Right now Japan needs to make a big change toward digital standards and rebuild its social structure.
1. Get the public and private sector working together to expand the IoT trend and bring about further innovation
The Internet of Things, or IoT, is leading to the creation of new services and businesses. If Japan, which has been described as a “problem-advanced nation,” can use the latest technology to enrich lives, overcome its problems, and create a model for advancement, it will enjoy huge advantages in global markets.
It is said that in the IoT era, cases of startups bringing innovation to public-sector services will increase. The size of the global IoT market is also expected to jump from $1.3 trillion in 2013 to $3.4 trillion in 2020. For Japan to succeed in this market, the government should make it national policy to proactively take on the challenge of utilizing big data to develop technology.
2. Take on the world with new industries such as robotics, automatic driving, drones, and AI
Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at Tsukuba University, heads a robot startup called Cyberdine. In 2013 the company’s powered exoskeleton suit, HAL, which is designed to make people with disabilities more mobile, received certification for clinical use in the EU, and in 2014 its shares were listed on the stock market. Driverless operation of automobiles is also set to become a big market in the future. Google has been taking the lead, and with support from the states of California and Nevada in the USA, its vehicles have been operating on public roads and improving their precision. In March 2015, in Suzu, Ishikawa prefecture, the first such test was performed on public roads in Japan. The auto industry has long been one of Japan’s strengths, so this will be an extremely important phase in which automakers decide how they will make use of IT to try to catch up. Pilotless aircraft, or drones, are also attracting attention. Their scope of use is set to explode in the future as they can operate in disaster areas and harsh natural environments that people cannot enter, be used to spray agrochemicals on farmland from the air, and so on.
However, common barriers such as laws and regulations are getting in the way of turning such technologies into commercial products and industries. In the formulation of new rules, a mechanism should be established that does not threaten business opportunities in new industries. The mechanism should be one in which the government supports the private sector.
3. Not only the central government, but provincial regions should hire also CIOs
Information should be made a public good, and the public and private sectors should be connected in every area.
To serve as a control tower for promoting the adoption of IT by both the public and private sectors, it will be important for a government CIO to be invited from the private sector. This person should supervise an information strategy covering all aspects of the government’s adoption of IT, and should be given the budget and the authority they need to do this job. In August 2012 the government appointed its first CIO: Koichi Endo, former chairman of Ricoh Japan. Endo heads up a team of experts at the government’s CIO office that most notably include Vice-CIO Masanori Kusunoki of Yahoo. Their presence has clearly pushed Japan higher up the U.N.’s e-government ranking. Going forward, local governments will need to follow the national government’s lead and actively appoint expert private-sector personnel to CIO posts of their own.
We also hope that government information can be established as a public good (i.e. it should be made a social information resource) through the connection of the private and public sectors in every area. If information obtained through the “My Number” system—on which personal information safeguards are in place—is converted into big data, and this data is then analyzed, it will allow urban planning and transit needs to be accurately gauged and be useful for developing products. Because data is a vital resource for the private sector, the public sector should not monopolize it. Rather, the public sector should proactively make it available, promote its use, and endeavor to create new industries.