Student Voices: ICT Policy Reform in Japan

How is it that Japan has one of the biggest economies of the world but is ranked so low for a developed nation? It has lagged in two of the four layers of the Internet. The infrastructure and network systems are good, but the platforms and applications layer and the content and services layer are weak. Japan does not create a lot of applications due to the fact that it’s companies do not like to buy innovation, even though from a business perspective buying off another company’s idea would be cheaper and less time and money would have to be invested in R&D.

Japan is also afflicted with a severe case of “Galapagos Syndrome”. Briefly put, it refers to an isolated development branch of a globally available product. Not only is it geographically and culturally isolated; Japan’s phones are victims to be categorized with the syndrome. Even though being very evolved and divergent, the phones would never survive abroad due to their complexity.

Which brings us to a survey from the 2012 Global Information Technology report conducted in 142 countries from around the world. Japan was ranked 13th out of 142 countries in Internet readiness. Scoring high in individual and business usages of the Internet in especially in mobile broadband subscriptions, Internet and telephone competition. If Japanese mobile subscriptions are ranked so high, then why is affordability of mobile cellular tariffs, purchasing power parity (PPP) in dollars ($)/min among the worst in the world (ranking 138 out of 142)?

In order for Japan to keep up with the rest of the world, we  must do more to integrate ICT into schools, businesses, and government. Where Japan ranks in the Global Information Technology report says it all:  Japan’s e-access to basic services (42/142); Internet access in schools (39/142); and ICT use & government efficiency (66/142).  These are all mediocre and could do so much better if implemented correctly.

In the new Abe administration, I would like to see more ICT development and integration in the points above to improve Japan’s Internet economy. In the current education system, budget limitations, training of teachers in ICT, the way local boards of education invests money are all factors leading to reduced ICT impact in schools. The new administration should specifically tell local boards of education how to spend their budgets, especially in areas such as ICT development instead of for unnecessary things.

ICT leadership by the Japanese government is weak, because it is not well organized. The Japanese government does not have an agency like NIST in the US, which has all the technological know-how to be able to know what procedures to take. In laws related to ICT , Japan is ranked 38th — again way below its potential.

If the new Abe administration were to cooperate properly and appropriately, it could help shape the digital economy, as it can support policies related to investment, innovation, education, consumer protection, and privacy. There are huge benefits from living in an environment where the Internet is accessible and immediate, where people and businesses can communicate instantly, and where machines are interconnected.

As the Internet grows in leaps and bounds, soon over a trillion devices will be connected to the Internet. No longer is it the “Internet of Things” but the “Internet of Everything” which will change the way companies interacts with customers and run their supply chains. It will also help new emerging business enter into new fields more easily.

I believe that the new Abe administration has to develop a flexible and dynamic approach to acquiring and understanding the Internet only then can Japan ultimately show its true potential.