The Cabinet Office approved a new Information Technology (IT) strategy targeted for 2020. The plan includes the use of “Big Data” in public services, such as agriculture and healthcare. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal is to make Japan a world leader in IT. “IT is key for next-generation growth. Japan cannot stand by and watch the world move forward.”
But, why has the Government of Japan (GoJ) lagged behind in IT development for so long? Much of the blame goes to government ministries acting and investing independently. The IT systems in each ministry are not interoperable, and many new investments in IT are overlapping.
To reduce such problems, the Abe Administration appointed Koichi Endo, former Vice President of Ricoh Corperation, as the government’s Chief Information Officer (CIO). His primary role is to oversee the government’s new IT strategy. The new IT strategy includes many modern Internet-related “buzz-words,” but one that particularly catches the attention of politicians and businessmen is “Big Data.”
Many IT companies have high expectations for the utilization of Big Data in public services. For example, there are cloud services that assist in farming and sensors that monitor the growth of agricultural products. The use of this freely available data, called “open public data”, has become an important issue and key to the IT strategy’s goal of promoting greater utilization.
On the other hand, some IT companies oppose mandating greater interoperability among governments and municipalities, in part because large profits are earned through the installation and maintenance of proprietary systems. This issues also needs to be addressed so as to arrive at the proper balance between continued innovation and the need for standardization.
There is a strong consensus among Japanese business re the need for the flexible use of big data. But there is less momentum behind the interoperability and standards issues. This will be a big challenge for Japan’s first CIO, but it is essential if Japanese firms and their technology are to be competitive globally.