Nikkei Op-Ed Professor’s Report: Recommendations for Japan ICT Strategy

Ichiro Sakata, professor at Tokyo University, writes for Nikkei Shinbum on the following views towards the current Japanese situation and the recommendations of Japanese ICT strategy.

The availability of information is exploding, especially with the advance of social media like Twitter — but much of this new information is not being utilized well. Japan is a leader in hardware development, but lags in the use of the cloud and big data. Moreover, while consumer data like “point of sale” information is used to improve consumer services, data in the public sector is not well utilized.

There are three reasons for this: lack of technology and IT human resource; lack of appropriate business models; and lack of social infrastructure.

With regard to the first, the problem is that universities are not training the number of data scientists that Japan needs to develop and take advantage of the new technologies in this area.

On the second issue, Japanese companies are not investing in new technologies because they do not have the skills needed to develop new business models to deploy these technologies. They need to be more like Microsoft and Google, which have developed systems that use previous behavior to predict future behaviors — thus driving sales and adding value.

Finally on social infrastructure, the problem is in the area of regulations and standards related to security and data protection. Japanese companies are very risk adverse and are reluctant to be involved in activities that might involve the leakage and misuse of sensitive data.

Dealing with these three challenges has to be a national priority. To its credit, the Abe administration has reflected these concerns in its June 2013 ICT strategy document. But it must go beyond paper declarations. Japan has set healthcare, agriculture and energy as three priority areas for pursuing innovation and growth through ICT. Now, the government must show its commitment by making the investments and reforms needed to create real change.

The world is moving ahead very rapidly and if Japan is truly going to lead in these new technologies it must pay close attention to what is going on beyond its boundaries. It needs to recruit a new generation of talent that understands the new technologies and bring in expertise from abroad through expanded immigration.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun, Morning Edition(Japanese)