The Internet and Regional Development in Japan

A few years ago, I read an article which argued that Japan will again become a developing nation by 2050 unless the government gets to work solving Japan’s problems, including the constant threat from natural disasters, the disparity of wealth between the city and the countryside, and the declining birthrate and aging population. From my point of view, the growing gap between urban and rural areas and the aging population are the most urgent issues that need to be solved. I believe that one way to meet this challenge is further development of the Internet, a point that PM Abe made in the “Declaration to be the World’s Most Advanced IT Nation”, a report released in 2013 that recently was open to public comment regarding what has been achieved.

First, with regard to regional development, the difference of annual income between the rural and urban areas is quite large, which makes it difficult for the youth in the provinces to come to the city to enter universities. According to the Japan Institute of Life Insurance, the ratio of students who use student loans is over 50% in rural areas, which shows that the income gap is large and that it is hard for the parents to support their children’s education.

Next, with reference to the declining birthrate, in the Declaration, the government urged the introduction of telework, which would “allow workers to spend at least one full workday per week at home, targeting women with children”. I think that this may not address the real problem here, as Japanese society itself is still not supportive of women working while raising children. Reading the government’s declaration makes me wonder whether the government has done enough research into the current situation. Japanese society needs to offer more support to women raising children and working at the same time.

About the issues mentioned above, there has been much discussion in the media. In general, people dislike change, which is probably completely normal for Japanese. I think that this is related to the way children in kindergartens and elementary schools are educated. There is emphasis in the schools is to promote harmony and cooperation rather than developing each child’s personality. The courage for change is important. It is clear that the Japanese economy is weak and that the rapid adoption of new technologies is needed. Agriculture surely needs improvement for farmers to survive in the global market after TPP.

In order to support innovation, the government needs to communicate closely with the people involved with new business models. If the government can communicate effectively about the merits and what can be earned through the introduction of new policies, change will be possible.

Why has change come so slowly in Japan? I think this is because the government has been unstable for a long time. There are not many countries where the leader changes every year. This did not end until Mr. Abe became the prime minister for the second time. Every prime minister has a different visions. Japan has experienced a “lost two decades,” Japanese citizens need to be more interested in their government and its policies, and actively consider the direction that Japan needs to take.

I do not want to spend life in a Japan that is increasingly falling behind other countries. Japan needs to change using the power of the Internet.

Azusa Nakasato

Azusa Nakasato

Faculty of Law
Keio University
Azusa is a member of Faculty of Law at Keio University.
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