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Japan launches new agency to accelerate digital reform

Japan's Digital Agency was launched Wednesday as the country attempts to speed up the digitalization of local and central government services amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has furtherly exposed the need for reform, local media reported Wednesday.

Digital Transformation Minister Takuya Hirai will be in charge of the new agency, which is headed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, while Yoko Ishikura, honorary professor of Hitotsubashi University, will serve as the top bureaucrat post of digital supervisor.

Of the roughly 600 members of the agency, over 30 percent participated from the private sector while the remainder includes officials from the industry and communications ministry as well as secretaries and back office staff.

The Japanese government has placed a high priority on digital reforms since its launch last September, as Japan has been struggling to promote administrative reforms that utilize information technology.

The slow progress to date in the country's efforts dating back to around 2000 is partly due to decentralized information systems and privacy concerns.

The pandemic has exposed challenges caused by a delay in the initiative, including local governments striving to provide financial support promptly and share information on COVID-19 patients. Besides, online classes were not widely available in Japan during school closures in the initial phase of the virus spread.

The agency will work on digitalizing COVID-19 "vaccine passports," or certificates for people who have been fully vaccinated against respiratory disease, by the end of the year.

It will also launch a system by March 2023 for people to register their "My Number," or a 12-digit number distributed to each citizen and foreign resident, along with their bank accounts so that government benefits can be delivered quickly.

A total of 31 administrative procedures connected to childrearing, nursing care and other aspects of living will be digitalized by March 2023 and information systems varying currently among municipalities will be standardized by March 2026.

Aside from promoting digitalization in the hope that this will make various services more convenient to use, the agency will be also faced with the task of protecting privacy as the reform is expected to increase exchanges of personal information.

In the last Diet session, where members discussed legislation on launching the Digital Agency, both houses of parliament passed a resolution looking for sufficient measures against privacy divulgation. Enditem

Source:Xinhua  Editor:shijinyu

(Source_title:Japan launches new agency to accelerate digital reform)