1. What is e-Japan?
e-Japan was the name of Japan's first national ICT strategy. Here, the letter "e" stands for "electronics". e-Japan was officially announced by the Japan government and the Strategic Headquarters for the Promotion of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society (IT Strategic Headquarters) in January 2001. The core concept of the policy was to establish Japan as the most advanced Information Technology (IT) nation in the world in 5 years.
1.2 Necessity of the e-Japan strategy:
Just as a nation's response to the Industrial Revolution later determined its economic prosperity, the same would hold true with the IT revolution. Europe and Asia, not to mention the United States, were aggressively developing their IT infrastructures as part of their national strategies in recognition of the importance of creating a "knowledge-emergent" environment to secure world competitive leadership in the 21st century.
Japan fell far behind other nations in embracing the IT revolution. The Internet usage in Japan was at the lowest level among major industrial nations and was by no means high even compared with other nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan lagged behind others even in terms of how widely information technology was used in businesses and public administration. In an environment of rapid change, Japan recognised that its current tardiness in embracing the IT revolution may result in an irreparable gap in competitive advantages in the future.
To make up for the delay, Japan quickly and steadfastly implemented institutional reforms and measures through the establishment of a national strategy with a concrete vision and steps for socio-economic structural reform. Japan had also ensured its common and shared understanding among its citizens. This went in line with Japan's objectives of providing the world's most advanced IT environment to the citizens who need it as well as making real contributions to the world.
1.3 Components of the e-Japan strategy:
Through its national strategy, Japan hoped to create a "knowledge-emergent society" that fostered diverse creativity through the exchange of knowledge among citizens. This e-Japan strategy covers 4 main areas of policy measures:
1) Develop and improve the broadband infrastructure in Japan
2) Facilitate electronic commerce ("e-commerce")
3) Develop an electronic government ("e-government")
4) Promote the use of IT, improve IT literacy, train IT specialists
2. Policy Measures:
2.1 Develop and improve the broadband infrastructure in Japan
The building an ultra high-speed Internet network was essential for the purpose of realization of the IT revolution that all people could utilize, at affordable rates, the network infrastructure that enabled distribution of a huge amount of information, regardless of time and distance.
The network infrastructure was developed under the following basic conditions:
1) available at any time, anywhere and to anyone
2) a great variety of choices and services
3) safe, easy and secure
4) affordable, high-speed and efficient
5) indiscriminate regardless of nationality and consistent with global standards
1) Promote the establishment of one of the world's most advanced Internet networks within five years, and enable all the people who need it to have ultra high-speed access networks at affordable rates.
2) Establish the most advanced high-speed wireless Internet environment in which wireless access networks are efficiently connected to the Internet networks(IPv6), and make seamless mobile communications services available.
3) Spread and promote advanced transportation services connected with the intelligent transport system (ITS) and the geographic information system (GIS).
1) Establishment of an ultra high-speed network infrastructure
2) Promotion of competition through regulations based on the market control power as well as the activation of private sector
3) Improvement of digital divide through measures to diffuse the use of the high-speed Internet in such disadvantaged areas as underpopulated provinces and isolated islands
4) Promotion of Research and Development to acquire and maintain the world's most advanced level of technologies
5) Establishment of the international Internet networks which enables Japan to function as the hub of the international Internet networks
2.2 Facilitate electronic commerce ("e-commerce")
Electronic commerce has the following characteristics originating from cyber space:
1) anyone can participate in it,
2) the private sector plays a major role in the market,
3) high-speed transactions can be realized,
4) borderless market can be formed.
E-commerce is expected not just to digitize former paper-based transactions, but also to form new markets and new modes of transactions none of which has ever been imagined.
The main targets for e-commerce are the Business-to-business (B to B) and business-to-consumer (B to C) markets. These market were estimated to expand about 10-fold from their 1998 level by 2003.
1) Clarification of the interpretation of existing rules
2) Enforcement of anti-monopoly law guidelines concerning e-commerce and intellectual property
3) Reformation of regulations that hinder e-commerce, such as the requirement of application in person and of building an office
4) Revision of the criminal law should be to cope with crimes committed through the use of computers.
5) Establishment new rules should be to ensure fair charges for digital content and appropriate compensation for creators, from the standpoint of making content transactions adequate and transparent.
2.3 Develop an electronic government ("e-government")
An electronic government is a means to comprehensively reform public administration. Under an electronic government, administrative transactions among government offices or between governments and citizens/businesses that have been conducted on a document and/or meeting basis will be made available online, and information will be shared and utilized instantly across various central and local government offices through information networks.
Being more than just putting the existing public administrative services online, e-government involves essential reform of administrative works, streamlining of redundant works and revisions of relevant systems and laws to make public administration simpler and more efficient, and lessen the burdens on citizens and businesses.
Such an electronic government will enable everyone to utilize all services provided by central and local governments without constraints of time and location, realize more comfortable and convenient life for everyone, and revitalize business activities. This is made possible because all the administrative procedures will be accepted for 24 hours via the Internet, contributing to the dramatic improvement in convenience of the people and businesses.
The government is requested to realize an electronic government, which handles electronic information in the same manner as paper-based information. Public administration should be intensively reformed to digitize documents, promote paperless, and share and utilize information through information networks.
1) Digitization of public administration within central and local governments: Administrative works should be reformed to eliminate paper, with due considerations given to avoid an alteration of original documents and ensure network security.
2) Digitization of public services to the private sector: The central government should make substantially all the administrative procedures available via the Internet by 2003. Such services should be provided by one-stop services through streamlining and systematizing of redundant works. In line with digitization of public services, secure administrative IC cards with a function of digital signature should be introduced promptly and made available across administrative organs.
3) Publication and promotion of the use of administrative information via the Internet: The central government should strengthen information exchanges with the public via the Internet. Local governments are requested to do the similar.
4) Reform of regulations and systems: This includes reduction and standardization of documents currently required for each procedure, and review of laws requiring submission or preservation of paper-documents.
5) Review of procurement methods: Procurement for public works and other materials should be digitized via the Internet under the cooperation between the central and local governments to enhance transparency of the process and cut the costs.
2.4 Promote the use of IT, improve IT literacy, train IT specialists
Japan needed to form a solid foundation of human resources to strengthen its industrial competitiveness, enhance the convenience of national life, and establish a firm position in the world in the midst of on-going IT revolution.
To make this happen, Japan must achieve the following three aims:
1) All citizens need to acquire IT knowledge and skills to enjoy its benefits, and people's intellectual creativity and logical thinking power should also be enhanced.
2) Human resources who instruct IT to the public should be secured to improve people's information literacy.
3) Technical experts, researchers and digital content creators should be fostered to explore the frontiers of IT.
1) Improve the information literacy of all the public, with due considerations to seniors and the disabled
2) Reinforce IT-driven education systems at elementary, junior and senior high schools and colleges and enrich the lifelong education on information for the whole adults
3) Increase masters and doctors in IT-related fields both in number and quality to secure advanced technical experts and researchers at colleges, national and private institutions.
1) Improvement of information literacy through the "Digitisation of education" in the Millennium Project:
-More internet access points should be prepared at public locations such as libraries and community centres, and digital content for educational purposes should be enriched.
-IT-driven lessons should be promoted, and instruction on IT-related ethics and manners should be introduced.
-English, being the most important language in the Internet era, should receive greater focus in school curriculum.
2) Fostering of IT instructors: School teachers should be given more opportunities of IT training, and a registration and dispatch system of IT instructors should be introduced, so that human resources in businesses and colleges can be utilized as IT instructors.
3) Fostering of IT technical experts and researchers:
-IT-related courses in vocational schools should be encouraged so that in addition with college graduates, our society would be able to produce many advanced IT technical experts and researchers in accordance with social needs.
-IT-related certification system should be standardized internationally and regulations on foreign residents, including conditions of resident permits for foreign IT experts, should be promptly revised to accept more human resources from abroad.
4) Fostering of digital content creators: Incubation schemes should be facilitated in order to produce the best environment for creators who can produce the world-best digital content and thus strengthen Japan's ability to transmit it to the world.
3. Priority Policy Programs
As the e-Japan policy was gradually implemented and progressed over the years, several initiatives called "Priority Policy Program" were formulated to enhance the e-Japan policy. During the e-Japan, 4 Priority Policy Programs had been implemented in March 2001, June 2002, August 2003 and June 2004.