Japan has launched a digital agency to promote government technology

Japan’s Minister of Digital Transformation Takuya Hirai poses for a photo at a ceremony to launch the Tokyo Digital Agency on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. The agency will launch a technology upgrade on Wednesday, hoping to bring significant improvements to older systems that have been significantly affected by the epidemic. The sign says “Digital Agency.” (Kyodo News by AP)

TOKYO (AP) – Japan has opened a long-term record with a digital agency to provide technological improvements to government services and to repair old-fashioned systems without epidemics.

Japan now relies heavily on old paperwork to apply for public services, and central and local government offices use incompatible systems to store and manage information.

Lack of digitization in public services became a major problem during the epidemic, delaying and abusing financial aid and support applications, and delaying the transmission of necessary medical information for antiviral measures.

Fax-based information sharing at local health centers has led to delays in copying and sharing information related to COVID-19 patients. There were also reports of problems with the immunization reservation system and special system for releasing updates. Lack of digitization also led to delays in many schools early last year.

Since Prime Minister Yosihide Suga took office last September, the promotion of digitalization has been a political priority. Some of the problems raised by the epidemic have since been addressed, but the establishment of the new agency is intended to reinforce and expand such changes.

Cabinet Secretary-General Katsunubu Kato said the government will work through a digital agency to promote a community where all citizens can enjoy the benefits of digital services without causing “digital divisions” and privacy concerns.

The agency, headed by Digital Transformation Minister Takuya Hira, has about 200 employees, including those from the private sector, and the rest have been transferred from another ministry.

The agency aims to digitize governance practices such as elderly care and child rearing in 31 areas, and to ensure that the various systems used by municipalities are standardized within five years, officials said. The agency also aims to digitalise the CVD-19 vaccine certificates by the end of the year.

Citizens can obtain official family registration records required to obtain passports or other purposes without having to submit forms or mail to government agencies. The agency promotes the use of a 12-digit personal number that can be used as identification for bank accounts and other public and private services.

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