Japan may have a reputation for cutting-edge technology, but anyone who has lived in the country knows that digital services in the country are often rigid, antiquated and slow to change — especially in the public sector.
The country has proved it again amid the coronavirus pandemic: Failures range from major glitches with a government-backed COVID-19 contact tracking app to the delayed distribution of cash handouts due to inefficient online application systems.
The resulting embarrassment has prodded the government to finally get serious about long-overdue digital reform, and these efforts are set to begin in earnest on Wednesday with the launch of the Digital Agency.
That will depend on whether the Digital Agency will be able to break away from Japan’s traditional bureaucratic culture, according to experts.
Digital reform is indeed a grave task, but some might think the creation of a new agency is nonetheless unnecessary. But Masaaki Taira, former state minister at the Cabinet Office in charge of information technology policy, believes the Digital Agency will be the linchpin that keeps change on track.