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Japan’s digital revolution


The world’s third largest economy, Japan, is known for being a global leader in the robotics industry. The use of both industrial and service robots has also been beneficial to the country’s ageing population.


But despite the high-tech image of Japan, the pandemic revealed the need for the country to fast track its digitalization efforts, particularly in its government systems.

In 2020, Japan announced that it would prioritize its realization of a digitalized society. In line with this, it created the cabinet-level Digital Agency to vigorously carry out the government’s digital innovation policy.


According to Minister Taro Kono, Japan’s Minister for Digital Transformation and Digital Reform, who oversees the Digital Agency, among the government’s priorities are promoting digital IDs, developing new digital public infrastructure, and accelerating research into next-generation semiconductors and post-5G telecom networks.


But Japan’s digital revolution requires scrapping of outdated policies, and updating its laws and regulations to ensure that these will promote a digital society.


Minister Kono said that the Special Commission on Digital Administrative Reform has identified five digital principles that would guide the amendment process and the crafting of new laws. Every legislation, whether national or  local, must have these five principles before being adopted. 


The first principle is digital execution and automation, which means that processes should be done digitally, without the need for written forms or in-person filings.

Second is, agile governance, wherein regulations should stipulate end results, including risks or harms to be prevented, and be flexible with regard to processes.


The three other principles are public-private partnership, interoperability, and infrastructure sharing. These require strong collaboration between the government and private companies to ensure that national and local governments, quasi-public entities, and the private sector can share data smoothly, as well as share a common basic digital infrastructure for things, such as digital IDs and data registries.


Japan also has an agency, the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, that reviews draft legislation to make sure it is consistent with existing laws; as well as a Digital Legislation Bureau within the Special Commission that will ensure new laws conform to Japan’s digital-transformation goals.


With this aggressive push of its government, I am certain that Japan’s full digital transformation can happen sooner.


The Philippines can also learn from Japan as we are also taking our own digital transformation journey. I am optimistic that our nations’ partnership in this area will be robust as we already have a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).


This MOC on ICT between the Philippines and Japan, which was signed last February during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Japan, involves areas on the improvement of broadband infrastructure and service provision in the Philippines; diversification of 5G supplier and development of open, secure and resilient 5G network; the development of capacity-building programs for cybersecurity; and the reinforcement of previous areas of cooperation such as digital transformation, big data and artificial intelligence, internet of things, and cultural relationships through broadcasting content. This MOC will also pave the way for the exchange of best practices and information on policies, technologies, regulations in the field of ICT, as well as formulation and facilitation of joint ICT projects.

With Japan’s ongoing digital revolution, this MOC will prove to be beneficial for the Philippines as we can certainly learn a lot from their experience and apply best practices on our own digital transformation.

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