Promote digital reform with focus on more convenience for the public

This is the first step toward the utilization of digital technology by society as a whole. A system must be built that is easy for the public to use.

Laws related to digital reform, which Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga regards as an important policy, have been enacted. A total of six laws were passed, including a basic law stipulating principles such as realizing a safe and secure society, and another law to establish a government body to deal with digital transformation.

To make up for the delay in digitization, there is an urgent need for the public and private sectors to make efforts beyond the framework of the central and local governments. It is significant that the related laws have clarified future directions and put in place a system to promote digitization.

The digital agency to be launched in September will have strong authority and provide comprehensive coordination. The agency is expected to manage in an integrated manner systems that have been put in place by each government ministry and agency, and to consolidate relevant budgets.

The agency is expected to have the positive effect of drastically changing the current situation in which investments overlap and cooperation among organizations is difficult. It should be a viable organization that drives the digitization of the entire government.

The agency’s capacity is about 500 and more than 100 people will be recruited from the private sector. To incorporate ever-evolving technology, it is essential to acquire excellent engineers. It is vital to promote exchanges between the public and private sectors to nurture human resources.

The enactment of the related laws will expand the use of the My Number personal identification system and add the payment of cash benefits by local governments to the existing features of social security, taxation and measures against disasters. The central government intends to apply the laws for the first time to the payment of benefits to families with small children who are experiencing financial difficulties.

Each local government will check taxation and other information through the My Number system to determine which households are eligible for the benefits. Because residents will not need to go through application procedures, it will be possible to provide the benefits promptly.

The related laws also include a simplification of administrative procedures in daily life, such as abolishing the requirement to affix a seal on applications related to family registers. Efforts to change long-standing practices and streamline administrative procedures must be continued.

As digitization progresses, challenges over the handling of personal information have become complicated. It represents a step forward that the related laws sorted out the laws and ordinances on protecting personal information that the central and local governments have established separately, and established unified rules for that purpose.

During Diet deliberations, opposition parties expressed concern over the consolidation of personal information. However, expectations for the use of data are high in various fields — in the medical field, for example, compiling cases is considered key to the development of treatment methods.

It is important to find an appropriate balance between utilizing data and protecting personal information.

The Personal Information Protection Commission of the Cabinet Office, which is in charge of supervising the private sector, will also oversee administrative organs of the central and local governments. It is necessary to increase the number of personnel as soon as possible and strengthen the monitoring system.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 13, 2021.