Improve administrative procedures while achieving digitization goals

In line with the promotion of digitization, it is necessary to review administrative procedures that involve written documents and in-person interaction and make them more efficient. It is also hoped that the government will take bold steps to achieve regulatory reform.

The government has decided on a priority plan to achieve a digital society. A road map of measures to be taken by the Digital Agency and other organizations over the next five years has also been outlined.

There is an urgent need to make up for the delay in the digitization of the national and local governments. It is vital to clarify priorities and steadily implement reforms.

The priority plan stipulated five “digital principles” that will serve as guidelines for reforms, including the completion of procedures and operations through digital processing and the interoperability of systems by the public and private sectors.

Based on the guidelines, the government intends to check whether current laws and systems are hindering digitization.

In areas such as construction, real estate and infrastructure facility management, many regulations require visual confirmation and the on-site assignment of personnel in charge. There also are many laws and ordinances that require procedures involving written documents or face-to-face interaction. There are believed to be about 5,000 of such regulations.

If it is possible to handle relevant procedures online and use high-precision sensors and drones for remote monitoring, companies could reduce their burden and improve their productivity. This may also help alleviate the effects of the severe labor shortage.

The government intends to examine 40,000 laws and government and ministry ordinances by around this spring, and then revise them en bloc. Each ministry should actively consider improvements that can be made.

The priority plan also stipulated that procedures related to daily life should be provided as one-stop services, which will be introduced gradually for such procedures as childcare, nursing care, moving, death registration and inheritance.

For example, in the case of moving, the government will work with the private sector to set up a website on which people will be able to notify relevant municipal governments about their change of address, and complete procedures related to electricity, gas and other services.

It is important for the central government to cooperate with local governments and companies to provide these digitized services properly. If the public can really feel that such services are more convenient than before, it probably will help them better understand the government’s digital policies.

The plan also called for expanding the scope of the use of My Number identification cards beyond the existing areas of social security, taxation and disaster response measures. The government aims for legal revision in this regard in 2023.

Last year, benefits for needy households were provided in some cases without the need for recipients to apply for them, through the My Number system.

Use of the cards has been limited to certain areas due to concerns over the protection of personal information. It is important for the government to explain the benefits of swift support and to carefully build consensus.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 14, 2022.