Digital administrative reform / Is the government cloud concept truly ready to be implemented?

It is necessary to carefully examine what areas of administrative services are appropriate for digitization and what matters should be addressed by putting personnel and time and effort into them, by discerning the effectiveness and suitability of digitization for each.

The government has held the first meeting of a conference on digital administrative and fiscal reform and confirmed its policy to promote digitization in areas such as transportation, education and nursing care, leading to greater administrative and fiscal efficiency.

This conference was established through the strong initiative of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has made digitization a key policy. It is expected to serve as a command post uniting the Digital Agency and the Administrative Reform Promotion Council, but some observers have said that the top body is like building a roof atop a roof.

The government’s goal is administrative reform, but if too many conferences are established, it will seem as if the government is aiming for a trivial goal rather than the original purpose. The government should consider consolidating existing organizations and conferences.

An important role assigned to the conference on digital administrative and fiscal reform is the development of a so-called government cloud in which the government and all local government systems will be integrated and jointly operated.

By unifying the networks that have been established by individual ministries, agencies and local governments, the central government envisions that, for example, it will take charge of all the telephone consultation services of child consultation centers, which are provided by each municipality.

However, residents’ concerns will be different in urban and depopulated areas. Is it possible for the central government to provide attentive consultations?

The central government aims to realize the government cloud by the end of fiscal 2025 and is currently in the process of selecting a company to operate it, but most of the names that have come forward are major U.S. tech companies, with few domestic firms.

Once the government cloud is in place, ministries, agencies and local governments will have access to a great deal of personal information, including pension, medical and tax status data.

Is it acceptable to entrust the operation of a system covering almost all sensitive information to overseas companies? Concerns cannot be dispelled that in the event of a system glitch administrative services would have to be suspended nationwide.

The government must determine how to utilize the cloud service after identifying the risks associated with its use. Ensuring safety and gaining public understanding will be important starting points for the operation of the government cloud.

The digital administrative and fiscal reform conference will also consider the introduction of ride-sharing, in which individuals with their own vehicles transport paying passengers. Ride-sharing is envisioned as allowing passengers to use a smartphone app to call for a car driven by a person working on the side like a taxi driver.

Ride-sharing is aimed at addressing the shortage of taxi drivers. However, unlike with professional taxi drivers, there is a question of what will be done if both a moonlighting driver and a passenger are wrapped up in a crime? Compensation in the event of an accident is also an important issue. Careful consideration is essential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2023)