Social improvement must be focus for ICT says Japanese regulator

The most important function of ICT for Japan in the future is its role in addressing social needs, according to Charley K. Watanabe, deputy director-general of the Information and Communications Bureau at Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). Watanabe, who was speaking at Ericsson’s Business Innovation Forum in Tokyo, pointed towards the requirements of Japan’s ageing population as well as the need to manage key resources with greater efficiency as two areas where ICT could be used to drive social improvements.

Japan is among the world’s most advanced communications markets, with one of the largest LTE subscriber bases, and 95 per cent mobile broadband penetration. Watanabe said that Japan is also one of the leading markets of the world in terms of investment in fiber deployment. Three strong mobile operators and a thriving wifi carrier market are meeting what Watanabe described as the “constant need for high speed internet” but he argued that, thus far, there has not been sufficient focus on the use of the country’s advanced ICT infrastructure for civic and social improvements.

“Now we are motivating ourselves to use ICT to solve social issues,” Watanabe said, adding that Japan, which has the most rapidly ageing population in the world, needs to become a leader in this field. Other nations will face similar problems in the future and Watanabe was keen to stress that Japan wants to drive international participation in the use of ICT for social improvements, offering Japan as the ideal test bed for trial programmes.

City authorities will become increasingly dependent on their populations to drive efficiencies, he added. Applications and services that allow citizens to alert authorities to specific issues that need attention, road repairs for example, would enable governments to deploy resources more effectively. But mass deployment of sensors and automated utility infrastructure will also be necessary to address problems like water leakage and transport flow. Tokyo will be hosting the Olympics in 2020, so the MIC has a compelling medium term deadline by which to demonstrate evidence of its progress.

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