Japan launches Digital Agency to boost government technology


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 Problems were also reported with the vaccination reservation system 

My city of 30,000 did all the contact and reservations for vaccine by mail. Not online option, no telephone option... and surprisingly not even fax possible. Just the good old Japan Post.

I got sent my application in early July with a dozen date and time options to chose from in the autumn... so I sent it in and finally last week I got a letter in the post.

I'm scheduled for my first shot in early October.

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the government through the Digital Agency will strive to promote a society where all citizens can enjoy the convenience of digital services without causing “digital divide” and privacy concerns.

Well, this year the government kind of noticed that a large chunk of the population was, like, "old" and uninterested in high-tech (e.g. smartphones and pads to name only a few). They are now trying to roll out government-funded smartphone-classes or sorts targeting the elderly...

On the other hand, citizens have noticed these last years that both the government and private companies tend to have a more than "cavalier" attitude when it comes to how they handle and (ahem) secure private information.

Anyway, me thinks this is a seriously uphill battle...

The agency, headed by Digital Transformation Minister Takuya Hirai, has about 600 staff, including 200 hired from the private sector, with the remainder transferred from other ministries.

Hirai got in hot waters this summer over an undeclared stock purchase which again lead to an undeclared profit on sales of said stocks...the stocks being linked to an IT company.

The agency will also promote use of a 12-digit “My Number” assigned to each individual issued as a multi-purpose identification card that can access bank accounts and other public and private services.

My Number: the project

.whose bidding-process was not transparent

.which had the national pension services leak 5 Mio worth of man-data to...a Chinese outsourced company on mainland China and

.which had the national tax agency leak 750,000 worth of man-data to...a third-party outsourced company in Japan, both in violation of their respective contracts,

.which had to paying "pay" every user 5,000 JPY to increase its card registration-figures (big success on that side)

.which a few years back had both current (Takaichi Sanae) and prior (don't recall his name) Minister of Interior (総務相) admit at a hearing that despite them and their Ministry pushing the population to register for their MN-card, they themselves did not use it (Takaichi testified that she never used MN not even once).

.which cost already 4 trillion JPY

.which after launching 6 years ago has its card-registration currently still stuck at 36% of the population (despite paying 5,000 JPY to do so)

(on a side-note, by checking the above site, one can see that the Ministry needs up to end second week / third week of each current month to update the card-registration figures up to end of prior month which hints at some serious processing-issues (I smell "fax-machines") for a project centered on "digitalization")

(on a second side-note, this side tracks "registration"-numbers of MN-cards, not whether they are "valid". This, as from 2020 onwards one is supposed to renew soft-validity of the card (from 2025, the card itself will need to be renewed (hard-validity) ).

As such, I actually know a few people around me who were early adopters 5 years ago and who do not intend to renew the card as they "never used it once over 5 years" with some also getting the jitters when seeing how many worth of man-data were already lost by the government).

Concerning the agency itself, news is out last week that Ishikura Yoko will be No2 of the agency.

Here, her profile in more details:

While Hirai stated that (he) "hoped the no. 2 position would be filled by "someone who understands technology and can take leadership.", when looking at Ishikura-san's linkedin profile, on can see that:

.she worked 7 years as a "consultant" (1985 - 1992)

.she worked 22 years as a professor (on what seems to be marketing?) (1992-2014) before

.becoming a "professional board-member" across several companies, none of which looking even remotely like it was IT-related.

The above leading me to think that at 72 years old, Ishikura is first and foremost very skilled at marketing herself / networking. I'm much less convinced when it comes to anything IT-related...

While Japan would definitely need some kind of supervising / implementing body for everything IT/digital-related, this is just so much of a joke at tax-payers' expense...

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It's good to have online services, but Japan should maintain support for those who cannot access them. Many people need contact with real people and cannot cope with phone menus. It is also important to have a viable back-up. So when the hackers and ransomware attacks take down your systems, or the electricity goes down after a quake, you can continue to operate.

Government tech systems can be notorious. Monitor contracts and development using your own tech-able staff. Cover all platforms. Don't use bleeding edge features and don't block browsers or OSs just because they are old. Fully test on all platforms, browsers and all size monitors. Use simple, tried and trusted technologies. Reduce screen clutter and choose colour schemes wisely. Be as multilingual as you can. Use native speakers - do not rely on online translators. Make sure that disability access readers can work with your HTML. Belt and braces on the security.

Offer people the chance to limit the data they have to give to the My Number system, and even to remove some their data. Allow them to submit whatever they are comfortable with. Don't run with an intrusive all-or-nothing approach, or you will turn people away from the service. Do not expect to be trusted. Expect to be distrusted and work to build trust.


I was phoned by my GP surgery. The UK online vaccine booking service was a little flakey, sometimes suggesting that the closest available site was hundreds of miles away, even when it was not.

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It will probably end up like COCOA, and hackers are probably already lining up to see who can get into this agencies system first. If these clowns really took cyber security seriously, they wouldn't be making a big hoopla about it, they're only announcing and putting a big target on their backs.

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It's all about tax collections…

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And then here and there some power shortages or failures, caused by bad weather, flood, earthquake or any IT errors, hacker attacks and such, then everything is again done by paperwork as get used to for centuries.

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They should hire foreigners to design and test pages, because Japanese web sites are horrible nightmares of dead links, useless pages and volumes and volumes of useless info. 2. If you have kyousai nenkin, make sure you send them a copy of your my number card epspecially if you are collecting and overseas or planning on leaving. They will cancel that kyosai nenkin if you do not. You also need the my number card for doing taxes at the tax office. Be careful though if you have a middle name. The length matters as it might not fit in their low tech ability and forms. My name with three parts is never consistent on any forms and really causes a hassle from banks, to those little cards at hospitals especially when a hospital wants to match the name to your kenko hoken card.
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It will probably end up like COCOA, and hackers are probably already lining up to see who can get into this agencies system first

What did you expect out of Microsoft built apps?

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Digital Agency, hoping to bring a much needed overhaul to antiquated systems that have had their shortfalls highlighted by the pandemic.

Huh? Another agency? How about Yoshitaka Sakurada, aka deputy chief of the government's cyber-security strategy office?

The overhaul was needed no later than 10 years ago. I still have to go to the ward office to get a family registry. Actually, for almost anything, I have to go to the ward office, they give me a piece of paper and I take it somewhere, they copy it, manually enter the data into the computer. It's 2021. I've been able to do this for almost 20 years online in the country where I was born.

We already have the means to do so. Even with foreigners, e.g. zairyu card. Just about any document that is issued here by some central authority.

Japan is one country, yet the various authorities do not share databases, there is no central system from which they can take and enter data.

And so, for example, you need the same sheet of paper at the office several times a year because another counter pretends not to have this information.

The agency aims to digitalize administrative procedures in 31 areas such as elderly care and childrearing, while standardizing different systems used by municipalities within five years, officials said.

standardizing different systems.

The way things work in Japan, they will make another standard on top of the previous standard which was supposed to unify the standards of the previous unifying standards. They just won't want to get rid of their FAXes, hanko stamps and Excel reports, so there will be extra work and complexity on top of the FAXes, hanko stamps and Excel reports. This will mean that more people will need to be employed because no one will know their way around, everyone will need training, advice,....

Citizens will be able to obtain official family registration records needed to obtain passports or other purposes without submitting or mailing a form to government offices.

I will believe it when I see it.I still believe that even if there comes a time when I can apply online, it will still look like my electronic application comes to the office, someone prints it out, manually processes it, manually prints out my requested paper, scans it and emails it to me. And then that person does the reports and sends all kinds of stuff around by fax.

The agency will also promote use of a 12-digit “My Number” assigned to each individual issued as a multi-purpose identification card that can access bank accounts and other public and private services.

Hey, they said that back when they were considering setting up something like My Number. And in 2015, when My Number first came out, they said the same thing again, and that it would be out within a year or two (thus extending previous estimates and plans). And it's 2021 and in this article we read that it's "yet to be".

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@Robert Cikki

The agency will also promote use of a 12-digit “My Number” assigned to each individual issued as a multi-purpose identification card that can access bank accounts and other public and private services.

Hey, they said that back when they were considering setting up something like My Number. And in 2015, when My Number first came out, they said the same thing again, and that it would be out within a year or two (thus extending previous estimates and plans). And it's 2021 and in this article we read that it's "yet to be".

Pretty much 2 decades ago they rolled out the 住民基本番号 (juminkihonbango) or Resident Base Number (short: Juki).

After (if memory serves) 3 trillion and close to 10 years it went nowhere. They therefore rolled out, ta-daaa, MyNumber on which they already blew up 4 trillions. They did indeed go further than Juki, but that was when starting to pay 5,000 JPY for each registration. Before doing so MN was stuck in the mud as much as Juki a decade before that.


.the scheme / idea (whether MN or Juki) has already cost at least 7 trillions

.is nowhere done (and in my humble opinion is not going anywhere)

One of the main problems being that the government / administration is not yet digitalized (and secured) enough to even sustain such a scheme.

By rolling out MN before setting up a Digital Agency of any sorts they basically put the carriage (MN) in front of the horse (the Digital Agency). Now they are trying to have the horse push the carriage. Me not think this is going to work.

Therefore, expect: "My Juki" or "Juki Number" in 5 years or so in order to reboot the same ol' schtick. Anyway, it's only taxpayers' money, so who cares, eh?

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Under the "only in Japan category"...did we have a cybersecurity Minister who (a) never used a pc in his life and (b) was clueless as to what a USB was about. Now, do we have a (new) Number 2 of the (new) digital agency who seems to be pretty clueless about digital rights and usage.

It seems Ishikura-san, whose involvement in IT / digitalization are more than flimsy has gotten herself in hot waters over the use of copyrighted material on both her site and her Twitter-account.

Now, that was fast...

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BTW, I finally found out what happened to the earlier candidate for the job that Ishikura got, Joi Ito was the name.

It seems that Ito-san, a former director at the MIT was dumped by the government after they found out that (a) he got funds from Jeffrey Epstein (from yes, the Jeffrey Epstein-fame!) and (b) had to resign from the MIT about that very same issue back in 2019.

Well, you kind of wonder if the J-government runs any background check on any of their potential candidates (the answer is clearly negative), but again, when you see the line-ups of PMs and Ministers which we end up with year after year after year...

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Yeah I remember such escapades over the three decades in here. But there have been so many escapades that I can't even name them all, let alone remember them. And they always come up with the same slogan now as before - simply a unifying solution to the existing solution. Although there have been so many unifying solutions that were supposed to unify the previous unifying solutions that nobody really remembers anymore.In the end, it looks like they create a new office that is in charge of the previous office that is in charge of the previous office and so on and so forth. And so the new office avalanches everything from the previous office(s) and adds something new on top instead of slimming it down. The more complex and opaque, the better. Because if it's unclear, it's a coincidence if there's someone who will question it.

And exactly, I mentioned the cybersecurity minister (who never used PC before) in another discussion here. Just another office on top of the office that was supposed to provide what the new office is supposed to provide... But who cares when our taxes pay for it.

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