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Japan seeks to reclaim tech edge with overseas help

27 Comments
By Hiroshi Hiyama and Etienne Balmer

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"Japan's tech sector, once a leader, lost ground due to a slower response to digital and mobile trends" compared with neighbors such as South Korea, he told AFP.

While the rest of the world trying to catch up with smart phone trend, Japanese company still loyal to their flip phone. Japan are slow response on everything, even EV none of Japanese company made on the list.

https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/the-5-biggest-global-electric-vehicle-companies/

-16 ( +8 / -24 )

What 'edge'?

-9 ( +9 / -18 )

Always with the big slogans about 30 years too late. We are witnessing the rapid decline of Japanese population and all the government can do is dust off policy mumbo jumbo. Only immigration can tackle the demographic inversion. But no one from the government has ever asked me or my expat friends about what would make our lives easier here in Japan. It’s nuts.

9 ( +15 / -6 )

Frankly not sure the workforce is up to it. My last company was a Japanese innovator company and they had to shift global r&d to Boston because innovation productivity and talent in Japan couldn’t compete on a global level. Now with wages so low, no competent foreign researcher would move here. Simple manufacturing is appropriate.

-3 ( +12 / -15 )

It's not just an innovation issue. It's also a language issue, not least because AI is language centric - even more so than general internet content, which is one of the reasons why JP tech dipped when the bubbles shifted to the web. A Japanese language AI will be an isolate. Great in Japan, chocolate teapot elsewhere.

You can fix innovation in Japanese companies by siloing it and running by Western rules - this already happens.

I still think AI is simply the next bubble along after VR, AR, Blockchain and the metaverse. It will find a use in various small niches and be widely hated as a fifth rate alternative to real people in customer service. That doesn't merit the investment.

There are better technological developments to focus on, although Japan does like to throw big money at Western trends.

Distributed tech offers so much - increased resilience, security and privacy by design, much lower cost and fewer regulatory issues. It's still mainly operating in the academic arena, although the component parts are already built into Android.

Security is easier than infosec corporations make out. You need to keep your private data on an intranet, inaccessible from the public internet. Staff airgap your data with two screens/PCs on every desk. One connected to the net, one not. It's simple, cheap and secure. Systems are now so complex that there will always be vulnerabilities, so designing them out physically is the only solution. All the overpriced software solutions you can buy will eventually fail and your staff will never keep up. There will always be another zero day vuln just around the corner.

In many cases, it is easier and cheaper to operate a hybrid system of paper and simpler tech, than try to shoehorn your company into an off-the-shelf software package. Yes, paper: index cards, ledgers, lockable cupboards, physical folders and files. It works and its dirt cheap. And no hackers from Russia or China can access it. Some companies are spending eyewatering amounts every year, maintaining systems, fixing them, replacing them. It's crazy. The rush to digitalise everything is corporate extremism. We need to rethink it and take a simpler, cheaper and more secure approach.

And ignore the ravings of big tech. They are just advertising their next product. The 'emperor's new clothes' are now overpriced tech solutions that you would be better off without.

Nationalist state funding for local chip production is just eating tax revenue that could be spent on education, health and the reduction of poverty. It's not state money, it's borrowing against the taxes you pay, and your kids will pay. You can't stop governments doing daft things like that, but you can make better decisions about the tech you use, and the stuff you invest in.

quote: While the rest of the world trying to catch up with smart phone trend, Japanese company still loyal to their flip phone.

Smartphone apps can be hacked far more easily than feature phones. Anyone who has any data or privacy to protect should be using a feature phone as their primary phone.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

However, Japan still ranks third in the world in new patents.

China --- 38%, USA --- 18%, Japan --- 16%, S.Korea --- 10%, Germany --- 4%, France --- 2%, UK --- 1%

If it were the cumulative number of those currently in effect, Japan would probably still be in second place.

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/cp/countries-new-patents/

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Japan is far leave behind from China. And innovation or reforms are totally out of Japan 's tradition !

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

It's not there yet, however. Japan was ranked a lowly 32nd in the latest global classification of digital competitiveness by Swiss management school IMD.

> And only seven Japanese firms appear among more than 1,200 tech "unicorns" -- start-ups worth more than $1 billion -- listed by CB Insights.

Forget it. You can lead a horse to water..but Japan is slow to change and is poor at adapting to global trends.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Japan seeks to reclaim tech edge with overseas help

Japan has never had an edge on anything. It was just good at stealing ideas and products from abroad and produce them at lower cost exactly like China did. Asian counties are not innovative, they just steal ideas and rely on a massive cheap work force to produce at big scale.

However, Japan still ranks third in the world in new patents.

China --- 38%, USA --- 18%, Japan --- 16%, S.Korea --- 10%, Germany --- 4%, France --- 2%, UK --- 1%

If it were the cumulative number of those currently in effect, Japan would probably still be in second place.

This is pointless and a grotesque argument. I work in tech and the amount of non-sense patents in the industry is just ridiculous and Japan is a big player in silly patents which will never become a product. Patents are not a proxy of innovation. Real useful products are.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

Sadly what is likely to happen is not so much about becoming a leader in tech but going back to the made in Japan era. China getting more expensive and unreliable and Japan getting weaker and cheaper means Japan might regain that position that were given to China for a long time. That's not a leadership position though, but might give Japan an economic boost as that's were Japanese workers shine, working hard and following a pre made plan, not innovation.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Japan seeks to reclaim tech edge with overseas help

then that kind of defeats the purpose.

innovate, japan.

stop being trapped in the box and following others.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I still think AI is simply the next bubble along after VR, AR, Blockchain and the metaverse. It will find a use in various small niches and be widely hated as a fifth rate alternative to real people in customer service. That doesn't merit the investment.

Anyone with even a basic understanding of AI wouldn't dismiss it as a passing trend. AI's potential impact on the world is likely to surpass that of the Industrial Revolution – a belief widely shared within the tech industry. Its ability to replace jobs and evolve at an unprecedented pace sets it apart from any previous human-created technology.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

For Japan, the horse has bolted for most sectors of the tech industry, including TV, phones, wearables, computers, etc. However, I think it can capture small niche products that may not yet have been invented.

I think Japan and New Zealand thoiugh very different in size have a simailr potential to be niche tech leaders.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The reason Japan is playing catch-up and is using the help of foreign, mostly American companies, is because they fell so far behind from the mid-90s to the 2010s.

I remember trying to get the board of education in my villages to connect the JHSs I worked at to the Internet. They had nice computer rooms with none of the computers connected to the Net. They were there for the kids to learn word processing (Ichitaro), Word and some other now defunct apps.

The three boards of educations all gave me the same answer of sucking air in through their teeth and saying that it was "difficult." They didn't want to spend the money to go online. I heard they finally got those computers online around 2003 or 4 for the students to start practicing.

At the milennium, I went back to teach in the US and the kids were already practicing online research, navigating and writing papers using the Internet in our classrooms. They were given Apple iBooks to use about once a week. Around the year 2000, the difference couldn't be any starker.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

There’s a lot of work to do for Japan to even start the process of catching up. Problem is most companies are too risk adverse to even begin. Their nondescript approach to “chips” reeks of this too. Like the article says, it’s not about production. Japans population and future is too low for that. They will have to become a forrunner in emerging programs and concepts… something Japan is notoriously lacking.

Could any of Japans tech giants come up with ChatGPT? Probably. Would any of them have let a worker submit the proposal and get the wheels turning on such a project without proof of it working in some other place first? Nope. That’s why Japan will continue to be second or in this case 32nd. If Japan wants to play ball with the googles, apples, and Microsoft’s they need to start innovating and creating, not just copying and slapping a nonsensical Engrish name on it

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When working at a Japnaese IT company in Tokyo I found the same thing that GillislowTIer describes. The engineers and programmers were just as skilled as their foreign counterparts, but the management was very risk adverse and conservative about new things. This becomes a problem especially in IT where the first mover advantage is really big. And it always made me a bit sad, because there are great engineers in Japan, there are great ideas, but they are not being realized because of risk adverseness.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Japan can’t even figure out how a thermostat works or internet service as it’s all “best effort” or fast cell phone 5g. Fastest I get is 200mg. In Singapore, KL and Jakarta get 1gb or more. Japan had a long way to go. They still use faxes. lol

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

And companies care more about language stills than IT skills. Not realizing you can hire a person to translate cheaper than a bilingual IT guy who is worth anything. IT are good at IT. Language is a completely different area of study that isn’t related at all.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Won't happen. Japan has waited too long to change, and the only changes it'll make will be if the old guys in power and the big companies are involved, which means they will grind it to a halt with their insistence on being in charge and stifling independence and innovation. Look at ride-sharing... took almost 20 years before they finally let it in, and that was only after the government cemented any ride-sharing services as part of larger taxi companies and government entities, meaning it'll sink any drivers before they can swim on their own.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Maybe focus on the robotics. Someone still needs to create robots that aren't creepy and serve purposes.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As others have hinted, innovation is a foreign word here in Japan. It is not possible to train an adult to be innovative or to accept innovation. By then it is far too late. These mindsets are nurtured in schools where creativity is encouraged and supported.

IT literacy is uncommon in Japan, with many families not having computers and most people fearing the internet. The high schools teach Microsoft Office and a handful teach programming at the most basic level. By the time students reach university they ranked near the bottom of computer competency.

The USA and Japan pumping money into semiconductors and AI is more about geopolitics than giving Japan any chance of becoming an international leader again.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Come and work here and we will pay you peanuts with our terribly performing currency. Oh, and if you stay too long we will also be helping ourselves to any wealth you recieve as inheritance.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

AI is overblown,lots of it is companies,want a revenue stream that replace people

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

They can lead the way with floppy discs and fax machines

Just kidding

This could be great for the Japanese economy unless the USA ropes japan into making military robots and drones

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Mr GoodmanToday 06:52 am JST

This could be great for the Japanese economy unless the USA ropes japan into making military robots and drones

Whose to say that military robots and drones aren't profitable? Nobody gives a darn where military hardware was made.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

*unless it is a symbol of quality.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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