Japan’s Minister of Administrative Reform, Taro Kono, is trying to get rid of outdated paper and tools to manage official documents more efficiently. Kono, who has been in politics for over twenty years, believes that printing documents and transmitting them in antiquated methods such as fax slows down Japan’s technological development. In line with the new government’s digitization plans primo ministro Yoshihide Suga, in office since last September after resignation of Shinzo Abe, Kono proposed among other things to eliminate the use ofpitchfork, the traditional personal seal with which documents are validated which often replaces the signature and is still very widespread in the Japanese bureaucracy.
The Japanese government has been trying to promote digitization in the country for years. In 2017, for example, a plan for simplification and technological development in both the public and private sectors was presented which was defined as the “Declaration to become the most technologically advanced nation in the world“. Despite this, according to research by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), Japan is the 27th country for the use of digital tools and has lost four places compared to 2019; Italy is in 42nd place.
Kono is 57 years old, part of the Liberal Democrats – the center-right party of Suga – and has been a parliamentarian since 1996. In politics he has held important roles: from 2017 to 2019 he was foreign minister, while until September 2020 he held the post as Minister of Defense. As Minister for Administrative Reform, Kono now feels a “very strong responsibility” to accelerate technological progress and eliminate bureaucracy in the country. he said al Wall Street Journal.
The Japan Times, one of the leading Japanese newspapers, he wrote who, since taking up his new position, Kono immediately wanted to understand the reason why so many officials are unmotivated: according to him, fewer and fewer young people undertake political and administrative careers also due to the use of outdated tools and the large quantity of paper documents still circulating in Japan. To modernize the administration and update its tools, Kono has launched processes to eliminate two of the main obstacles to the technological development of administrative work: fax, but above all pitchfork.
The Cabinet procedures have been drastically simplified as of today. You no longer need to use the “green frame” and paper string to bind the Cabinet papers shown below. The seal of the Ministers are also abolished. pic.twitter.com/o8koyCudv8
— KONO Taro (@konotaromp) October 16, 2020
Those in favor of digitization processes believe that the massive use of paper, seals and faxes clashes with the image of Japan, which is one of the countries with the fastest average internet connection speed. high in the world and where i superfast trains.
The pitchfork they are personal stamps that are used by administrative officials to authenticate documents, but they can also be used in place of a handwritten signature, for example to sign an employment contract or open a bank account. A research of the Japan Research Institute on the use of these particular seals has shown that the use ofpitchfork it is required for about 55,000 administrative procedures, and of these only 4,000 could be completed exclusively online.
According to Kono, thepitchfork it could be eliminated 99 percent of the time; furthermore, think that thepitchfork involve print too much paper, therefore its abolition would be “a step towards further reforms”. If you stop using thepitchfork and if digital systems were to be used to exchange information, paper would be saved, but one could also do without an antiquated tool such as fax, which in Japan is considered safe and is still widely used in all offices.
The Washington Post he told that at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many Japanese health officials wrote their reports by hand on paper and faxed information about COVID-19 to health authorities, creating confusion among doctors and health professionals and slowing the spread of information on how manage the epidemic. About the popularity of this instrument in Japan, the Wall Street Journal he also said that when a well-known actress decided to announce her marriage to news agencies she did so by fax.
Even the widespread use of seals had raised criticism in the most delicate period of the epidemic: thousands of administrative officials in fact went specifically to the workplace to affix their pitchfork to documents despite restrictions to limit the spread of infections.
In his first press conference as prime minister, Suga gave Kono great confidence and said that “any problem” that arises should be reported to him, who will handle it on behalf of the country. According to public opinion, Kono’s experience and his good social media presence – a rather rare thing for Japanese politicians – would also make him one of the main candidates for the role of prime minister after Suga.
However, as he told the Japan Times Masato Kamikubo, a researcher at Ritsumeikan University, Kono is a “rational and very close to Western ideas” politician in an “old and established” party. His criticisms of the bureaucracy and waste of the government make him “isolated” in his own party: there are few who don’t like it, but also those who support him. For this reason, according to Kamikubo, in order to aspire to become prime minister, Kono will first have to be a good minister of Reforms, and to be successful even among party comrades he will have to “study Japanese society better” and “propose a plan of administrative reforms. far-sighted “.