TOKYO (AP) – The politician has finished his job to help Japan keep pace with the digital age.
After all, the country known for its galore of Nintendo games, Lexus sportscars, and other gadgetry also loves fax machines and traditional “Hanko” seals that serve as analog signatures.
But digital minister Taro Kono has a reputation for no-nonsense action and disregard for vested interests in high places.
“I have no intention of taking on the role of coordinator,” he told reporters at a short briefing held online on Friday.
“If people don’t listen, I’m going to kill them,” he said with a laugh.
Japan was ranked 28th out of 64 countries in digital competitiveness in 2021, a change from five years ago, according to a study by IMD, a Swiss-based independent educational organization that looked to encourage and leverage technological developments. How many equipped nations are there for For the future. America was number 1, China was number 15.
Former Foreign Minister and Defense Minister, Kono has demonstrated his digital savvy over the years.
Kono’s Japanese Twitter account, which has 2.5 million followers, features everything from bowling videos to policy commentary. Fluent in English, having attended Georgetown University, he also has an English Twitter account with 70,000 followers.
In a YouTube video last month, he urged people to get the My Number card, a digital identity card for Japanese citizens and residents, which they can use for online government applications and a driving license, library card or online banking. can link to.
But Kono knows it will take more than social media stardom to lift Japan out of his corresponding nightmare. He said the effort doesn’t have to be complicated; People will naturally choose what is convenient.
“Even a child knows that a seal doesn’t really serve as a personal identification,” he said, while he loves Japanese seals as craftsmen.
“There’s a mindset that it’s someone else’s problem,” he said of society’s complacency.
Kono said that during the coronavirus pandemic, when remote working became widespread around the world, the Japanese realized how far they were left behind.
The Digital Agency was established in Japan last year to promote competition in digital technology.
Some doubts remain. Critics say the idea of ”digital transformation” is already outdated and that only Japan is talking so much about it.
In 2018, the minister in charge of cyber security, Yoshitaka Sakurada, became the target of ridicule when he didn’t know what a USB port was.
Yet technology experts have pinned high hopes for what Kono can accomplish. Kono has always stood apart among lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. His father was a prominent lawmaker who was known as a vagabond. His grandfather was also a great politician.
And Rock the Boat is exactly what Kono needs to do.
His agency has shown by example by becoming more open and diverse, connecting people in the private sector and other walks of life who may have ideas for change Japan so desperately needs.
What would be his benchmark measure for success? “When there are smiles everywhere,” Kono said.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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