ICT Government Initiatives

ICT Government Initiatives

Promotion of digitalization due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic

(1)Beyond 5G

From 2019 to 2020, 5G commercial services were launched one after another in various countries worldwide, including Japan. In order to create new markets, Japan has been conducting 5G Comprehensive Demonstration Tests since FY 2017-18 with the cooperation of stakeholders in various related fields (See Figure 4). Since 2018, there has been lively academic debate on communications technologies that are considered promising for realizing Beyond 5G, and discussions on use cases and requirements have begun (See Figure 5).

(Figure4)Comprehensive 5G PoC conducted across Japan (FY 2019-20)

(Figure4)Comprehensive 5G PoC conducted across Japan (FY 2019-20)
Business Overview Location Business Details
Ensuring crane operations safety with high-resolution images Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture
  • 4K high-definition images of blind spots in crane slinging operations are transmitted to the operator's cab using 5G, making it possible for the operator to work safely while checking the images.
Remote control and integrated construction management system for construction equipment Iga City, Mie Prefecture
  • Remote control and management of construction equipment, utilizing high capacity and ultra-low latency of 5G at construction sites.
Remote medical examinations enhancement Wakayama City and Hidakagawa Town, Wakayama Prefecture
  • Doctors at a remote clinic send the patient's condition, vital signs, and echo video to a specialist at a university hospital via 5G and under a specialist's direction provide accurate diagnosis and treatment to patients.
Driving assistance in dense fog Oita City, Oita Prefecture
  • The information from the 4K high-definition camera mounted on the vehicle is transmitted to the server using 5G. The images are analyzed and information such as white lines and vehicles in front are displayed on the head-up display in an easy-to-understand manner that ensures safe driving in dense fog.
Self-guided sightseeing using VR and body sharing technology Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture
  • A service that utilizes VR and robots to allow users to virtually experience activities from remote locations as if they were sightseeing.
Support to ensure safety in underground railway sections Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
  • 4K high-definition video of the inside of a subway train is transmitted using 5G, and abnormalities in the train are automatically detected through video analysis and reported to station staff.
Truck platooning Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture
(Shin Tomei Expressway), etc.
  • Actualizing convoy driving with 5G to provide ultra-low latency and highly-reliable operation control between multiple trucks, will help solve the labor shortage.
Improve the efficiency of dairy and livestock industries Kamishihoro Town, Hokkaido
  • Saving time and labor by determining the location and identifying individual cows based on the high-definition images transmitted using 5G from multiple 4K cameras installed in the barn.
Safety management for workers in tunnels Akaigawa Village, Hokkaido
  • In addition to detecting abnormalities in tunnels using various sensors, in the event of a disaster or accident, construction equipment can be operated remotely to check the surroundings and ensure the safety of workers.
Monitoring system for mountain climbers Komagane City, Nagano Prefecture
  • High-precision aerial images from a drone equipped with a 4K camera are delivered to the search headquarters in real-time. Delivering images to the search headquarters in real-time makes it easier for them to assess the situation of the victims for rapid rescue operations.
Enhancement of emergency transportation Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture
  • Simultaneous sharing of 4K images of patients in ambulances or doctor cars to doctors of designated emergency hospitals and family doctors using 5G will shorten the time required to consider where and how to accept patients and enable early sharing of symptoms.

(Figure5)Status of Beyond 5G initiatives

(Figure5)Status of Beyond 5G initiatives
Entity FY Details
NICT 2018-19
  • Started R&D in terahertz end-to-end wireless systems in collaboration with the EU and promoted R&D in wireless, networks, and devices in preparation for Beyond 5G
NTT 2019-20
  • Launched the 6G network concept "IOWN“. Announced an alliance between NTT, Intel Corp., and Sony Corp. in October 2019
NTT Docomo 2020-21
  • Released a 6G technology white paper aiming to launch the service around 2030

At the same time, Japan is looking towards the next 5G standards for the 2030s. In January 2020, the Government of Japan held the Roundtable Meeting on Beyond 5G Promotion Strategy to formulate a comprehensive strategy for Beyond 5G. Japanese corporations and their partners aim to acquire about 30% of the Beyond 5G infrastructure (hardware and software) market by the 2030s and ensure a consistent presence in the device and application fields.

To this end, the government is planning to create a Beyond 5G R&D Platform (tentative name) where various domestic and international players can collaborate on R&D. It will also support private sector investment in R&D, such as by easing regulations on the use of radio waves for R&D purposes, and will also discover and nurture ideas and human resources that can bring about innovation.

In order to achieve a "Beyond 5G ready" climate by 2030, the government is expanding its 5G network through a tax system that promotes 5G investment and the development of 5G areas, systems such as spectrum security, and the promotion of infrastructure sharing. At the same time, the Beyond 5G Promotion Consortium will be established to aggressively develop the Beyond 5G Promotion Strategy through industry-academia-government collaboration. In addition to sharing specific initiatives based on each strategy amongst industries, academia, and the government, the Consortium will also support the launch of new demonstration projects by companies and universities in Japan and overseas.

(2) Laying the foundation for structural economic reforms to achieve Society 5.0

Today, digital platformers (who operate and provide digital platforms) are driving innovation, helping businesses to access markets, and improving consumer benefits. On the other hand, they have been criticized in Japan and around the world for their opaque and unfair trading conditions, data oligopoly, leakage of personal information, and illegal or inappropriate activities on the platforms.

Keeping this in mind, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and the Fair Trade Commission established basic principles for developing rules in response to the rise of the platform business model in the "Future Investment Strategy 2018", which was approved by the Cabinet in June 2018. Furthermore, the Digital Market Competition Headquarters was established in the Cabinet Secretariat based on the “Action Plan of the Growth Strategy” adopted by the Cabinet in 2018. It holds meetings to research and discuss important matters related to the digital market. The meetings also discuss the development of rules for the digital market, and the "Bill on Improving Transparency and Fairness of Specified Digital Platforms" was passed in the 2020 Ordinary Diet Session.

In addition to the above, it also deliberates on the rules of the Antimonopoly Act, including evaluating the value of data, the establishment of a framework for regulating abuse of a dominant position in transactions between digital platform providers and consumers who provide personal information, and the evaluation of competitors in the digital advertising market.

(3)New IT Strategy and the creation of the Digital Agency

On July 17, 2020, the Japanese government approved the "Declaration to be the World's Most Advanced IT Nation: Basic Plan for the Advancement of Public and Private Sector Data Utilization (New IT Strategy)". With the coronavirus pandemic radically transforming Japanese society and values in many areas such as the economy, lifestyle, work style, education, administration, healthcare, and disaster prevention, the New IT Strategy calls for a “new normal” perspective. In addition to focusing on the transformation of both the social structures and people’s behaviors with the use of IT and strengthening digital resilience, the strategy also states that the construction of ICT infrastructure by national and local governments is a matter requiring urgent attention.

Of particular interest in the New IT Strategy is the Digital Agency, which the government aims to establish in September 2021. This agency is intended to be the command center for the creation of a digital society, with strong coordination capabilities to promote digital transformation of the government. Currently, ministries and agencies separately procure and manage their respective IT system, resulting in inefficiencies such as duplication of work and wasteful expense. In response to this, the government is setting up the Digital Agency to centralize IT operations and improve the efficiency and speed of administrative processes.

The Digital Agency is expected to unify the IT systems of the national and local governments, promote the use of My Number cards, and bring administrative procedures online. Apart from this, its projects will also affect industries. In order to avoid the “three Cs” (Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close-contact settings) as recommended by the government during the pandemic, the demand for online healthcare and online education is growing. The digital agency will oversee the relaxation of restrictions in these fields and ensure smooth access to online healthcare and education. In addition to the “IT Introduction Subsidy” (project to support the introduction of IT to improve productivity in services and other areas) developed by METI (See Figure 6), the Digital Agency will take the initiative in promoting digitalization, which will lead to IT adoption among small- and medium-sized businesses. This will help increase their productivity and improve profitability through the creation of new IT-based products and services.

(Figure6)IT Introduction Subsidy Project (2017-2020)

(Figure6)IT Introduction Subsidy Project (2017-2020)
Eligible businesses
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises, small businesses (including food and beverage, accommodation, retail and wholesale, transport, medical, nursing and childcare services, as well as manufacturing and construction)
Eligible tools
  • Software, cloud usage, professional fees, etc.
Between 300,000 – 4.5 million JPY Regular 1/2 -
Special 2/3, 3/4
  • Only "A: Addressing damage to the supply chain" is introduced
  • One of “B: Shift to a non-face-to-face business model” or “C: Facilities for teleworking” is introduced

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