Overview of Japanese e-Government 2000-2018

This is an overview of the e-Government which has been promoted by the Japanese government from 2000 to 2018. It is also recommended to take a look at e-Gov (English) to know Japanese e-Government.

The e-Government of Japan utilizes ICT in the administrative field and reforms its work in order to realaize rationalization, efficiency, transparency of administration, and improvement of convenience for citizens.

In Japan, administrative informatization was promoted by the “Advanced Information and Telecommunications Society Promotion Headquarters” established within Cabinet from August 2, 1994.

(1) Construction of e-Government based on e-Japan Strategy

The full-fledged “e-government” started from the “Basic Law on the Formation of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society (IT Basic Law)” passed in November 29, 2000.

IT Basic Law

IT Basic Law prescribes “Informatization of Administration” and “Application of Information and Telecommunications Technologies in the Public Sector” as the Basic Policy on Development of Strategies.

Based on IT Basic Law, the Strategic Headquarters for the Promotion of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society (IT Strategic Headquarters) was established within the Cabinet in January 2001.

The members of the IT Strategic Headquarters (As of June 26, 2001)

IT Strategic Headquarters decided the first “e-Japan Strategy” in January 22, 2001, and executed “e-Japan Priority Policy Program”. The term “electronic government” came to be used from “e-Japan Strategy”.

e-Japan Strategy

e-Japan Priority Policy Program

The “e-Japan Strategy” aimed to create a “knowledge-emergent society” that fosters diverse creativity through the exchange of knowledge among citizens. Its vision of an ideal society showed the feature that information on public administration would be readily available at home or work, and everyone would be able to receive one-stop government services for address changes in the family register, filing and paying taxes and etc. The government set targets to realize e-Government by 2003.

Most of the infrastructure for Japanese e-Government was built from 2001 to 2003. The e-Japan Priority Policy Program based on the e-Japan strategy was developed with the e-Japan 2002 program and the e-Japan Priority Plan 2002 and was succeeded to the e-Japan Strategy II in 2003.

The infrastructure for e-Government includes authentication systems (eID and digital signatures), electronic payment systems, document management systems, security systems and network systems linking the national government and local governments. These infrastructure are necessary for electronic filing (application, notification and other procedures), electronic procurement, paperless administration, and one-stop online government services.

“e-Japan Priority Policy Program – 2002” decided ( Summary )

The “Public Authentication Infrastructure for Individuals” is an authentication system for individuals using data from basic resident registers managed by local governments. Japan doesn’t have the central residential registry and each local government owns and manages a resident database.

“The e-Japan Strategy II” is a blueprint of the second phase of Japan’s national IT strategy which means evolution from “IT Infrastructure Development” to “Effective IT Utilization”. The new IT utilization strategy aimed for structural reforms and creation of new values.

e-Japan Strategy II

The government thought they needed to remove any barriers that hinder the free-flow of information. They thought If they went beyond the existing organizational framework to re-define the business process, Japan could revitalize its economy, regaining competitive edge. The IT Strategic Headquarters had the main aim of turning Japan into the most advanced IT nation in the world by 2005 and maintaining this position indefinitely into the future.

The leading areas in the promotion of effective IT utilization were 1) medical services, 2) food, 3) lifestyle, 4) small and medium enterprises financing, 5) knowledge, 6) employment and labor, and 7) public service.

In the area of public service, the government planed to develop user-friendly government portal site and a one-stop system enabling comprehensive service by the end of FY2005.

The government tried to make IT investments standardized and streamlined by integrating the investment process throughout the entire administrative agency. They thought overlapping investments should be eliminated which are generated by the introduction of similar IT systems by other administrative agencies. Local government were also requested to implement the same policies.

With “the e-Japan Priority Policy Program 2003” based on the e-Japan Strategy II, government carried out a number of measures. For example, “one-stop and nonstop servive; 24 hour-a-day and 365 day”, “outsourcing and reforming the procurement system”, “citizen participation in political, administrative, and judicial process”, etc.

e-Japan Priority Policy Program 2003

In addition, government recognized that it was essential to evaluate and review what they did to implement their IT program appropriately. Therefore, “Key Evaluation Points” were clearly specified for each field. In order to make reliable evaluations, measurable indexes and benchmarks, such as cost effectiveness, asset utilization efficiency and user satisfaction measurements were examined by the experts group.

“The e-Japan Strategy II Acceleration Package” was adopted in February, 2004 which clarifide the priority measures to achieve the goal of turning Japan into the most advanced IT nation in the world by 2005.

e-Japan Strategy II Acceleration Package

The Acceleration Package consisted of International IT Strategies in Asia, Reinforcement of Security Measures, Promotion of Content Measures, Promotion of IT Regulatory Reforms, IT Strategy Evaluation and Promotion of e-Government and e-Local Government.

One of the example of e-Government was “Realization of One-Stop Processing for Import/Export and Port Procedures” which simplified import/export and port procedures. The new systems were expected to be with higher reliability, lower operating costs and in the accordance to international standards.
“The e-Japan Priority Policy Program 2004” was to promote the prioritization of policies and implement the establishment of new organizations and systems necessary to achieve 2005 goals and to serve as strategic steps for 2006 and beyond.

e-Japan Priority Policy Program 2004

The programs in public service area were development of a government portal site, development of an environment for the utilization of government statistics, research on the effective utilization of terrestrial digital broadcasting and cable TV, realization of government online procurement.

“IT Policy Package 2005” in February, 2005 emphasized promotion of e-Government to make people use online government services, especially “online procedures” that handle a large number of applications annually and are very frequently used by citizen and corporations.

IT Policy Package – 2005
Towards the Realization of the World’s Most Advanced IT Nation

The government tried to make their service more attractive by reducing process time, lowering fees through the use of online procedures and offering non-stop services that operate 24 hours a day for 365 days.

Examples of on-line services include application for company registration by the Ministry of Justice, electronic filing and electronic tax payment by the National Tax Agency, automobile registration online application by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the National Police Agency, and passport online application by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Another important movement is to promote the use of open source software by the government. The government decided to formulate “Basic Guidelines for Government Procurement for Open Source Software”.

“New IT Reform Strategy” in January, 2006 aimed a society where anytime, anywhere, anyone can realize the benefits of IT. This strategy states that by converting structural reforms and removing social constraints that impede IT development, IT conversion will progress all at once. Structural reform and IT conversion are the two sides of reform of society, and when these two are united, social reform will progress.

New IT Reform Strategy
January 19, 2006

Prior to the world, the Japanese government completed reform in IT in 2010, Japan would be autonomously capable of sustainable development, transforming into a collaborative-type IT society where everyone can participate in society activities.

Regarding the e-Government, they aimed to realize “small government” which is convenient, simple, efficient and transparent through digitization of administrative services. As a specific goal, they targeted the achievement of an online utilization rate of over 50% of the procedures for promoting online use by FY 2010.

“Priority Policy Program 2006”, “Priority Policy Program 2007”, “Priority Policy Program 2008” were formulated based on “New IT Reform Strategy”, and e-Government was promoted towards 2010. In particular, as an enhancement and reinforcement of the e-government promotion system, the e-Government Evaluation Committee thoroughly reviewed and evaluated the programs related with e-government.

Priority Policy Program 2006
Priority Policy Program 2007
Priority Policy Program 2008

As a promotion of IT in social security field, government aimed to realize “Social Security Cards” and “Electronic Post-Office Boxes” by FY 2011, but it did not come true.

In the medical field, they aimed to establish infrastructures on which individuals’ health information can be grasped throughout their life by the end of 2010. By this medical information infrastructures citizens could utilize their own health information to support health promotion and health guidance by insurers. But this project could not be realized either. The government also promoted the spread of electronic medical records, but the penetration rate of electronic medical records has remained at a low level except for large hospitals.

(2) E-government of the DPJ government and the impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake

“The i-Japan Strategy 2015” was decided in July, 2009 to create a citizen-driven digital society towards digital inclusion and innovation.

The i-Japan Strategy 2015
July, 2009

This new strategy aimed at revitalizing industries and regions, nurturing new industries, and improving the digital infrastructure, with three priority areas of e-government, medical / health, education and human resources.

However, due to the national elections held in July 2009 immediately after the strategy was formulated, the change of government from Liberal Democratic Party to Democratic Party occurred, and this strategy was effectively frozen.

The Democratic Party government decided “A New Strategy in Information and Communications Technology” in May 2010 under a new regime.

New Strategy in Information and Communications Technology

From the viewpoint of “national sovereignty”, the new IT strategy first aimed to realize citizen-oriented electronic administration by thoroughly implementing information and communication technology(ICT) revolution within the government. In addition, they decided to rebuild the regional ties by utilizing ICT, and to create new markets and expand internationally.

Based on the new ICT strategy, the government formulated a roadmap in June 2010 to show concrete measures.

The New Strategy in Information and Communications Technology (IT) Roadmaps

In the roadmap, the following measures were shown.

Establishment of promotion system of electronic administration centering on government CIO, drastic reform of administrative portal, improvement access to administrative service, introduction of national ID system, system of administrative monitoring by citizens, integration and concentration of government information system , Realization of common e-administration services throughout the country, digital archiving of public documents, utilization of information held by government agencies, self-medical / health information utilization services, etc.

The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, catastrophic damage occurred along the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region and the Kanto region due to the huge tsunami. Also, a disaster caused by the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant occurred.

Damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake disrupted the e-Government policy temporarily. However, in August 2011, the government formulated the basic policy and roadmaps on electronic administrative promotion, new online service use, expanding the service of kiosk terminals, the regulations / institutional reform for utilization of information and communication technology, Intelligent Transport Systems and human resources.

In addition to that, Task Force Report on IT Strategy in the Healthcare Field was published in May 2011 to realize the “My Hospital in Everywhere” (Japan’s Personal Health Record service) and the Seamless Community-Collaborated Medical Services. The latter includes Advancing At-home Medical, Care, Watching and Other Services for the Aged. This report was revised in June 2012.

Task Force Report on IT Strategy in the Healthcare Field

Outline of Basic Policy and Action Plan for Building IT Disaster-Management Lifeline was fomulated in June 2012 based on the experience of the Great East Japan Earthquake. This outline consists of a basic policy and concrete action plans for the public and private sectors to prevent lifelines from IT disaster. The government aimed to build the world’s highest level IT disaster prevention lifeline, provide to the world the knowledge that Japan has cultivated, and contribute to making best practices for IT disaster prevention.

“Open Government Data Strategy” was adopted by the IT Strategic Headquarters in July, 2012. This is a fundamental strategy on promoting the use of public data supporting open government with the understanding that public data is an asset of the people.

Open Government Data Strategy

The objectives of the Strategy are (1) to enhance transparency of government and build confidence in government by the public, (2) to promote public participation and collaboration between the public and private sectors and (3) to stimulate economic and increase efficiency in government administration.

In August 2012, government CIO system was introduced. The role of the Government Information Technology Chief Supervisor (CIO) in the Cabinet Secretariat is to promptly and strongly promote the rationalization and efficiency improvement by electronic administration as a whole government.

The Government CIO helps the Ministers of State in charge of IT policy, manage the IT investment of the whole government and plan strategy on e-government based on the basic policy of electronic administration.

Headquarters of the Strategic Headquarters for Promotion of Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society and Headquarters of Administrative Reform Execution Headquarters shall cooperate to the government CIO.

(3) Restoration of LDP administration and enforcement of My number system

As a result of the 46th general election held in December 2012, the Democratic Party has greatly reduced seats and the regime of Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito has revived. After this administration change, the direction of the e-Government policy was changed again under the second Abe cabinet.

The new government decided “Declaration to the World’s Most Advanced IT Nation” in June 2013 and started building a new e-Government. The “Declaration to the World’s Most Advanced IT Nation” is revised every year until May 2017.

Declaration to be the World’s Most Advanced IT Nation
June 14, 2013

The basic philosophy of this declaration is 1) Eliminating Gridlock and Rejuvenating Japan, and 2) Becoming an IT Utilization Society at the World’s Highest Levels.

The societies Japan should seek to become are
1) a society that encourages the creation of new and innovative industries and services and growth
2) the world’s safest and most disaster-resilient society where people can live safely, with peace of mind, and comfort
3) a society with one-stop public services that anyone can access and use from anywhere at any time.

The new e-Government should provide high convenient electronic government services, and reform national and local government administrative information systems, and reinforce IT governance in government.

Specific measures include utilization of open data and big data, rules to use personal data taking into consideration privacy protection, construction of disaster prevention / reduction information infrastructure which conveys accurate information in the event of a disaster, and so on.

In order to realize the one-stop services, government utilize cloud computing and promote business reforms in anticipation of introducing social security and tax number system (My Number System) .

“Road Map for Promotion of Electronic Administrative Open Data” announced at the same time as “Declaration to the World’s Most Advanced IT Nation” showed a schedule for the government’s open data policy up to 2016.

As for the data to be disclosed through the Internet, in principle, it shall be posted in a data format and structure suitable for machine interpretation.

As open data measures, there are development of usage rules to promote secondary use, expansion of disclosure in data format suitable for machine interpretation, establishment of data catalog site, expansion of public data, dissemination / enlightenment, evaluation.

In October 2013, the government formulated the “Japan Open Data Charter Action Plan” to clarify the six commitments that the Japanese government should carry out on open data.

Japan Open Data Charter Action Plan
October 29, 2013

Japan Commitment 1: Publication of Key Datasets
Japan Commitment 2: Publication of High Value Datasets
Japan Commitment 3: Publishing Data on the National Portal
Japan Commitment 4: Public Engagement
Japan Commitment 5: Sharing Information on Experiences Relating to Operations
Using Open Data
Japan Commitment 6: Specification of the Direction of Open Data Measures in Japan

“Directions on Institutional Revision for Protection and Utilization of Personal Data” was decided in December, 2013. This policy includes Review for the use of personal data in the big data era, Review for satisfying expectations of privacy protection at the individual level and Review for globalization.

Directions on Institutional Revision for Protection and Utilization of Personal Data
December 20, 2013

The government will prepare the establishment of a third-party authority (privacy commissioner). The scope of personal data to be protected shall be that which has possibility to substantially identify the individual and shall be determined in consideration of basic concepts of privacy protection.

From October 2015, “My Number System” started. My Number is the Social Security and Tax Number System in order to enhance the social security to people who truly need it, enhance public convenience and develop the efficiency in government administration. My Number System enables information sharing among multiple administrative agencies, which will reduce the burden on citizens.

Social Security and Tax Number System

Everyone registered as a resident including foreign people in Japan shall be notified My Number. National government offices and municipal offices use My Numbers in matters relating to social security, tax and disaster response. People need to provide My Number when applying for employment, medical insurance, pensions, welfare benefits, children’s allowance, tax returns etc.

In January 2017, “Mynaportal” began. Mynaportal is an online personal service provided by the government. Citizens can access Mynaportal to receive public notification from government agencies and confirm their own personal information.

My Number card is required to access Mynaportal. My number card is a public ID card that citizens can obtain for free. My number card is an IC card that carries electronic certificates for user authentication and digital signature.

Following the enforcement of My Number System, the Personal Information Protection Commission (PPC) was established. The duties of the Personal Information Protection Commission (PPC) are the protection of the rights and interests of individuals while taking into consideration proper and effective use of personal information including MY NUMBER.

Personal Information Protection Commission, Japan

The PPC is one of the highly independent organizations in the Japanese legal framework. Based on the Act on the Protection of Personal Information, the Chairman and Commission members exercise their authorities independently.

eGovernment Recent Developments

“Digital Government Promotion Policy” were announced in May 2017. This presents three basic policies as folows.

1 User-centered government service reforms that fully utilizes digital technology
2 Platform for public-private partnerships
3 IT governance that creates value

In addition to this, keywords frequently used in EU’s e-government strategy such as “Once-only”, “Digital-first”, “One-stop” are also included.

Outline of the Policy on the Promotion of Digital Government

In the “Digital Government Action Plan (2018-2023)” decided by the eGovernment Ministerial Conference in January 2018, “Service design 12 items” was presented in order to provide user-centered government services and lead the project to success. This seems to refer to the UK “Digital Service Standard”.

Digital Service Standard

<Service design 12 items>
Article 1 Start from user’s needs
Article 2 Grasp facts in detail
Article 3 Think by end-to-end
Article 4 Pay attention to all stakeholders
Article 5 Simplify service
Article 6 Utilizing digital technology to increase the value of services
Article 7 Melt into the user’s daily experience
Article 8 Do not make it too much by yourself
Article 9 Openly create service
Article 10 Repeat many times
Article 11 Do not do it at one time but do it consistently
Article 12 Creating services rather than systems

“User-centered government service” means that government services are “ready to use”, “easy”, “convenient” for users. It means that all services are digitally completed from the beginning to the end (100% digitization of government services).