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Editorial: Japanese gov't must do more to promote IT society for all

A bill to allow members of the public to complete all administrative procedures online has been enacted.

The system will be put into operation on a step-by-step basis beginning this fiscal year. For example, if a person who moves their home changes their residence registry, their new address will be automatically reflected in their utility contracts, such as electricity, gas and tap water.

The system is designed to increase residents' convenience and streamline administrative work. Japan lags behind in the digitization of administrative procedures even though Japan's information technology infrastructure is the most advanced in the world, as is shown by the high rate of those using the internet. The legislation's goal of promoting the use of IT is desirable.

The 12-digit individual numbers in the Social Security and Tax Number System, known as the "My Number" system, will be used to identify individuals in online administrative procedures. An individual is supposed to scan an IC chip in their identification card on a computer or smartphone to read personal information and use the info for administrative procedures.

However, only 13% of members of the public have obtained their identification cards although more than three years have passed since the system was launched. A survey the Cabinet Office conducted in autumn 2018 shows 58% of those who had not obtained their cards said they did not feel they were necessary.

As such, the government hopes that if the digitization of administrative procedures progresses and residents feel it convenient, then the ratio of those who obtain their identification cards will certainly rise. A clause was incorporated in the newly enacted law, under which documents notifying each and every member of the public of their identification numbers will be abolished.

The promotion of the spread of individual identification cards must be one that leads to an increase in the convenience of residents' lives. If the government is trying to boost the convenience of residents' lives to promote the spread of such cards, it is like putting the cart before the horse.

Some of those who have chosen not to obtain their identification cards are worried that their personal information might leak. Concerns about a leak of personal information have persisted since the introduction of the Social Security and Tax Number System, and many people apparently feel that the new law is pressuring them to obtain their cards.

There are some people including the elderly who cannot fully use digital devices. These people may feel they are being left behind as the digitization of administrative procedures speeds up.

The government needs to respond to concerns that the public has about the digitization of administrative procedures. The government should provide a thorough explanation of measures it is taking to prevent the leakage of personal information and help those who cannot fully use IT devices get used to digital equipment.

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