1) Significance of the IT Revolution
The IT revolution brings about a historic transformation of society, which is comparable with the Industrial Revolution. As the Industrial Revolution transformed the world from an agricultural society to an industrial society, the utilization of IT drastically reduces costs and time for information distribution, enhances the quality of information exchanges, and brings about rapid and drastic changes of socioeconomic structures worldwide. This is resulting in the rapid transformation from an industrial society to an advanced information and telecommunications network society, where information and knowledge form the basis of added value.
The Japanese government has been steadily engaged in the promotion of the IT revolution, for instance, by formulating the "Basic Guidelines toward the Promotion of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Society (adopted in 1995 and revised in 1998)."
Taking a look at the current situation in the information and telecommunications field in Japan, as for hardware manufacturing, Japan possesses the world's highest competitiveness, and penetration rates of voice telephony and broadcasting are among the highest in the world. However, as for the penetration rate of the Internet, which other nations identify as the core of IT policies, Japan is still at a low level among major industrialized nations. Japan lags behinds others even in terms of how widely IT is used in businesses and public administration. This is caused by high communications tariffs under the usage-sensitive rate, stemming from what is in reality a monopoly of the local telecommunications market. Other causes are such facts that the Japan's Internet is dependent on voice telephony networks, and that the regulators played second fiddle upon changing regulatory frameworks.
At this point, various factors have been improved including further reduction in communications tariffs, sharp increase of Internet access through mobile phones, and developments in Internet access services utilizing cable TV networks or digital subscriber line (DSL)1 technology.
Nevertheless, such improvements still fall short of realizing comprehensive changes in the daily lives of Japanese, such as economic structural reforms, efficient industrial activities, improved everyday convenience and achievement of pluralism in diversified lifestyles that are the benefits brought about by the IT revolution.
Therefore, in order for Japan to continue its economic prosperity and raise the quality of life for all the people, it is vital to promptly establish a national infrastructure, including legal frameworks and information infrastructures, suitable for an advanced information and telecommunications network society where information and knowledge are the source of added value. Based on the infrastructure, Japan shall promote the IT revolution through making use of Japan's advantages in the IT field including superior equipment manufacturing capacity.
Just as a nation's response to the Industrial Revolution later determined its economic prosperity, the same will hold true with the IT revolution. That is, the swift action of a nation in creating an environment necessary for realizing an advanced information and telecommunications network society determines the nation's world competitive leadership in the 21st century. As nations in the Americas, Europe and Asia are intensively promoting efforts to create such environments, the delay in the world arena for socioeconomic structural changes at a high speed will result in irrecoverable competitiveness gap in the future.
The government in one united body will rapidly and intensively promote necessary policy measures, based on this Priority Policy Program, under the principle of implementing legal system reforms and other necessary measures in five years from 2001, which is shown in the "e-Japan" Strategy.
1 DSL: A technology that enables high-speed data transmission over the existing metallic cables for voice telephony through the use of dedicated DSL modems
2) Our Vision of the Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society
The "e-Japan" Strategy sets goals to make Japan the world's most advanced IT nation within five years. The desirable "world's most advanced IT nation," or the advanced information and telecommunications network society is considered to be as follows:
First, a "society in which every Japanese national can enjoy the benefits of IT." Within five years, an environment that provides 24-hour connection to high-speed Internet access networks2 for at least 30 million households, and to ultra high-speed Internet access networks3 for 10 million households will be created for every Japanese who needs to access those networks at affordable rates. In addition, in 2005, the Internet penetration rate will far exceed a 60% level, the forecast figure at present, and information literacy of every Japanese will improve. As a result, every Japanese will be able to acquire, share and transmit a variety of information and knowledge on a global scale.
Second, a "society in which the promotion of economic structural reforms and strengthening of international competitiveness of industry are realized." Through continuous creation of new industries and an improvement of efficiency in existing industries by utilizing IT, advancement of economic structure and enhancement of international competitiveness, as well as a sustainable economic growth and job creation will be achieved.
Third, a "society in which all Japanese can enjoy comfortable, and affluent daily lives and local communities with diversity and vitality are realized." By 2003, an electronic government (e-government), which treats electronic information in the same way as information on papers, will be realized. The market size of electronic commerce (e-commerce) will grow to far exceed 70 trillion yen; and distance learning (tele-education) and telemedicine will diffuse. Thanks to such changes, every Japanese will be able to enjoy necessary services at anytime and to participate in community activities, regardless of geographic constraints, age or physical conditions, via the Internet, etc.
Fourth, a "society in which international contributions to the realization of an advanced information and telecommunications network society on a global scale are made." Through the increase in number of masters and doctors in IT-related fields and acceptance of some 30,000 outstanding foreign IT experts, the state-of-the-art IT will be developed in Japan. Furthermore, the world's most advanced-level digital content created in Japan will be transmitted to the world. Thus, Japan will contribute more to the development of a global Internet society.
2 High-speed Internet access networks: The Internet access networks through which music data and others can be smoothly downloaded. At present, the Internet networks by such lines as xDSL, cable TV and Subscribers' Wireless Access System are the major examples.
3 Ultra high-speed Internet access networks: The Internet access networks through which even large volume picture data such as movies can be smoothly downloaded. At present, the Internet access network by optical fiber is the major example.
3) Basic Guidelines
i) Roles of the private and public sectors
The prerequisite of all policy measures in this Priority Policy Program is clear assignments of roles between the private and public sectors.
In principle, the private sector is to play the leading role in the area of IT. The government's role is, therefore, to implement an environment where markets function smoothly through the promotion of fair competition and revision of regulations. In addition, an environment that enables the private sector to use its potential to full extent shall be established by eliminating obstacles caused by sectionalism of bureaucracy and by enhancing collaboration between the central and local governments.
At the same time, it is necessary for the government to play an active role in the area where private sector's activities come short of goals such as realizing e-government, closing the digital divide4 and R&D on basic technology, while taking efficient allocation of budget into consideration.
In order to realize an advanced information and telecommunications network society, private sector's innovations through free and fair competition is indispensable as the powerful driving force of the IT revolution. The government will support private sector's aggressive and creative initiatives for promoting the IT revolution by implementing policy measures in this Priority Policy Program at the earliest stage.
ii) Five priority policy areas
This Priority Policy Program identifies five areas in which measures should be intensively taken for realizing an advanced information and telecommunications network society:
a) Formation of the world's most advanced information and telecommunications networks
b) Promotion of education and learning as well as development of human resources
c) Facilitation of electronic commerce
d) Digitization of the administration and application of IT in other public areas
e) Ensuring security and reliability of advanced information and telecommunications networks
The construction of advanced information and telecommunications networks and the human resources development will form the indispensable infrastructures for realizing the advanced information and telecommunications network society. In order to stimulate transactions and activities using the network infrastructure, the realization of the e-government and the facilitation of e-commerce are vital. Furthermore, the ensuring security and reliability of the advanced information and telecommunications networks is an indispensable basis for all Japanese to use secure networks.
Some of the major measures in each of five priority areas in this Program are the followings:
a) Upon "formation of the world's most advanced information and telecommunications networks," such measures shall be taken for i) promoting the creation of conditions for fair competition through drastic review of regulations in telecommunications businesses and the formulation of guidelines under the Antimonopoly Act; and ii) ensuring rights-of-way for laying fiber-optic cables, etc. Thus, an environment will be created where within five years a world-class network capable of ultra high-speed access could be implemented, resulting in a convenient network infrastructure that is offered for all the people at affordable rates.
b) As regards "promotion of education and learning as well as human resources development," such measures shall be taken for i) introducing IT into schools, ii) giving everyone opportunities to learn IT, and iii) comprehensively developing technological capabilities through university reforms and acceptance of foreign specialists, so that everyone will be able to use the Internet by 2005, and that creative human resources with specialized knowledge and technology can develop the frontier of IT.
c) As for "facilitation of electronic commerce," in order that a useful and user-friendly e-commerce market will be created by CY2003, such measures shall be taken for i) reforming regulatory frameworks which hinder e-commerce, ii) making new rules, iii) introducing "Advanced Confirmation Procedures on Application of Laws and Ordinances by Administrative Bodies," and iv) appropriate protection and use of intellectual property rights.
d) As regards "digitization of the administration," every process of public services will be digitized in order that the efficient and consumer-friendly e-government that treats electronic information and paper information equally will be realized by FY2003. In addition, such measures will be taken for promoting the use of IT in various public services, such as the promotion of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), for the purpose that the world's most advanced public services are provided via the Internet, etc.
e) As regards "security and reliability of networks," such measures will be taken for i) protection of personal information in the area of regulatory frameworks, ii) cryptography in the area of technology, and iii) emergency control in the area of organizations, in order that a reliable network security system shall be established by 2005.
iii) Cross-cutting issues
Upon promoting the measures in the above five fields for realizing the advanced information and telecommunications network society, there are several cross-cutting issues requiring measures with importance. The government will actively cope with such issues.
Firstly, in the IT field, technology is the driving force of development. Technological innovations are the critical factor of development of the advanced information and telecommunications network society from now on. Accordingly, it is necessary to promote R&D on basic technology such as advanced networking or computing technologies through reinforced collaboration among industry, academia and government, while strengthening cooperation between the IT Strategic Headquarters and the Council for Science and Technology. Especially, in case of leading-edge technology that is difficult to be developed by the private sector alone, the government shall play an important role upon promoting the R&D.
Secondly, in the advanced information and telecommunications network society, it is important to realize an environment where all the people can use the Internet, etc. easily and voluntarily, and demonstrate their creative abilities to the fullest. Therefore, it is necessary to actively bridge the digital divide caused by differences in opportunities and abilities to use IT, due to geographic constraints, age or physical conditions.
Thirdly, along with the development of the IT revolution, mismatch in employment and adverse effects on minors' healthy development by the flood of harmful information are concerned. It is, therefore, necessary to adequately and actively deal with these newly emerging problems.
Fourthly, since the Internet is exploding on a worldwide scale, efforts are needed for international harmonization concerning various rules and standards in order to realize the advanced information and telecommunications network society. Moreover, international collaboration and contribution on a global scale are vital for closing the international digital divide, which is an urgent task.
iv) Role of the IT Strategic Headquarters
In order to ensure steady implementation of measures in this Priority Policy Program, the IT Strategic Headquarters shall investigate the progress of measures every fall and spring, review the Program itself every spring, and announce those results to the public at each earliest date. Besides, the IT Strategic Headquarters shall continue to deliberate on planning of significant measures concerning the formation of the advanced information and telecommunications network society, and promote the implementation thereof.
4 Digital divide: Along with widespread use of digital technology, two groups of people, "information haves" and "information have-nots," have been formed arising from various reasons, such as ownership of necessary tools, age, educational background, geographic limitations, and physical conditions. Such a gap in the accessibility to IT between these two groups, which has become a social concern, is called the digital divide.