e-Japan Priority Policy Program Index

VII. Crosscutting Issues

1.Promotion of R&D

1) Basic Concept

As the IT sector is driven by technologies for its development, rapid technological innovation in this sector will form the foundation for future development of the advanced information and telecommunications network society, and revolutionize socio-economic activities broadly, including our daily life. Furthermore, such technological innovation is seen as a source to reform not only the IT industry but also all industries and to reinforce international competitiveness of industries of our nation.

Meanwhile, based on such understanding of the above issues, the U.S. has long been investing into information and telecommunications R&D activities during times of drastic changes, now called the "IT revolution." Investment has pushed the U.S. to the world's top place in terms of the level of its information and telecommunications technologies. On the contrary, Japan has been lagging behind the U.S. in terms of technological levels in IT except a limited number of fields. This has brought about a gap between these two nations in terms of competitiveness in the information and telecommunications sector.

Thus, creative R&D activities in the information and telecommunications sector shall be promoted through coordinated efforts of the IT Strategic Headquarters and the Council for Science and Technology Policy, while maintaining close relations among the government, local governments, universities, telecommunications carriers and other parties involved.

The development of R&D in the IT field is expected to not only create and expand knowledge-intensive industries such as IT, but also revamp existing industries. Therefore, it is important to conduct R&D activities, aimed at not only developing IT-specific technologies, but also merging technologies from various fields, including manufacturing technologies.

Besides, efforts shall also be made strategically to develop software and hardware for information consumer electronics and information devices, whose markets are projected to expand, and, in addition, to have Japan's proposed standards for them adopted.

2) Measures for Promoting R&D

Considering the fact that needs for information and telecommunications technologies vary, and that technological innovation in the IT field progresses rapidly, Japan's information and telecommunications technologies shall be improved strategically through the implementation of the measures below.

- Promote R&D activities at research institutions under universities, national institutions for experiments and researches, and private corporations

- Promote coordinated efforts of the government, industry and academia

- Reform the R&D system

In promoting these measures, the government shall concentrate its limited human and capital resources into sectors where expectations run high for government leadership, while reinforcing cooperation among the government, industry and academia.

With regard to the reinforced government-industry-academia collaboration, the Japanese government shall help nurture a common ground of understanding between the industrial circles and public research institutions, while supporting their systematic approaches leading to tightened bonds, through further promotion of their integration. This process shall also be carried out, taking into due consideration each role being played by the government, industry and academia, and specific characteristics of each research institution.

Regarding the revamping of the R&D system, a pro-competition R&D environment shall be prepared to facilitate creative R&D activities. In line with this aim, a more competitive framework for research shall be established to promote the function of the principle of competition under any circumstances and encourage individuals to fully exert their capabilities. For instance, researchers will be allowed to raise competitive funds from outside their research institutions, and, besides, a competitive research environment will be nurtured even inside their own institutions. In addition, for the creation of a competitive R&D environment as well as for effective and efficient allocation of resources, the evaluation framework for R&D shall be reformed to ensure fairness and transparency in the process, to reflect evaluation results to the resources allocation, to ensure the resources required for evaluation, and to reinforce the system for evaluators.

3) Priority Areas

The following are the R&D areas in the IT field that the government shall concentrate on from now.

Among the key technologies indispensable for realizing an advanced information and telecommunications network society, the government shall focus on such technologies as; network enhancement technology, high-level computing technology, human-machine interface technology, and, furthermore, device technology and software technology both of which will form the common basis for the aforementioned technologies.

Among these efforts, the government shall lead some areas of R&D activities where the market principle alone does not function well enough to bring about desirable results strategically and effectively. Some of the examples are R&D activities aimed at bridging the digital divide including measures for achieving information barrier-free, and R&D activities promoting digitization in the public sector.

Also, as the fruits from R&D activities in the IT sector often pave the way for the creation of new businesses, private companies in particular shall strive to propel such R&D activities that promote the creation of new industries. For this, the government shall take such pump-priming measures as the enrichment of the open proposal system.

4) Promotion of IT21 (the IT 21st Century Plan)

One of the Millennium Projects called the IT21 has its objective, the creation of an environment by FY2005 where all Japanese are able to obtain information safely, promptly and easily through the use of the Internet. Because this objective has to be achieved also for the fulfillment of targets in the e-Japan Strategy, special care has to be paid for steadily promoting IT21 in the R&D process.

IT21 involves two research areas. One is the promotion of the Internet, and the other is computing. In the former area, it is crucial to promote R&D activities indispensable for the construction of the world's most advanced information and telecommunications network (Please refer to II. 3. 1) iv) ). Regarding the latter area, it is important to promote R&D activities shown below in order to achieve the objective of IT21, "to realize the new-generation computing that enables all users, free from worries over security, to conduct advanced information processing and to connect to the network, without any restrictions posed by such interfaces as the keyboard."

i) Software (core software technology enabling digitization in a user-friendly manner)

a) Core software technology that facilitates the realization of user-friendly human-machine interface, as well as ultra high-speed, parallel computer processing

b) Software/content technology promoting the creation of digital content markets

ii) Hardware (realizing high-speed computers with large-capacity memory)

a) Devise technology that improves processing capabilities dramatically

b) Material/processing technology that realizes development of large-capacity storage

2. Closing the Digital Divide

In an advanced information and telecommunications network society, it is important to create an environment where all the people can use the Internet easily and voluntarily, and explore their potential to the maximum extent in a creative manner. Therefore, the government shall actively implement measures to narrow the gap in the IT accessibility, caused by geographic constraints, age or physical conditions and others.

1) Narrowing the Digital Divide Resulting from Geographic Constraints

The government shall promote the development of information and telecommunications infrastructure and enriching of public services utilizing the IT in underpopulated areas and remote islands, etc. This is aimed at bridging the divide in the people's IT accessibility, regardless of their geographic constraints.

i) Development by the public initiative of local information and telecommunications network infrastructure

In order to promote the use of the Internet in underpopulated areas and other locations restricted by geographic conditions, the Internet access will be provided to public facilities such as municipal schools. In addition, support shall be extended to public entities including municipalities, which promote the construction of high-speed public networks and the cable-TV Internet, thereby facilitating smooth access to the Internet by local residents.

ii) Support for the development of information and telecommunications infrastructure by private-sector telecommunications businesses

The government shall promote the development of the information and telecommunications infrastructure in underpopulated areas and other locations restricted by geographic constraints, by enriching its support to private-sector businesses that develop high-speed subscriber access networks, including subscriber fiber-optic networks and digital subscriber lines (DSL).

iii) Enriching public services based on IT

In order to make telemedicine possible, hospitals and clinics shall be interconnected via networks and diagnosis with transmitted images shall be conducted. In addition, activities aimed at standardizing medical information shall be conducted, and the system to share, store and transmit electronic medical charts safely shall be developed.

To provide the local residents with opportunities for lifelong learning, the government shall help develop facilities to be used for receiving university courses and other programs via a satellite communications network for educational information at public halls and schools in municipalities throughout Japan.

2) Overcoming Age and Physical Constraints

In order to ensure the IT accessibility of the people regardless of their age and/or other physical conditions, the government shall promote the barrier-free access to information and the development of IT devises and system, taking the conditions of the elderly and people with disabilities into due consideration.

i) Barrier-free access to information

Websites of ministries and agencies shall be accessible, in order to make the government information over the Internet easy to utilize by people with visual disabilities. The Official Gazettes tailored to the needs of the people with visual disabilities shall also be distributed over the Internet.

In addition, for enabling people with visual and hearing disabilities to enjoy broadcast services just like other people having no disabilities, R&D activities on production technologies of broadcast programming targeting people with visual and hearing disabilities shall be conducted. The costs of producing the programming with closed captions, explanatory narration and sign languages shall also be subsidized.

ii) Barrier-free public space

While setting up street signs at crossings, etc. for the elderly and people with disabilities, support systems for these people shall be developed and diffused to enable them move about smoothly with the use of mobile devices. In addition, a traveler service support system shall be developed in order to facilitate the use of trains and other public transportation by the elderly and people with disabilities.

iii) Barrier-free schools

While giving due consideration to each condition of disabilities, an environment shall be prepared in schools for the blind, deaf and other disabled, which shall enable them to use computers in their classrooms. R&D activities shall also be carried out to provide children in hospital with opportunities to study through the Internet. In addition, efforts shall also be made to reinforce the Braille information network system at schools for the blind.

iv) Development of IT equipment and systems for the elderly and people with disabilities

IT equipment and systems, such as PCs, that can be used easily by the elderly and people with disabilities shall be developed, and the diffusion of these equipment and systems shall be promoted. In addition, the government will develop technologies enabling them to use the Internet easily, create an accessibility checking system of websites, and conduct verification experiments for the promotion of a barrier-free environment of information access.

3. Dealing with New Issues of Concern Associated with Changes in the Socioeconomic Structure

1) Measures for Employment Issues

The IT revolution has both positive and negative influences on employment. It could bring about job cuts due to increased efficiency in business operations as a result of IT investment. On the contrary, it could lead to the creation of new jobs along with growth in the IT-related businesses. With regard to the creation and nurturing of business ventures, it is therefore necessary to implement comprehensive measures to ensure good employment opportunities in IT-related businesses. Among such measures are those for facilitating fund raising and securing human resources, and those for promoting the creation of ventures armed with high-level technologies. Furthermore, as there will be increased cases of mismatches between vocational skills that companies require and actual skills that workers can offer along with the progress of the IT revolution, the government shall deal appropriately and vigorously with such employment issues. Thus, the following measures shall be promoted to enable everyone to deal with the widespread use of IT, to create excellent employment opportunities in the IT-related sectors, and to facilitate a smooth shift of workers to these sectors where creation of new employment is anticipated.

i) Development of IT-related vocational skills

a) Ensuring and providing opportunities to acquire IT-related vocational skills

Measures shall be taken to provide a wide variety of government-run IT-related vocational training courses catering to the needs of the labor force, both the employed and unemployed. Support shall also be extended to the people at public vocational training centers, including night time and weekends, to help them acquire practical and applicable skills required in performing IT-related work using PCs. In addition, a system to distribute training software shall be developed in order to provide opportunities to acquire IT-related vocational skills at home and workplace.

b) Development of leading-edge training courses and systems in line with widespread use of IT

Leading-edge, systematic training courses shall be prepared, which contribute to nurturing of advanced IT technical experts and other human resources who can deal with IT-based new business deployment. Training systems shall also be developed, which allow trainees to receive practical experience-oriented training via virtual network connecting public vocational training facilities.

c) Information delivery and consultations concerning improvement of IT skills

"Community Support Centers for IT Skill Development" shall be set up in each prefecture throughout Japan, in order to provide workers with information and consultation services and to serve as the liaison and coordination functions in deploying the government measures aimed at improving their IT-related job skills.

d) Implementation of "SME Support Program for IT Skill Training"

In order to promote and support the efforts of SMEs in conducting IT-related training, support measures shall be taken to help those companies prepare their IT training systems, for instance, by providing opportunities to nurture personnel in charge of the promotion of IT training at each company, in cooperation with SMEs owners' associations in the community.

ii) Creation of employment opportunities and promotion of smooth flow of the workforce

Measures shall be taken to promote the creation of job opportunities in IT-related sectors. Besides, in order to facilitate smooth shift of the workforce into these sectors, employers shall systematically support their employees in search of jobs. Thus, necessary frameworks shall be prepared, for instance, by submitting a bill to revise relevant laws and regulations to the Diet.

2) Dealing with Other Issues

Progress of the IT revolution is bringing about many concerns, let alone the employment issue. Among them are further isolation of individuals, reduced intimacy in people's relationships, bad influence on minors of an overflow of harmful information, high-tech crimes and distribution of illegal content over the Internet. Therefore, efforts shall be made to deal appropriately with these issues.

i) Healthy growth of minors

In order to deal appropriately with further isolation of individuals, IT education programs in school shall be enriched, while providing higher quality of moral education programs and experience-based education in and out of school. In addition, measures shall be taken to encourage organizations concerned to voluntarily act against a harmful environment surrounding minors.

ii) Dealing with unlawful acts and illegal/harmful information

Applying the existing laws and ordinances shall punish high-tech crimes and other unlawful behaviors. At the same time, support shall be extended for the development of technologies that enable identification and rating of illegal/harmful content as well as for helping organizations in the IT sector formulate voluntary rules for such content.

4. Promotion of International Harmonization and Contribution

The diffusion of the Internet is seen progressing rapidly and globally. Therefore, it is indispensable to promote international harmonization as well as contributions aimed at developing the global Internet for the realization of an advanced information and telecommunications network society.

In other words, Japanese people will benefit more largely from the use of the Internet, when the presence of the Internet grows worldwide. Thus, it is important for Japan to get involved actively in establishing international standards and rules, and in reinforcing international ties for R&D purposes, in order to further diffuse the use of the Internet as well as Internet-based electronic commerce.

Also, as the IT Charter (the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society) adopted last year at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit Meeting describes, bridging the digital divide on a worldwide scale has become a pressing issue. Therefore, Japan, an Asian nation and the second largest economy in the world, shall vigorously promote a range of international cooperation, including technical support to developing countries in Asia and other parts of the world.

Furthermore, it shall be considered to make use of the 2005 World Exposition, scheduled in Aichi Prefecture, as a venue for comprehensively demonstrating the fruits from measures included in the e-Japan Priority Policy Program.

5. Roles of the IT Strategic Headquarters

Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, who serves as the Director-General of the IT Strategic Headquarters, the government shall strive, across the office and ministries, to carry out policy measures required for the progress of the IT revolution, in line with the e-Japan Priority Policy Program.

Specifically, the IT Strategic Headquarters shall review the Priority Policy Program every spring, study the implementation status of measures every spring and autumn, and make the study results public, in order to ensure steady implementation of these measures included under this program. Furthermore, the Headquarters shall continue to discuss critical measures for forming advanced information and telecommunications network society, and promote implementation thereof.

The government shall also strive to raise public awareness of such measures included in the e-Japan Priority Policy Program through PR activities.

Back | Next