PM: Japan to be number one IT nation in five years

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori told the opening session earlier this week of the Diet, Japan's parliament, that he intends to make Japan the most advanced information technology nation in the world within five years.

How Mori plans to accomplish the task remains unclear, but he said a task force is already working on a plan and it will be disclosed by the end of March. "Based on that, I intend to move full speed ahead to turn Japan into the foremost advanced IT nation in the world within five years," he told parliament, according to an official transcript of his speech.

"I intend to establish new policies in the telecommunications sector beginning with the introduction of a system of major supplier regulation, in order to ensure even more reasonable communications costs through competition," he said. "At the same time I intend to advance the digitization of broadcasting and to pursue policies to promote the sound development of an integrated telecommunications and broadcasting services sector."

The latter point will see the removal of current barriers that exist between broadcasters and telecommunications companies and is expected to pave the way for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT), the country's dominant telecommunications carrier, to enter the cable television business, and for major broadcasters including public broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) to enter the telecommunications field.

Mori also said he intends to submit to the new session of parliament laws to ensure data privacy and regulations concerning electronic commerce. "Furthermore, I will forcefully carry out policies for information security, including development of technologies concerned and enhancement of policy measures for security and reliability, as well as measures to cope with high-tech crime," he said.

He also plans, as part of an e-government initiative, to make it possible to conduct online around 10,000 of the administrative procedures that must be filed with the government.

IT is one of four key areas that makes up Mori's plan for the "rebirth of Japan" -- a plan that he first mentioned when he became prime minister in April 2000 and that covers, in addition to IT, the environment, the aging of society and urban development.

To this end, Mori established an advisory panel, the National IT Strategy Council. Headed by Nobuyuki Idei, chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Corp., the council drew up the IT Basic Law. Passed late last year, it came into effect on Jan. 6 and is aimed at driving the nation's information technology development and providing low-cost Internet access to millions of Japanese. The council will now work on drawing up the plan that, Mori hopes, will propel Japan past other nations to become the world leader in IT.

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