• Bloomberg, Jiji

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Takuya Hirai, minister for digital transformation, plans to launch the administration’s promised Digital Agency next year to improve the efficiency of government services, he told Fuji TV Sunday.

The minister said he wants to bring in personnel from the private sector to staff the new agency, and that he intends to break down the existing bureaucratic culture.

The government came under harsh criticism earlier this year for its slow response to the coronavirus and its economic fallout, especially when compared with South Korea. Japan suffered a “digital defeat” against the pandemic, Hirai told NHK on Sunday.

The Digital Agency was one of the party leadership campaign pledges of new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who was voted into office by the Diet on Wednesday, replacing Shinzo Abe.

On Saturday, Hirai told reporters that the government will set up by the end of this month a preparatory office for the creation of the Digital Agency.

The office, to be established at the Cabinet Secretariat, will have 40 to 50 staff members, Hirai said after holding a meeting with working-level officials.

At the opening of Saturday’s meeting, Hirai said to other participants, “I’ve been told (by the prime minister) to do this task at a considerable speed.”

“I hope the agency will start off small but will grow big,” the minister added.

The government will hold the first meeting of a ministerial council on digital reforms on Wednesday. The meeting will include Suga and all his Cabinet ministers in a bid to kick start preparation work for the new agency.

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