Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday he wants to formulate by the end of this year an outline for creating a digital agency and called for accelerated efforts as he convened the first meeting of all ministers to promote his key policy — the digitalization of administrative work and ultimately Japan’s entire society.
Suga, who took office one week ago, said he will seek to legislate for the new agency during the 150-day ordinary Diet session that begins in January.
“The creation of a digital agency is a reform that will lead to a major transformation of the Japanese economy and society,” Suga said. “I’d like all ministers to cooperate in this major reform with all their might.”
The envisaged agency is not only aimed at streamlining the country’s administrative work but also promoting digitalization in the private sector and advancing deregulation to allow medical services and education to go online, Suga told the meeting, which was partly open to the media.
Suga said his administration will also seek to update the conventional basic law on information technology during the ordinary Diet session.
To date, each ministry and local government has built its own administrative system, making it difficult for civil service operations to be carried out in an integrated manner.
Attributing what critics have said the government’s ineffective handling of the coronavirus pandemic, such as its much-delayed cash handouts, to bureaucratic sectionalism and the country’s outdated administration style, Suga has put a priority on launching a digital agency next year.
The 71-year-old prime minister said the pandemic has also revealed that Japan’s business sector is not as digitalized as it might have been.
“I’d like to realize services that people naturally think should be available and create a society where they can feel the convenience of digitalization,” he said.
“To that end, the agency needs to be a strong organization that has a strong command function, brings together highly capable human resources from sectors regardless of public or private and leads the digitalization of the whole society,” he said.
Takuya Hirai, the IT-savvy minister for digital transformation, will play a central role in this reform, said Suga, urging him to break various barriers and take bold steps.
Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono said separately he will work closely with Hirai to realize the goal.
Kono, who has described deregulation and digitalization as two sides of the same coin, said on Twitter that the two ministers met this morning and will meet once every week.