A strategic office that Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency set up in Tokushima Prefecture is expected to receive ¥470 million in budget allocation for fiscal 2021, which starts next April, according to sources.

The Strategic Headquarters for Frontiers of Consumer Policy was set up in July as part of government efforts to transfer the functions of state agencies to rural areas.

The Tokushima office is in charge of planning consumer administration. It will take over functions from the Tokyo office when a large-scale disaster occurs.

The agency’s entire budget is expected to fall 1.0% from the previous year to ¥11.8 billion. When the fiscal 2020 third supplementary budget is included, its total is estimated to reach ¥13.8 billion.

The new office currently has a staff of some 80 workers. Three workers will be added in fiscal 2021.

In fiscal 2021, the agency will make more use of artificial intelligence and digital technologies to step up its fight against the novel coronavirus. It plans to develop an AI system to monitor misleading online advertisements such as on supplements and food items promoted to prevent infections.

The agency also plans to create an app to allow users to learn about problems related to cashless payments, testing it at high schools and companies in Tokushima.

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