If Anna Matsumoto had listened to her teachers, she would have kept her inquisitive mind to herself — asking questions, they told her, interrupted class. And when, at age 15, she had to choose a course of study in her Japanese high school, she would have avoided science, a track that her male teachers said was difficult for girls.

Instead, Matsumoto plans to become an engineer. Japan could use a lot more young women like her.

Despite its tech-savvy image and economic heft, the country is a digital laggard, with a traditional paperbound office culture where fax machines and personal seals known as hanko remain common. The pandemic has reinforced the urgent need to modernize, accelerating a digital transformation effort promoted by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, including the opening Wednesday of a new Digital Agency intended to improve the government’s notoriously balky online services.