Japan has slipped from eighth to 12th place in the rankings of global information and communication technology development. According to this year’s survey by the International Telecommunication Union, Japan fell out of the top 10 for nations for high-speed communication networks.

While part of the slip is the result of other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Hong Kong making rapid progress in this area, the worry remains that Japan may be losing its edge in communication and information technology.

Japan’s overall level of services such as broadband speed and mobile phone usage did not fall behind, but other countries have quickly expanded and developed their infrastructures.

The Japanese should take their 12th-place ranking as a sign that more investment and development is needed to keep pace with other countries in these fields.

The image of Japan as a high-tech country may linger in many people’s minds, but countries like South Korea, which topped the ranking for the third year in a row, and Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway, also in the top 10, have continued to emphasize investment, education and innovation to meet the challenges of the information and communication age.

Many people worry about young people spending too much time online and losing, or not developing, their face-to-face communication skills, yet Japan ranked only 47th in the percentage of “digital natives” — people aged 15 to 24 with five or more years of online experience.

Part of the low ranking can be attributed to the relative low number of young people in the aging population, but it also reveals that Japanese young people are no more network-savvy than their counterparts in other developed countries.

Japan’s past economic and social progress was based on efficient and fully functioning “hard” infrastructures such as energy, transportation and waste management.

However, future progress will increasingly depend on how fast digital information flows and how efficiently high-level communications networks operate.

As the information society continues to develop, Japan needs to ensure that its information and communication technology is advancing as quickly as the rest of the world. That means not only faster Internet connections and better cellphone connections but also improved information and communication networks that will enhance people’s lives and improve the ways in which Japanese businesses and government agencies work.

In 2012, 250 million new people around the world came online. By the end of 2013, the survey estimates 40 percent of the world will be online, while 4.4 billion people will remain unconnected. Japan must continue to develop crucial infrastructures to improve its strength in information and communication technology.

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