Critical to the Japanese government’s ambition to create a digital society is a safe, secure and credible central database of citizen information.

In theory, that is the purpose of the My Number system. In recent weeks, however, that system has been shown to be riddled with problems, including accounts that are not properly set up, accounts with incorrect information and periodic inexplicable glitches. Failure to fix these issues will undermine the credibility of the My Number system and with it the government’s hopes of transitioning to a 21st-century economy.

The My Number system was introduced in 2015 as a means of creating a single national identifying number for all citizens. The system would be used for identification, to facilitate payments and the provision of government services, taxation as well as for disaster response purposes. The first My Number cards were issued in 2016, and while they are not mandatory — citizens can use a drivers license or health insurance card for ID — the Internal Affairs Ministry estimated that about 77% of the population has applied for My Number cards, each valid for 10 years.