Japan's government updates its e-Japan strategy

The "e-Japan" strategy, which sets out Japan's goal to become the world's most advanced IT nation by 2005, is well on its way to achieving its goals, according to the government minister responsible for information technology speaking at the Strategic Conference on e-Government in Tokyo on Tuesday.

"This country is advanced in manufacturing things, so we hope that it will also be advanced in IT technologies and to contribute that technological development and new content to the world," said Minister Toranosuke Katayama, Minister of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. That contribution includes Japan's ODA (Official Development Assistance), given to other countries), in the field of IT technologies, he said.

The "e-Japan" strategy covers a broad range of areas, from Internet infrastructure and education to training programs to e-government , and has been the subject of speculation on whether the government can actually achieve its ambitious goals. However, since April, under the cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the government has broken down its five-year plan into yearly stepping stones for more realistic implementation.

One of the most focused goals calls for at least 30 million households to have fixed access to high-speed Internet connections, such as cable Internet or ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) services, and 10 million to have fixed access to super high-speed Internet services, such as fiber optic service, by 2005. The Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT) announced this week its "nationwide broadband concept", Katayama said. The concept will promote the spread of broadband Internet connections into Japanese households to avoid the creation of a digital divide between sections of society.

ADSL connections, which totaled 650,000 at the end of September and are at present limited to cities, will be available to every household in Japan by 2002, Katayama said. Private sector-driven optical fiber network services will be available in all the major cities by 2003, and nationwide by 2005, which will enable 46 million households to be able to connect to super high-speed Internet services, he said.

He added, the most suitable task for the MPHPT is to promote e-government. The government is planning to put at least half of all services available from its ministries online and to adopt an electronic tendering system for contract bids next year. There are also plans for a trial electronic voting system to begin at the local level, as soon as the relevant bill is passed through the Diet, Japan's parliament, Katayama said.

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