Suga directs govt to speed up plans for new digital agency

Boston Dynamics' robot Spot amusing passers-by during a demonstration at Tokyo Robot Collection in Japan yesterday. The Japanese government has made digital transformation its main policy plank this year, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to create an agency to accelerate digitalisation of Japan's outdated government administration. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has asked the government to speed up preparations for his flagship new digital agency, his Digital Minister said yesterday, which a newspaper said he aims to get up and running by the autumn of next year.

Creating an agency to accelerate the digitalisation of Japan's outdated government administration has been a key pledge of Mr Suga, who was elected prime minister on Wednesday.

The country's Digital Transformation Minister Takuya Hirai said during a media briefing that Mr Suga had told him to accelerate preparations and that he and other government staff would gather this weekend to discuss the project and a schedule.

The Nikkei newspaper earlier reported that Mr Suga's administration was working towards getting the agency off the ground by autumn next year and that it planned to submit a Bill in Parliament for its creation in January, without citing sources.

Asked how long it would take to set the agency up, Mr Hirai said: "I think the Premier will give us specific instructions."

The agency will spearhead efforts to make administrative work more IT-friendly, and speed up the process by consolidating various functions spread across ministries, the Nikkei said.

To prepare for the launch of the new agency, the government would create a committee that may be headed by an expert from the private sector, the newspaper added.

In Japan, less than 12 per cent of administrative work is transacted online, according to the Japan Research Institute think-tank.

While the government has made "digital transformation" its main policy plank this year, the switch has proven difficult partly because of a vertically structured bureaucracy that hampers efforts to use common platforms for administrative work.

Mr Suga has pledged to make sweeping changes to overcome the digital woes, which were blamed for delaying the delivery of cash payouts to help citizens weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2020, with the headline Suga directs govt to speed up plans for new digital agency. Subscribe