Japan seeks IT ideas from states

National Association of Chief Information Officers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Seeking to regain technological prominence in the world, Japanese government officials are looking toward their state government counterparts in the United States to exchange ideas about e-government and other tech-related issues.

The intent is to learn more about the challenges facing both countries, such as economic development and government efficiency improvement through information technology, said several Japanese technology officials speaking Monday at the annual conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, in Scottsdale, Ariz. But the aim is also to share ideas about different approaches to these issues.

"The U.S. is more advanced than Japan," said Yukihiro Toida, a special projects manager with the Gifu Prefectural Government's IT policy division. "We would like to learn a lot of things."

Toida said the dialogue began about two years ago and resulted in visits to Japan in February by Kentucky CIO Aldona Valicenti, a former NASCIO president, and Thom Rubel, who was then technology policy director at the National Governors Association.

Two weeks ago, technology officials from the 47 Japanese prefectures — the U.S. equivalent of state governments — officially held the inaugural conference of an association modeled after NASCIO, which itself has gained standing here in recent years with increased federal and local collaborations.

While all prefectures have joined the new Japan Prefectural CIO Forum (JPCIOF), only 22 members are CIOs. Of those 22, the Japanese officials said 19 are actually "de facto" CIOs.

Missouri CIO Gerry Wethington, who is NASCIO's current president, said the newfound collaboration between the two countries isn't just about exchanging ideas about technology, but also about leadership. NASCIO officials said Japan could be the beginning of a new international collaboration. JPCIOF plans to hold a midterm conference next February and is planning to invite two NASCIO officials.

Hiroshi Sasaki, CIO with the Gifu Prefectural Government and JPCIOF's first president, said its prefectures face similar challenges, such as developing a stronger economic base, cutting costs and providing better citizen services through online applications.

Japan has been aggressive in deploying technology infrastructure for better network operations to promote high-speed Internet access. He said the next stage is to really build an "e-society that is safe, vigorous and convenient" where citizens, governments, and corporations can interact with one another. Part of that plan is to develop public key infrastructure technology, he said.

In 2001, 44 percent of Japanese citizens were connected to the Internet, he said. By 2005, they expect the number to climb to 70 percent. This is important not only for accessing services but also for getting information during emergencies.

A majority of the population also accesses the Internet through their mobile phones, said Shigeru Muramatsu, managing director of Shizuoka Prefecture's information systems office. The Shizuoka prefectural government, which adapted its Web site so citizens can access it through mobile phones, is helping other jurisdictions do the same thing.

"Wherever and whenever people can use information — that is to say, a ubiquitous society is the next objective to accomplish in Japan," Muramatsu said.

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