Japan Drafts ‘Digital New Deal’ to Upgrade Dated Admin Services

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Japan is planning to upgrade the digital infrastructure of government ministries and public services next year after the coronavirus pandemic revealed the dated nature of its administrative operations.

The world’s third largest economy will focus on updating its digital capabilities to adapt to a “post-coronavirus way of life,” it said in the draft of an annual set of strategic plans released Wednesday.

The government’s “Digital New Deal” looks to enhance data sharing among ministries, while improving its social security number system and online administrative services, such as tax filings and benefit payments. The government didn’t put a price tag on how much it will spend on its technology upgrade.

Japan has lagged behind other countries in Asia in delivering virus-response aid such as universal cash handouts. As of July 3, only 81% of the funds budgeted for cash handouts to households had reached people despite their approval in late April, according to Japan’s internal affairs ministry.

South Korea, which approved a similar universal handout on the same day as Japan, reached the 90% mark in May.

The delays are particularly acute in highly populated areas, such as Tokyo’s Setagaya ward where only 42% of applications had been processed as of Monday.

Staff shortages have been blamed for slowing down the processing of applications across the country, many of them sent physically by mail. Some local governments gave up trying to accept online applications because of technical issues.

Japan is also looking to scrap the need to use physical stamps on documents, a practice that has been around for centuries.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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