Japan’s digital minister has declared war on floppy disks

From the outside, Japan, the world’s third largest economy after the United States and China, is considered one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world. Inside the country, its government and businesses still use floppy disks.

But that’s likely to come to an end soon as Taro Kono – the social media-savvy prime minister’s hopeful who was named digital minister in last month’s cabinet reshuffle – has declared war on disk storage which is still undecided. news than in most Western countries. limited to using its digital image as a save icon.

According to Kono, about 1,900 government procedures still require businesses to use floppy disks to submit applications and other forms. A standard 3.5-inch floppy disk can typically hold about 1.44MB of storage, or approximately 10 seconds of 480p video.

With the advent of the internet and the existence of cloud storage, Kono is trying to retire the 40-year-old technology, which continues to be used in Japan due to the country’s strict regulations on how data can be stored. transferred within the government bureaucracy.

“Japan’s digital agency needs to change these regulations so you can use them online,” Kono tweeted.

At a press conference last week, Kono also criticized the country’s continued use of other outdated technologies. “I’m looking to get rid of the fax machine, and I still intend to do so,” he said.

Turtle Pace Change

The urgency to replace the floppy disk and fax machine comes as Japan strives to establish a digital national ID system, which citizens could use to electronically sign online tax returns, apply online for other government services and use for online banking logins and transaction signing. .

Kono has argued on his blog that a digital ID system is needed as municipalities have struggled to distribute emergency benefits to citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic; citizens had to attach a copy of their passport and bank account information to receive benefits.

Japan’s stubborn reliance on the fax machine during the COVID-19 pandemic has been criticized by doctors who have had to fill out paperwork by hand about each new coronavirus infection. A doctor launched a tirade on Twitter and called the practice “Showa period stuff”, referring to the imperial era that ran from 1926 until Emperor Hirohito’s death in 1989.

Kono also argued that Japan’s reliance on the fax machine and the age-old practice of putting a hanko stamp seal has been a “restriction to teleworking” policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During stay-at-home orders in April 2020, workers always went to the office to physically stamp contracts and papers with custom hanko sealed.

Kono’s biggest challenge in overhauling Japan’s tech system will likely be its aging population. Japan has the oldest society in the world, with 28.7% of the population aged 65 or over. The population is over 80,000 people over the age of 100 on top of a rapidly declining birth rate, according to a 2020 report by the European Parliament.

Japan’s Cybersecurity Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada admitted in 2018 when he was appointed to the post that he had never used a computer. And when most Westerners shrugged after Microsoft announced it would be ending Internet Explorer, Japan panicked; around 49% of businesses in Japan were still using the browser as of March 2022.

The floppy disk

Kono asked at a press conference last Tuesday “Where do people even buy a floppy disk these days?”

The question is valid because there are hardly any companies that still manufacture them. One of the largest floppy disk manufacturers, Sony, finished production of floppy disks more than ten years ago, in 2010.

No computer made today has a port to enter a floppy disk and according to a YouGov report, two-thirds of children in the UK under the age of 18 I don’t even know what a floppy disk is.

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