Local Revitalization in the Global Age
Center for Global Communications
September 22, 1999
Toshinari ISHII, Nortel Networks
Yoichi MASUZOE, GLOCOM
Yoichi HOMMA, IKOMA/CB Richard Ellis
Takahiro MIYAO, GLOCOMModerator:
Daniel DOLAN, GLOCOM
The prospects for revitalization of local communities in the global
age of information technology was discussed. There were three central questions:
- Can local communities maintain their identities and integrity in the wake
of trends toward globalization? Can you think of any examples from the
U.S. and Japan to support your position?
- Are there any strategies that might serve to revitalize local communities
effectively in this global age? Can "community information networking"
be as effective as some local activists claim?
- What are the prospects for the revitalization of local communities in Japan?
Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Summary of the Discussion
DOLAN: Let's begin by defining "globalization" and "localization."
These terms can be used in various ways, but one sense of globalization
is the increasing integration of economic systems, cultural values, financial
schemes, and business schemes, across national boundaries. "Localization"
is a push in the opposite direction, for local autonomy and control. Such
autonomy can be geographically regional or regional in some other way,
but the idea is moving control from the national to the local level. We
will discuss these competing forces, and also talk about the ways in which
globalization and localization might run on parallel tracks. Let's begin
our discussion of the first question with Mr. Ishii. Can local communities
maintain their identities and integrity in the wake of trends toward globalization?
ISHII: Globalization and localization should be considered two
separate streams, rather than in some hierarchy. Regarding the ability
of local communities to maintain their identities in the face of globalization,
I think yes. Communication networks are happening everywhere, both on a
large and small scale.
MASUZOE: One concrete example of a town that is maintaining its
identity in this age of globalization is a town in Japan that has established
its own system of insurance for the elderly. The town of Takano took many
good ideas for insurance systems from European countries, but the key elements
of the plan are unique to Takano.
DOLAN: What is the role of the national government in Takano's
insurance system? Is the government interfering or supporting the plan?
MASUZOE: In general, the smaller the town, the more subsidies
that can be received from the national government. There has been no specific
interference from the national government, aside from stipulations tied
to the subsidies.
HOMMA: I would like to narrow the discussion to see local communities
as cities. In Japan, leadership at the local level is lacking. Therefore,
local identity is very hard to establish.
MIYAO: I believe that local communities can maintain their identities
in the wake of globalization trends, but it will be very difficult. An
essay in the New York Times at the beginning of last years suggests that
global interest groups are dominating local interest groups. Namelessness
and placenessless prevail, which is characteristic of a fragmented society.
So in this situation there is no use trying to establish localization.
There is a war between real versus virtual, regional versus global, and
individual versus technical standard. Also, initial conditions of local
communities are very important when considering the kinds of people drawn
to the area and the existing resources for building local identity.
DOLAN: Let's move to the second question: Are there any strategies
that might serve to revitalize local communities effectively in this global
age? Can "community information networking" be as effective as some local
activists claim? Again, starting with Mr. Ishii.
ISHII: I think that to standardize everything is not a good way,
because differences are important. For example, the concept of the United
States means that each state is free to make its own regulations or rules.
Japan needs to allow more differences without integrating everybody into
the same standard.
MASUZOE: I'm not sure if I am optimistic or pessimistic any more,
because the revitalization of local communities depends on a number of
factors. One is the size of the local community. In Japan, for example,
there are too many municipalities. Another factor is basic infrastructure,
particularly transportation and telecommunications. Shinkansen [bullet
train] terminals also make a big difference in the vitality of local communities.
DOLAN: Professor Masuzoe talked about highways as a physical
infrastructure element important for the revitalization of local communities.
New information technologies such as the Internet can also provide important
infrastructure for local communities, so if any of the panelists would
like to discuss this aspect I encourage you to do so. Mr. Homma.
HOMMA: The Internet can impact both economic and cultural growth
of local communities. I have lived in both Dallas, Texas and San Francisco,
and the cultures in both cities were quite different. In contrast, Japan
is quite homogeneous, and I think that the Internet will only magnify this
MIYAO: Since I am taking the pessimistic view, let me address
transportation. Certainly in the past, transportation has been considered
a crucial element in revitalizing local communities. But now we recognize
limits to such investment. Information technology is probably the only
possible hope, regardless of location of community. But it is not clear
that information technology is always the best answer, and the verdict
is still out regarding effectiveness.
DOLAN: If each panelist would now briefly comment on whether
or not you are optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects for the revitalization
of local communities in Japan. Mr. Ishii.
ISHII: I am very optimistic, particularly because the technology
MASUZOE: I can be optimistic if we realize the full reforms in
government that I discussed earlier, the relationship between central and
MIYAO: I am rather pessimistic about Japan, because to be "glocal"
we need a whole system of effective, interacting components in addition
to information technology, and I think that Japan has a long, long way
HOMMA: Because both Mr. Ishii and Mr. Masuzoe are optimistic,
I will join the pessimistic side.
DOLAN: Today's topic will be a good candidate for further discussion
some other time, particularly as technologies evolve. Thank you panelists.