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||Last Updated: 14:30 03/09/2007
Open Debate on the Digital Divide in Japan and Asia
Intitial Discussion on the Digital Divide in the IT Revolution
- Jiro KOKURYO, Professor, Keio University
- Teruyasu MURAKAMI, Executive Managing Director, Nomura Research Institute
- Takahiro MIYAO, Professor, GLOCOM, IUJ
with Shumpei KUMON's comment
Intial Discussion: "The Digital Divide in the IT Revolution"
Today I would like to have a brief discussion with Prof. Kokuryo and
Murakami on the digital divide issue, which can not be ignored when it comes
to the IT revolution. Let me begin by taking up the digital divide within
How serious do you think the digital divide within Japan really is? Who
haves and who are the have-nots in Japan?
I think there is a kind of divide between generations in Japan. Those
who were over 30 in the early 80s, when processing of Japanese language became
widely available, are not proficient in keyboard use. As a result, we can
digital divide between the young and the old in Japan.
In Japan there is clear evidence of wide variation in the Internet
connection rate for different income groups and different
while there are still gaps among different groups, they are now shrinking
Internet use in Japan is currently in a rapid expansion phase, and it would
misleading to talk of the digital divide in the structural sense.
In order to help older generations who are not proficient in keyboard
use, further research into friendlier man-machine interface is necessary.
If the digital divide has to do with access to the Internet, then
not so concerned about it within Japan. This is because Japan has seen a
increase in the use of Internet access methods other than regular PCs. The
of mobile telephones such as the i-mode service to access the Internet is
reducing the access gap in Japan.
It sounds like Mr. Murakami is more optimistic than Prof. Kokuryo
digital divide problem in Japan. Then how would you position or rate Japan
whole in terms of digital divide from an international perspective? In
what sense is
Japan advanced and in what sense is Japan less developed in the IT field
I think Japan is facing a serious problem, that is the
Japan's management philosophy and the Internet philosophy. As I pointed
my article on this web site, Japanese management emphasizes integral processes
the Internet philosophy values autonomy. So Japan may be rated poorly
As I already mentioned, Internet use is rapidly expanding in Japan.
This change is being made possible by the use of cellular phones, videogame
other digital appliances. In fact, it is possible that Internet use via
machines is more effective than the government's scheme to promote Internet
connections in the Japanese school system based on regular PCs. Digitization
of CS and BS television and the use of Internet connections for car navigation
systems may further contribute to Japan's strength in this field.
I agree that some strength can be found in areas where integrated
systems are important. Tighter requirements in cost efficiency and space
create necessities for more integral design. Videogames and mobile
are good examples of areas where Japanese skills in integrating various
I am glad that at least you have agreed on areas where Japan is strong,
although you may not agree on where Japan as a whole stands now in this field.
Let me turn to the digital divide within Asia and the role of Japan. How
do you think the digital divide is between informationally advanced
less developed countries in Asia? What can Japan do to help narrow the gap in
I think the digital divide between the North and the South is a
issue. In addition, we need to consider various gaps among advanced
also within each country. We should be concerned about the digital divide
as a global
issue, since economies of scale associated with commerce in goods, services,
and contents in cyberspace cannot be fully realized if we are unable to share
information in a global scale.
I would say that the digital divide issue should be discussed with
to social classes across national boundaries and not between countries or
the North and the South. Even if there may be country differences in the
Japan should think about helping itself before helping other
countries. Right now,
Japan lacks the competence to teach IT use to other countries.
In my article on this web site, I make policy recommendations for
Japanese government to do something about the digital divide in Asia. My
recommendations include the implementation of "eODA," and the adoption of
the "Asia eGovernment Initiative," in addition to the creation of
organizations like "eOECD" or "eUN," as explained in my article.
I think at the market level, a possibility exists that Japan will
develop trend-setting applications in mobile systems and in network aided product
systems. When this becomes a reality, Japan might be able to reach out to
its Asian neighbors through the market mechanism as well as by the government.
It looks like the Japanese government should listen to Mr. Murakami's
recommendations for more active policies to help solve the digital divide
Asia, while Japan's private sector should follow the path suggested by Prof.
Kokuryo in order to facilitate its strength in the IT field for the benefit
global economy in general and the Asian region in particular. I would like to
thank Prof. Kokuryo and Mr. Murakami for their contributions to this initial
debate and I hope that this will generate lively discussions among those who are
interested in the digital divide issue on our platform from July 19 through